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2023 Annual Report

Office of the Associate Vice President

The Office of the Associate Vice President for Research is composed of six reporting organizations, including the SVPHS Research Unit, the Molecular Medicine Program, the Interdepartmental Graduate Programs (Neuroscience, Bioscience, and MD-PhD), the Health Sciences Cores, the Rocky Mountain Office of Environmental Health (RMCOEH), and the Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI). The office serves as the strategic lead for the health sciences research mission, and works closely with Schools, Colleges, Departments, and Programs, to ensure alignment of goals and resources.

The OAVPR is led by the Associate Vice President for Research, Rachel Hess, and Executive Director, Amy Tanner, with the support of the School of Medicine Vice Dean for Research, Chris Hill, and three Associate Deans: Richard Dorsky, Jamie Dwyer, and Jennifer Majersik.

Changes & Growth

In FY23, the OAVPR focused efforts around three strategic priorities: 1) recruit, retain, and develop staff to strengthen our research infrastructure; 2) ensure we are financially strong and invest strategically; and 3) recruit, retain, and develop highly qualified faculty. 

These priorities drove advancements in several areas, including: partnership with Development in the creation of a Community Board and increased focus on Giving Day participation; the development of new strategic initiatives (DELPHI, DHI, and CMCR); the expansion of the Training Programs team into the broader focused Biomedical Research Education Office (BREO); new focus on national distinction and securing faculty awards and participation in national societies; and operational advances in finance and analytics, new policy creation, and new funding initiatives. 


Block U on campus


Rachel Hess, MD, MS

Associate Vice President for Research



Christopher P. Hill, DPhil

Vice Dean for Research School of Medicine



Richard Dorsky, PhD

Associate Dean for Research Space



Jamie Dwyer, MD

Associate Dean for Clinical Research



Jennifer Majersik, MD, MS

Associate Dean for Clinical & Translational Research


Amy Tanner, MHA, MPH

Senior Director


Senior Vice President for Health Sciences Research Unit


The Senior Vice President for Health Sciences Research Unit facilitates discovery and innovation that advance medicine and science. The Research Unit seeks to provide strategic research resources for colleges and departments in careful alignment with and as a complement to existing resources. 

The Unit has four major pillars: Administrative Operations (Financial Analytics, Strategy, Space, Laboratory Safety, General Admin, Communications) led by Abby Rooney, MS; Research Program Development (DMRC, DODI, 3i, CGM, DHI, DELPHI) led by Bridget Hughes, PhD; Biomedical Research Education Office (Training Grants, EDI support, Interdepartmental Graduate Programs) led by Sean Flynn, PhD; and Pre-Award Support led by Joy Blatchford, BS. 


Helping the Research Community Excel

The Administrative Operations team provides broad-level support of the research mission through administrative infrastructure related to financial analytics and reporting; strategic planning and implementation; research news and communications; research space planning and management; general administration; and laboratory safety. The team provides critical decision-making support to the AVPR and other research leadership through financial analysis of the research portfolio, planning and advocacy for current and future space needs, communicating innovative research findings to internal and external communities, providing strategic planning and implementation oversight for the research enterprise, and partnering with EHS to promote a culture of laboratory safety.

Pillar Lead

    The General Administration team provides broad support for Research Unit and OAVPR operations, including scheduling, purchasing, HR, and event management. They support executive-level meetings, including the facilitation of the monthly Health Sciences Research Forum (HSRF) and Health Sciences Research Council (HSRC) activities. 

    Operations graphic showing connections of the different groups

    Apart from providing financial and analytical support to colleges, departments, and programs where needed, the Research Unit finance and analytics team conducts a variety of special projects meant to enhance institutional decision-making for the research enterprise. 

    In FY23, the team developed several key analytics projects with cross-departmental utility. Chief among these was the creation of a faculty progression dashboard. The Dashboard is designed to meet the requirements of various departments and entities, enabling them to analyze and make informed decisions regarding faculty trends. This includes aspects such as faculty demographics (including gender and ethnicity), academic tracks, ranks, attrition, retention patterns, and more. The beta version of the dashboard was presented to department chairs, leadership teams, the Office of Faculty Affairs, and the EDI committee. Given the broad interest in accessing and reviewing this data, our team is collaborating with the UIT/MBM team to develop a dynamic automated process that will make the dashboard accessible on the Tableau server by the end of the FY24 Quarter 3. 

    In partnership with the Health Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Senior Research Leadership, the health sciences research mission strategy is stewarded by the Strategic Project Manager within the Research Unit. In alignment with the Health Sciences strategy, goals and reporting for the strategy run on a calendar year basis. The research strategy includes 10 subsections, with prioritized goals and corresponding implementation tactics. 

    2023 Strategy Implementation Highlights

    • Active participation in the Workforce Planning Committee and subcommittees to enhance staff pathways and career development.
    • Consolidation of research investments from various departments and organizations into a unified ledger, streamlining financial tracking.
    • Development of a standardized list of research metrics.
    • Appointment of a dedicated Director of Advancement, focusing on philanthropic initiatives to support our research mission.
    • Collaboration with the Advancement Office to strategize and plan for future philanthropic efforts for Health Sciences research.
    • Creation of a faculty retention and progression dashboard, designed for use by multiple campus organizations.
    • Compilation and presentation of faculty and staff mentorship and leadership training resources, alongside ongoing efforts with the Office of Faculty to assess mentorship through a comprehensive survey.
    • Partnerships with the Office of Faculty, HR, UIT, UHEDI, HCI, and Advancement.
    Strategic Imperatives

    Marketing and communications efforts for FY23 on the operations team have centered around stabilizing current efforts and setting the foundation for future-oriented efforts and planning that aligns with the overall research mission of the institution.

    The Research Unit has established norms for maintaining a health sciences research website, including routine checks of existing content and processes for new content development. The Research Unit also works closely with the Marketing & Communications office to represent their research-related work on the health sciences research website.

    A University of Utah Health Sciences Research LinkedIn account was launched in FY23 and has seen small, but steady early growth in viewership and followers. X (formerly Twitter) continues to be part of the social media strategy. Social media has proven to be an avenue that allows the communications team to work with other communications personnel across the campus to show the breadth of health sciences research happening at the U.

    With the growth of the marketing and communications team, additional effort was put into planning and data gathering in the latter half of FY23 and continues into FY24.

    The communications team is working to develop an annual content calendar that will enable the office to more directly identify opportunities to develop content that spotlights researchers, resources, and compelling scientific work.

    Planning efforts are expected to empower the OAVPR in FY24 to direct content efforts onto a path that speaks to advancement efforts, highlights resources such as core facilities and equipment, and supports leadership priorities. 

    Data gathering has allowed the team to better see what content is interacted with in newsletters and what stories see the most attention both through the efforts of the Public Affairs office and social media. These efforts have led to the collation of data points and it is expected that in FY24, dashboards will see completion that will allow for an at-a-glance review of the impact of various communications efforts.

    The communications team continues to collect and celebrate stories of discovery and innovation for the Pioneering the Future series. These stories are a hallmark communication piece, highlighting major research that has emerged and continues to be developed at the University of Utah.

    Pioneering the Future

    High-quality research space increases research output by providing the environment and resources necessary to support funded projects, promoting collaboration between researchers with complementary expertise, and fostering the submission of new high-impact grant proposals. Space limitations thus represent the single greatest impediment to increasing research funding and productivity within University of Utah Health. Specific challenges include addressing the lack of available research space for current and future investigators, determining the proper programmatic co-localization required to maximize space efficiency, and creating the optimal balance of research sites within and outside the core health sciences campus. Our office seeks to mitigate these challenges by providing nimble and effective infrastructure solutions and working with senior leadership, department chairs, and other stakeholders in the allocation, expansion, and maintenance of space to meet the needs of our ever-growing research enterprise.

    In FY23, the space team made significant progress in advancing the identification and pursuit of additional health sciences research space. They worked closely with the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences planning team, and Real Estate Administration in the acquisition of multiple Research Park buildings. They also worked to improve the functionality of research space in existing buildings, by leveraging a $3M federal appropriation to remodel aging laboratory space in the Biomedical Polymers Research Building (BPRB) that will be used for the recruitment of new investigators.

    Lab with two researchers

    In FY21, the OAVPR partnered with the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) to embed a new safety manager within the health sciences campus. This position serves as a bridge between researchers and EHS to ensure bi-directional communication of needs and requirements to build a culture of safety.

    In FY23, the School of Medicine Safety Committee worked to establish its charter and to develop departmental safety committees to ensure coverage of a broad range of research focus areas. Also introduced in FY23 was the “Safety Minute” a monthly presentation at the Health Sciences Research Forum, intended to engage the community in bringing safety as a focus to research and to communicate changes to a broader community.


    Research Program Development

    The Research Program Development (RPD) Team oversees the development and implementation of strategic research initiatives for University of Utah Health and executes other high-priority research activities designated by the Office of the Associate Vice President for Research. Strategic initiatives overseen by the RPD Team in FY23 include the:

    •  Center for Genomic Medicine, 
    • Data Exploration for Learning and Precision Health Intelligence (DELPHI) Data Science Initiative, 
    • Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center, 
    • Digital Health Initiative, and 
    • Immunology, Inflammation, and Infectious Disease (3i) Initiative. 

    Pillar Lead

    The RPD team provided the foundation to launch the Center for Medical Cannabis Research at the start of FY24.  The long-term goal of these strategic research initiatives is to catalyze research innovation across departments and colleges to elevate the university’s research portfolio and amplify our scientific impact. The RPD Team supports strategic initiatives and advances research excellence by:

    • Building teams and supporting large grant proposal development
    • Catalyzing innovative research through seed funding mechanisms
    • Fostering interdisciplinary community building through interest groups, seminars, and events
    • Cultivating and stewarding philanthropic and industry partnerships 
    • Raising awareness of research areas both internally and externally
    • Supporting new technology and infrastructure advancement
    • Developing new educational and training opportunities
    • Supporting faculty recruitment efforts in partnership with departments [CEC1] 
    • Strategic planning with faculty and senior leadership to enhance initiative success 

    In addition to the strategic initiatives, the RPD team launched three new efforts in FY23: 

    • The Team Grant Support and Strategic Hiring Program aims to grow programmatic research funding  in non-integrated clinical departments within the School of Medicine by providing support for key faculty and proposal development support for programmatic federal grants
    • A “Strategic Intelligence Offering” aims  to use a data-driven approach to advising on strategic direction and resource allocation 
    • Developed new processes for increasing honorific awards for the Health Sciences Faculty
    • Stewarded the Margolis Foundation gift, including the reporting on previous gifts and the identification of new funding opportunities. 

    15 Grant Proposals for $70.4M

    Six Philanthropic Proposals for $1M

    Facilitated Four Seed Grant Programs

    Supported the Recruitment of Four New Faculty

      DMRC Key Activities

      The Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center (DMRC) at the University of Utah Health strives to unify clinicians, researchers, and educators to catalyze innovative research relating to diabetes and metabolic health throughout Utah and the Intermountain West. 

        In FY23, the DMRC partnered with departments to recruit a new researcher—Alphonsus Ng, PhD—to the U, who has joined the Metabolism Interest Group area of the DMRC. Ng joins as an Assistant Professor in Biomedical Engineering, with a research focus on microfluidics, nanotechnology, and biomolecular/cellular analysis, with applications in Type 1 Diabetes.

        In FY23, the DMRC spearheaded numerous activities aimed at advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion including:

        • Participated in a “Rising Stars in Metabolism” series that featured PhD students underrepresented in science. In partnership with the SVPHS Research Unit and the SOM, the DMRC supported the visits of 5 students to this event.
        • Dr. Summers serves as an MPI with Dr. Maia Holsti on the NARI-NIDDK Program focused on diabetes and obesity.
        • The DMRC provided $17,500 for Haumana 'O Pasifika, a new summer internship program launched by Drs. Will Holland, Marcus Pezzolesi, and Raphael Kalani. The program was designed to encourage research and career development opportunities for Pacific Islanders. 8 trainees were paired with a mentor for a 10-week summer research experience. Following the successful pilot, Drs. Holland, Pezzolesi, and Kalani applied for an NIDDK-R25 to support this program.


        The DMRC faculty and/or staff were instrumental in the programmatic grant submissions and or awards. See the full annual report for details.

        •   Now in its sixth year, the Driving Out Diabetes Initiative (DODI) continues to impact the community; reaching over 240,000 individuals during this time through community health and wellness outreach and clinical programming, in addition to fueling scientific research.  FY23 highlights include:
          • DODI welcomed two new co-directors to spearhead the initiative: Drs. Amy Locke, MD, FAAFP, and Paul Estabrooks, PhD
          • Partnered with the Kem Gardner Policy Institute to assess areas of need and opportunity for diabetes prevention and management in Utah.
        • The 2023 Paul Shurtleff Hatch and Heidi Hatch Ford Scholar Award for Type 1 Diabetes Research was awarded to Sejal Mistry, MD/PhD candidate in the Biomedical Informatics Department for the project “Investigating type 1 diabetes etiology using advanced computational methods”
        • An additional $139K was raised to support diabetes research by the “Of Love” Tennis Tournament, Jacobsen Construction, and the England and Watkins families.


        The DMRC hosts numerous activities to build and sustain interactions and collaboration among its members. Highlights from this past year include the weekly Seminars in Metabolism Series, monthly Health Behavior Seminar Series, and monthly trainee-led Metabolism Interest Group. In addition, the DMRC hosted a Diabetes and Metabolism Retreat on September 15, 2022. The event included two keynote speakers, research presentations by six faculty members, 9 trainee-led lightning talks, and poster presentations by 46 trainees.

        This past March, members of the DMRC held a Research Development Workshop in Family and Diabetes Behavioral Intervention Research, and Dissemination and Implementation Science, which provided the opportunity for investigators to receive targeted feedback on grant proposals from experts in the field.


        • The DMRC provided $90,000 of funding to support efforts to create a shared metabolic research kitchen to enable investigators to conduct interventional dietary studies for disease prevention and treatment. 
        • The DMRC maintains a cardiometabolic biobank, which catalogs patient samples obtained by metabolic disease researchers across the U. These include blood and tissue samples collected over the past 30 years, comprising numerous clinical studies and thousands of biospecimens relating to diabetes, obesity, extreme familial thinness, and renal and cardiovascular disease. This year, the DMRC acquired access to the UK Biobank for diabetes-related studies.
        • Supported the development of new or more cost-effective methodologies for the diabetes and metabolism research community through the Innovation Mini-Grant program. 
        • Granted Silke Becker $50,000 for her research entitled “The Cellular Origin of Diabetic Retinopathy” as part of the SOM VPR Seed Grant program.

        CGM Key Activities

        The Center for Genomic Medicine (CGM) brings together patients, providers, and researchers to discover the genetic causes of disease and translate these discoveries into better diagnoses, treatments, and prevention strategies. For FY23, the mission has evolved to catalyze the translation of basic genomic research into equitable, personalized health care. 

          The CGM faculty and/or staff were instrumental in the programmatic grant submissions and or awards. See the full annual report for details.

          The Genomics Summer Research for Minorities Program continues to provide a 10-week summer internship program for minorities.

          • CGM received a generous gift of $3.6M over five years from Mark and Kathie Miller to support the NeoSeq and Penelope Programs.  
          • Clement Chow, PhD, received $109,965 from DBCC Research LLC and Perlara for rare disease research. 
          • Joshua Bonkowsky, MD, PhD, received $12,500 from Erika Havlik for his gene therapy research project for vanishing white matter disease. 
          • CGM hosted a day and half symposium with the Primary Children’s Center for Personalized Medicine that had 146 attendees from both institutions. 
          • The CGM was also involved in mentoring four physician-scientists to submit applications to NIH. These included Dr. Sabrina Malone Jenkins K08, Dr. Benjamin Steinberg's R56, Dr. Jason Glotzbach's K08, and Dr. Nathan Blue's K23. All received fundable scores or were funded in FY23.
          • Under the directorship of Dr. Amy Hawkins, five medical students completed the Personalized Health Care Certificate in Spring 2023. An additional 24 medical students are currently working towards the certificate.
          • Genetic counseling students, undergraduate students, and clinical and laboratory fellows rotate through the Penelope Program with many opportunities for hands-on experience and exposure to team-based science. The Penelope Program has also partnered with the Native American Summer Research Internship and Genomic Summer Research Internship for Minorities programs to provide a summer rotation to two students each year. 

          3i Key Activities

          The 3i Initiative’s vision is to become a center of scientific excellence known internationally for its top-tier research performed at the nexus of the immunology, inflammation, and infectious disease fields. By focusing resources at the nexus of the three “i”s, the Initiative is able to grow and support strategic interdisciplinary collaborations, innovative program pilot projects, and individual research programs.

            • Alphonsus Ng, PhD, Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Ng's research is focused on deconvoluting human complexity and improving human health by studying biomolecules at multiple scales.
            • Owen Pornillos, PhD, Professor, Biochemistry. Dr. Pornillos' research is focused on HIV biochemistry and structural biology. 
            • Andrew Skinner, MD, Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine. Dr. Skinner's research is focused on C. difficile infection, epidemiology, and effects of antibiotic selection.


            In FY23, the 3i initiative issued its second call for Program Project Planning Grants (3PG). These awards are two years in length and come with $125,000 in funding and dedicated support from Nicole Frank, PhD. The call received 4 Letters of Intent, all advanced to the full application. The 2 applications that were selected for awards were: 

            • "Program Research for Immunotherapeutic Development of Epilepsy (PRIDE)" (PI: Mingnan Chen, Molecular Pharmaceutics)
            • "Novel intercellular mechanisms of IEC mediated regulation of the microbiota in health and disease" (PI: June Round, Pathology)

            The 3i Initiative is working with the Office of Advancement to identify key partnership opportunities that may be developed into meaningful relationships with corporate and foundation partners.

            Thanks to a generous gift from the Cumming Family Foundation. The 3i Initiative hosted the inaugural Mountain West Microbiome Alliance meeting at Snowbird Ski Resort. This 3-day event hosted 40 microbiome researchers from the Intermountain West, including 15 from the University of Utah. This event yielded an additional gift of $100,000 for team-building seed grants and funds for a meeting in FY24. 

            In FY23, 3i-UCGD Bioinformatics began offering immunology and microbiology-related bioinformatics services through 3i for all University of Utah investigators. This includes RNA-seq, metabolomic, and metagenomic analysis as well as help with experimental design. In FY23, the core supported analysis for 12 projects from 10 investigators. It is expected that the number of projects supported will grow in FY24 with the addition of new staff members.

            The 5th annual 3i Spring Symposium was held on April 14th, 2023. This event was attended by over 150 participants from across the university. The event concluded with a poster session with almost 30 posters. 

            In addition to the large, all-3i Symposium, the Initiative has been hosting monthly affinity group meetings. These groups include Global Health, Tumor Immunity and Ecology, Evolution, and Epidemiology (E3ID). 

            Lastly, the 3i Initiative continues to have a strong online presence, such as robust social media handles on major platforms, a highly utilized listserv, and a weekly newsletter. 

            3i piller infographic

            Digital Health Initiative Key Activities

            The Digital Health Initiative (DHI) aims to transform health and health care for patients, their families, and their health care teams by cultivating a thriving research community of digital healthcare pioneers. DHI leverages world-renowned expertise from the GApp Lab and ReImagine EHR in playful engagement, standards-based electronic health record interoperability, and participatory design to catalyze research in engaging digital health innovations.

              • Victoria Tiase, PhD, RN, Research Assistant Professor, Biomedical Informatics – hired as the DHI Strategic Development Director. Dr. Tiase’s research focused on integrating patient-contributed data into clinical care. 
              • Lindsey Potter, MPH, PhD, Assistant Professor, Population Health Sciences. Dr. Potter's research focused on building impactful research in the mHealth program. 

              In FY23, DHI launched its first call for Inspiring Digital Health Innovations seed grant call. This solicitation received 22 applications from 16 departments. Out of these applications, 7 were selected for funding.

              In addition to the seed grants, DHI has launched an accelerator program. This program is designed to help seed grant awardees and other pilot projects that have overlooked critical technical and organizational challenges that can jeopardize the strength, feasibility, and execution of their projects. This program leverages DHI expertise to help investigators avoid these pitfalls, leading to more robust follow-on grant proposals. These awards can be up to $50,000 in matching funds from the DHI's budget in partnership with Initiative leadership and the pilot project's investigator team.

              In FY23, DHI began planning to launch a new HSC Core known as the Software Development Core. This core will address the identified gaps in services for UofU investigators, such as access to software development resources for translational and clinical research. The first step in launching this new core was allocating funding for the Core Director. These funds were transferred to the HSC Cores team, and in FY24, a new director was selected and will start later in FY24. 

              • Community building has been a significant focus of DHI over its inaugural year. These activities included: 
              • October 2022 – DHI Launch Party. This event was designed to bring awareness to the new Initiative, introduce its leadership to the community, and form research connections. The party had about 120 attendees. 
              • April 2023 – DHI Think Tank Session. As a lead-up to the DHI symposium, a listening session was held over Zoom to collect ideas and interested collaborators that could be shared both in this meeting and at the symposium. 
              • May 2023 – DHI Annual Symposium. This first annual symposium for Digital Health focused on brainstorming campus needs and learning more about the research already happening at the University of Utah. The event included about 85 attendees and featured keynote speakers, lightning talks, and networking time. 

              In addition to these successful events, DHI has successfully built and launched multiple communication channels, including social media handles across all major platforms, a listserv, and a monthly newsletter. 

              In 2023, DHI was nominated and subsequently won the Utah HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) Innovative Project of the Year. 


              Biomedical data science integrates large, complex data sets with innovative computational approaches to create actionable insights across biological and medical applications. The DELPHI Data Science Initiative aims to drive innovation in health and medicine by catalyzing biomedical data science research.

                The DELPHI Initiative was officially launched early in FY23 under the leadership and direction of Jim Hotaling, MD, and Aaron Quinlan, PhD. The initiative aimed to:

                • Develop new, collaborative science teams in biomedical data science
                • Establish a defined data science community
                • Create multiple programming and data science training opportunities,
                • Create an administrative structure to continue operations in this area.

                Shortly after the establishment of the DELPHI Initiative, the Office of the Vice President of Research launched another data science initiative, the Data Science and Ethics of Technology (DATASET) Initiative, which together with the DELPHI Initiative and the Utah Center for Data Science comprise the newly established One Utah Data Science Hub at the University of Utah. 

                In FY23, DELPHI supported the recruitment of Rebecca Barter, PhD, Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Epidemiology. Since her hire, Dr. Barter has been critical to the development of education and programming for the DELPHI Initiative.

                In partnership with the DATASET Initiative, DELPHI launched the One Utah Data Science Hub Seed Grant pilot award competition. In this pilot program, 17 applications were received and reviewed by a panel of 15 reviewers in an in-person review panel to help build and generate community amongst stakeholders. Seven awards were granted to principal investigators across the University of Utah. 

                Upon initiation of the DELPHI Initiative, a website was developed and launched for centralized information distribution, and a regular newsletter was established and delivered to 350 researchers each week by the end of FY23. Toward achievement of the initial aims, five working groups were established on the topics of data resources, education and communication, infrastructure, needs assessment, and research collaboration, and outreach. These five working groups included 22 faculty leaders who connected with an additional 38 faculty in a total of 21 departments to better understand the needs and desires of the biomedical data science community.

                To review progress and discuss initial findings from these working groups and stakeholder interviews, a steering committee retreat was held in December 2022 to obtain feedback from the broader campus data science community and set goals for the future. Based on the gathered information and discussion, a needs assessment focused on collaboration and education was launched to the wider University of Utah community during Data Science Day 2023, which was supported in part by the DELPHI Initiative and hosted more than 280 researchers and students.

                The needs assessment gathered insight from more than 100 researchers across campus. Based on these outcomes and findings from the retreat, the working groups were reorganized into three working groups on faculty recruitment, research and communication, and education going into FY24. 

                To expand the biomedical data science expertise at the U, the DELPHI Initiative prioritized the development of programming and training for data science. The first Software Carpentries workshop was hosted by external instructors on the basics of the Python programming language. The course was attended by 40 faculty, staff, and students.

                With the recruitment of Dr. Barter, DELPHI offered a similar, self-hosted workshop on the R programming language in May 2023. To complement the in-person workshops, Dr. Barter also developed an asynchronous Data Cleaning in R workshop which was launched in June 2023. Additional workshops and virtual courses are being planned for FY24. 

                The Center for Medical Cannabis Research

                Initiated July 1, 2023, in response to the legislative House Bill 230, The Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) at the University of Utah was established to lead methodologically sound research evaluating the safety and efficacy of cannabis and cannabis products used with therapeutic intent. 

                  • The SVPHS Research Unit assembled cannabis-focused researchers and DHHS representatives to introduce the center and gather input. 
                  • Conducted preliminary landscape analysis of other medical cannabis centers nationwide.
                  • Hired and onboarded an administrative Senior Manager, Valerie Ahanonu, to oversee the development and operations of the CMCR.
                  • Appointed an Interim Faculty Director, Gerald Cochran, MSW, PhD, Professor of Internal Medicine and Director of Research for the Program on Addiction Research, Clinical Care, Knowledge, and Advocacy, Division of Epidemiology
                  • Convened a steering committee and conducted the first steering committee meeting.
                  • Met with key collaborators including DHHS and legislators to understand the scope of the provisioned requests noted in H.B. 230.
                  • Established communication channels, including, for example, a website, newsletter, and email listservs.
                  • Partnered with the U’s Genetics Science Learning Center to begin developing research-informed tools that support educating the public and providers on the therapeutic use of cannabis.
                  • Initiated collaborations with the Eccles Library Reference and Research team to outline cannabis research literature review services.


                  The SVPHS Pre-Award Unit was started in 2015 to provide proposal preparation support to researchers in the basic science departments within the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Pre-award support includes assistance with eProposal/COI and other University requirements; proofreading proposal documents and providing feedback to the Principal Investigator (PI); developing budgets and drafting budget justifications - with PI input; formatting biosketches; assisting with obtaining letters of support; supporting application development and submission through Cayuse or other portals; serving as a liaison with the Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP) and other departments and institutions.

                  Pillar Lead

                  During FY23 we were able to successfully staff both our SVPHS Pre-Award team in addition to our Main Campus team during an unprecedented hiring crisis felt across all areas of campus. Our units have built a reputation on campus for quality of work as well as a desired team environment. We have continued to collaborate across campus to help set a precedence for unified support regardless of whether central or embedded. We hosted several Q&A sessions and trainings both internal and external to our units and have built a strong network of pre-award professionals across campus.

                  FY23 Activities

                  Submissions: 295 submissions across our Health Science units were submitted, processing a potential $333,852,670 in extramural funding. Staffing and onboarding two additional Officers on the SVPHS Pre-Award team as well as the invaluable cross-coverage support from the Main Campus Pre-Award team, we significantly increased our support 

                  Biomedical Research Education Office

                  Successful research training programs provide the highest quality education, improve the lives of trainees, provide an invaluable research workforce, ensure the continuation of medical advances, help to create a diverse community, garner national recognition, and establish a legacy.

                  The Biomedical Research Education Office works to provide foundational support for the research education infrastructure, fostering a culture of excellence in training and research education. Primary activities include extensive support for institutional training grant applications, strategic and administrative support for graduate programs, institutional support for active training grants, and long-term tracking and reporting on graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Further, our team works collaboratively with the Office of Undergraduate Research, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, and many other departments, institutes, and centers to advance research education. With this approach, we aim to foster an exceptional training environment rooted in evidence-based practices and a holistic approach that equips our trainees with the tools to tackle the biomedical challenges of tomorrow and the skills to identify and obtain fulfilling careers in science.

                  Pillar Lead

                      We work in close collaboration with the leadership and members of the Research Training and Career Development Committee (RTRAC) and Training Grant Directors Club, as well as Graduate Program Directors and senior leaders in the research mission to design, coordinate, and implement strategic priorities related to research education. RTRAC members include - Kristen Keefe (Co-Chair), H. Joseph Yost (Co-Chair), Michael Kay, Amy Barrios, Katherine Ullman, Jeanette Duct-Sigala, Ed DiBella, Angie Fagerlin, Sean Flynn, Julie Fritz, Jessica Kieper, Paula Meek, Maureen Murtaugh, Michael Rubin. 

                      Utilizing best practices outlined by the Coalition for Next Generation Life Science and NIH Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) Consortium, a tracking system is being developed to follow trainee advancement through their predoctoral and/or postdoctoral career at the University of Utah as well as their future professional careers. This system will provide a user-friendly interface allowing trainees and faculty to update their profiles at any time. 

                      Provide pre- and post-award support for the development, submission, and management of institutional training grants and fellowships. These grants are key to a strong research education ecosystem.

                      We work closely with the umbrella PhD program directors and managers to draft and justify program budgets, set competitive stipend levels, and liaison with central university offices on administrative matters. In addition, we work with all PhD programs and departments to navigate common administrative issues associated with PhD students who are appointed to training grants of individual fellowships.

                      We steward a series of institutional support mechanisms that provide financial support to training grant directors and research education interest groups.


                      Building off existing activities and learning from peer institutions we are developing a series of professional and career development activities that support PhD students and postdoctoral fellows in the Health Sciences. The BREO Career Clubs are the first new activity in this space. These student-led clubs focus on a specific career path (Academic Research, Science Communication, Industry/Biotechnology) and plan seminars, career panels, and invited speakers with the goal of creating a community of learning around opportunities in that space. 

                      Training program graphic
                      The Training Programs team is focused on seven key areas to foster an exceptional training environment.

                      Training Grants and Fellowships

                      The Training Grants and Fellowships team serves as an institutional resource for the development and management of grants and projects that support the research education mission. We provide both pre- and post-award support for institutional training grants, working closely with faculty in the development, writing, and management of these awards. On the pre-award side, we can provide tailored timelines, data collection and analysis, NIH table completion, draft budget and justifications, sample proposals, rigorous review, and advice on program development.

                      The University of Utah hosts 39 active NIH-sponsored institutional training grants that receive support from 10 different NIH institutes and centers. Collectively these training grants support 280 trainees, including graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, clinical fellows, junior faculty, medical students, postbaccalaureate students, and undergraduates. 

                      Our training grants support research training and professional development across multiple disciplines with each grant supporting a specific cohort of trainees on campus.


                      The Health Sciences Center (HSC) Core Facilities administratively reports to the Director Dr. James Cox, who reports to Dr. Rachel Hess. The administrative office is managed by Ms. Brenda Smith, with assistance from Ms. Iryna Wiley, Ms. Terra Curley, and Mr. Derek Schlotfeldt. Responsibilities of the Core Administration office include - personnel management, budget preparation, financial affairs, ordering of supplies, and tracking expenses for all 35 Core Facilities and Service Recharge Centers. In addition, the Administrative Core supports general research infrastructure for the community, e.g. maintaining the X-ray film developer in the SOM and the research irradiator logging and access requests. All cores and recharge centers operate on a charge-back basis, with the Administration Core recovering 5% of the revenue collected for billing and collection services.

                      FY23 Highlights

                      In FY23 the core billed $8.3M; however, what is most impressive the collection rate for billed services remains at 100%. We have developed an account management system to allow each Director to view revenue and expenses in real-time. The tracking system stores fiscal data so that historical comparisons between revenue and expenses can be performed as well as validation of expenses, and operational analysis.

                      Three new Service/Recharge Centers; the Center for Human Toxicology (CHT), BioMedical Microfluidics, and ECE Packaging are now managed through the administrative office to increase accountability and reduce expenses associated with billing and collections.

                      The annual retreat was held in person in September 2022.

                      The Admin Core created an updated ordering system to replace an existing FileMaker Pro deployment. This update included a move to a UIT-managed server, a new web-based User Interface, and a transfer of all historical data. The new ordering system brings the ordering system fully under Cores control as a mission-critical operation support application. This system is anticipated to expand access and ease of ordering for all participating facilities.

                      The electronic inventory system remains in active use by many organizations across campus. Newly added users for FY2023 include the Office of Comparative Medicine and the USTAR Center for Genetic Discovery. Minor updates include expanded support for the new university-provided RFID inventory tags in addition to the HS Cores printed tags. This system is scheduled for a feature review and major update in FY2024.

                      Clinical & Translational Sciences Institute

                      The Utah CTSI is the Intermountain West’s Hub for the development, demonstration, and dissemination of clinical and translational science. It is one of approximately 60 hubs in the Clinical & Translational Science Award (CTSA) Program, funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). In alignment with NCATS and the University of Utah Research Strategy, the mission of the Utah CTSI is to foster the highest quality clinical and translational science that supports increased efficiency and effectiveness of research and ultimately improves the health of our population—reducing health disparities and increasing health equity.

                        The Utah CTSI has close collaborations across the University of Utah and its ongoing partners including Intermountain Healthcare, the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, VA Salt Lake City Health Care System, Comagine Health, and Community Faces of Utah, and new partners Association for Utah Community Health, University of Nevada Reno, and Salt Lake Center for Science Education.  

                        The CTSI’s efforts are led by co-Directors Rachel Hess and Jennifer Majersik, along with approximately 80 faculty and 100 staff who comprise our Administrative Team, Cores and Services, Clinical Research Support Office, and numerous Workforce Development programs. 

                          Its Administrative Core is executing its marketing and navigation strategy to enhance familiarity with the CTSI, its offerings, and its impact on all stakeholders, and planning and implementing improvements to service navigation, intake, and fulfillment. The CTSI continues to be a metrics-driven institute, with its continuous improvement, tracking, and wide initiatives such as reducing the time for activation of clinical trials. The CTSI aims for continued growth of its extramural funding portfolio. In addition to supporting the complicated transition of CTSA award periods, the CTSI’s grants team supports numerous supplement applications, including large-scale COVID-19 studies.

                          The CTSI Cores & Services are highly effective in contributing to the translational research community and supporting the U’s research goals. The expert teams conduct translational science to develop innovative methods, tools, techniques, and best practices, demonstrate their effectiveness, and disseminate them through Service Recharge Centers (SRCs) when appropriate. The CTSI operates five SRCs which include Biomedical Informatics Core SRC (BMIC), Twilio SRC, Clinical Research Unit SRC (CRU), Community Collaboration and Engagement Team SRC (CCET), and Cellular Translational Research Core SRC (CTRC). 

                          The CTSI’s Clinical Research Support Office (CRSO) aims to reduce administrative burdens, enhance compliance, and help remove operational barriers to enhance efficiency, internal/external collaboration, cost recovery, and growth of clinical trials at UU. The CRSO provides IND/IDE and internal monitoring services, and implemented the OnCore clinical trial management system and associated modules for participant payments and electronic regulatory binders.

                          CTSI develops, executes, and evaluates innovative Workforce Development programs that 1) serve the University translational science community, 2) grow novel collaborations, and 3) facilitate faculty, student, and staff success at key stages in their careers. The CTSI prepares well-qualified translational researchers through its Master’s of Science in Clinical Investigation (MSCI) program; K12 Early Faculty Career Development—including partner trainees with Intermountain Healthcare and the Utah Department of Health & Human Services; T32 pre and postdoctoral fellowship programs; and R25 Biomedical Research Inclusion & Diversity to Grow Excellence in Science Undergraduate Program for Historically Black Colleges & Universities (BRIDGE UP HBCU).

                          CTSI Structure and Services
                          • In 2023, CTSI renewed its CTSA program funding, including its main UM1 grant, K12 early career faculty development program, and T32 pre and postdoctoral programs. As part of the suite of grants in the program, the CTSI also received new funding for an R25 summer research program for undergraduates from Historically Black Colleges & Universities and RC2 focused on rapid genetic diagnostics in critically ill infants. In total, CTSA award funding increased from ~$5M to ~$8M total costs annually.
                          • In the calendar year 2022, CTSI cores and services supported over 1,273 project requests, across 13 colleges and schools, and 24 Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine (SFESOM) departments/divisions, increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of clinical & translational research across the university.
                          •  The CTSI’s R01 writing group program assisted 15 new investigators in the development of R01 grant submissions, with an overall program success rate for funding at 45%.
                          • The CTSI’s Master of Science in Clinical Investigation (MSCI) program developed and enrolled students in a new MSCI track (Global Health and Innovation) and received Graduate School approval for three new certificates (Clinical and Translational Investigation, Comparative Effectiveness Research, and Implementation Sciences).
                          • The CTSI’s Clinical Research Support Office (CRSO) has a centralized team to support new and existing IND/IDE applications to the FDA, a QA team that assists study teams and investigators in maintaining compliance as well as providing support for both FDA and EMA audits. The CRSO implemented OnCore and EPIC Research in April 2022 and has since rolled out two new modules, participant payments for research participant compensation and eReg, an electronic binder system.
                          • The CTSI’s Community Collaboration and Engagement Team provided 120 engagement services (Engagement Sessions, Community Advisory Board meetings, Interviews, and Community Dialogues) for 23 research projects. These services have included over 279 diverse participants from communities such as South Asian, Hispanic/Latino, African-American, Pacific Islander, and rural, as well as medical professionals.
                          • The CTSI’s Clinical Research Unit (CRU) supported 3264 research participants' visits in 75 protocols, showing year-over-year growth in visits of ~40% and of distinct protocols by ~30%.  Utilization of inpatient research space (University Hospital 3-NAC) has also increased, notably with Sleep and Circadian Rhythm Research studies and complex phase 2 trials that require 12-day research admissions. These participant interactions were supported by the CRU staff at on-campus clinical & research facilities across three hospitals and via community-embedded protocol nursing.
                          • The CTSI’s Cellular Translational Research Core (CTRC) supported RAIVEN, the CDC Flu Vaccine Clinical Trial, which enrolled over 900 participants during a 6-month longitudinal study. The CTRC focused on the isolation of PBMCs and plasma following strict quality control measures, which will be used in downstream assays performed at the CDC.
                          • The CTSI’s Biomedical Informatics Core (BMIC) developed novel methods for temporality and uncertainty in artificial intelligence for translational research. In addition, the BMIC is scaling the Exposure Health Informatics Ecosystem to include socioeconomic determinants of health to support a broad range of research studies. The core has also developed an informatics platform to evaluate clinical implementations of research across 4,000 hospital systems, added 12 biobanks and 115,069 samples to Openspecimen to comply with University biospecimen regulations, and continued to increase usage of research data networks and electronic data capture.
                          • The Utah CTSI’s Translational Research: Implementation, Analysis and Design (TRIAD) Team provided education and expert consultations in biostatistics, epidemiology, and research design through its seven cores: the Study Design and Biostatistics Core (SDBC), Cancer Biostatistics Core (CBC), Qualitative Research Core (QRC), Survey Design and Health Measurement Core (SMC), Health Economics Core (HEC), Systematic Review Core (SRC), and Dissemination & Implementation Science Core (DISC) function within an integrated workflow to provide an enhanced spectrum of methodological expertise. TRIAD members advanced methodological research in survey validation, risk modeling, surrogate endpoints, and more. Its diversity task force provides training and consults on methods to address diversity and health disparities in research
                          • The CTSI awarded 5 new pilots to advance translational science and community-academic partnerships.

                          Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

                          The Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (RMCOEH) was established at the University of Utah in 1977 to meet the need for comprehensive occupational and environmental safety and health programs in the West. Now a partnership between the University of Utah and Weber State University, the center’s mission is to protect diverse workers and their environment through interdisciplinary education, research, and service.

                          RMCOEH is one of 18 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-sponsored ERCs in the U.S., with academic training programs in ergonomics and safety, industrial hygiene, occupational medicine, occupational injury prevention, targeted research training, and occupational health nursing, in addition to occupational health psychology and mining safety programs that are slated to launch in 2024. RMCOEH additionally has a thriving continuing education program that has trained 15,289 professionals in the previous five years, and the center impacts more than 8,200 businesses annually through continuing education and outreach. Research is also core to RMCOEH’s mission, and the center boasts a research portfolio that includes 44-plus extramural awards and more than $30 million in total funding. Its prominent research areas include transportation safety, musculoskeletal disorders, occupational epidemiology, COVID-19 vaccine efficacy, influenza vaccine efficacy, containment devices for infectious aerosols, biomechanics, and wearable technology including exoskeletons.

                            RMCOEH’s programs are designed to especially meet the tremendous need for occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) professionals in HHS Region 8 (UT, CO, WY, MT, ND, SD), where there is only one other NIOSH-sponsored ERC (Mountain & Plains in Colorado). According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Region 8 has prominent industrial activities, such as mining, that have elevated rates of occupational morbidity and mortality. Region 8 has the highest risk of any HHS region for fatal occupational injuries. The Region 8 fatality rate was 4.4 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2020 vs. 3.4 for the U.S. overall, or 30% greater. Non-fatal injury rates are also elevated in Region 8 in several sectors, such as agriculture, goods production, mining, construction, and manufacturing. The rates of fatalities, injuries, and diseases illustrate the tremendous need for the OEHS professionals that RMCOEH produces, as well as the research and service it performs.

                            RMCOEH’s extensive history of obtaining support includes research grants totaling more than $30 million, funding from the Utah Legislature ($8M total, now adding $3.3 million/year in ongoing support as of 2023), and private-sector donations ($500,000/year). The center’s success is evidenced by factors such as:

                            • the number of RMCOEH graduates: 781 as of spring 2023

                            • graduates’ workplace impacts: graduates report a 35.6% reduction in occupational injuries in their organizations   

                            • the extensive organizations we impact through continuing education and outreach: 8,244 from July 1, 2022-June 30, 2023

                            • results of our graduate surveys: 100% satisfied with their RMCOEH training (71.9% “very satisfied,” 28.1% “satisfied”)

                            • the volume of high-impact research publications we produce: approximately 80 publications/year, including three in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2021-22, and four in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

                            RMCOEH Programs and Directors text image

                            Molecular Medicine

                            The University of Utah Molecular Medicine (U2M2) Program unites PhD- and physician-scientists from clinical Departments and Colleges to catalyze interdisciplinary wet lab-based science with clinical impact. U2M2 achieves its goals by:

                            1. Providing a rich intellectual environment and highly effective research infrastructure support

                            2. Recruiting and retaining outstanding investigators in partnership with Departments and Colleges

                            3. Training the next generation of biomedical researchers.


                            Molecular Metabolism

                              U2M2 Investigators engage in impactful early translational, wet bench discovery science across a range of disciplines. U2M2 Investigators published 191 and 196 papers in calendar years 2021 and 2022, and are on track to publish > 200 papers in 2023. A few recent examples are shown, with contributions from U2M2 Investigators Robert Campbell, Paul Bray, Katsu Funai, Joseph Palatinus, Sihem Boudina, Micah Drummond, Shannon Odelberg, Weiquan Zhu, and Anna Beaudin.

                              U2M2 partners with Departments to recruit and retain exceptional scientists. U2M2 participated in seven recruitments and retentions in FY23 in partnership with four departments (Internal Medicine, Nutrition and Integrative Physiology, Surgery, and Orthopaedics), four of which were successful. 

                              Successful external recruitments in FY23 included Qi Chen, PhD, recruited in partnership with the Department of Surgery, Division of Urology, and Natalia Harasymowicz, PhD, recruited in partnership with the Department of Orthopaedics. U2M2 is a core part of the appeal for faculty considering Utah. Drs. Chen and Harasymowicz bring new expertise and approaches into their departments, which is facilitated by U2M2 research infrastructure and co-location with investigators with whom they can cooperate and collaborate. 

                              Two early-stage investigators received independent funding and were appointed as U2M2 Investigators: Candace Reno, PhD (Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Endocrinology) and Rajeshwary Ghosh, PhD (Nutrition and Integrative Physiology). The importance of nurturing Utah-trained investigators is exemplified by Robert Campbell, PhD, an exceptionally talented scientist who initially came to the U as a postdoctoral fellow, and is now an Assistant Professor and rising star. Dr. Campbell was retained in FY23 by U2M2 in partnership with the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology & Hematologic Malignancies.

                              The U2M2-REACH (Research Excellence Across U of U Health) Mentoring program was launched in FY22 to provide mentorship to non-U2M2 faculty in obtaining a second R01 grant or equivalent. Two scholars, Joel Trinity and Sarah Franklin, both in the Department of Internal Medicine, were selected for the inaugural year and were mentored by three U2M2 Investigators, Matt Rondina, Micah Drummond, and Adrian Rothenfluh. Dr. Franklin was successful in securing a new R01 as a result of participating in REACH, and Dr. Trinity has an R01 in preparation.

                              Dr. Ade Aromolaran joined the REACH program in 2022 and is likewise preparing a new R01 with mentorship from U2M2 Investigators Anna Beaudin and Will Holland. For the 2023-2025 cohort, U2M2 has broadened the program to include U2M2 Investigators as mentees, and non-U2M2 Investigators as mentors, complementing the expertise of U2M2 Investigators. This aligns with U2M2’s overall strategy of promoting cross-disciplinary research excellence across the institution. 

                              In cooperation with the Office of Research Integrity & Compliance, led by Caren Frost, Associate Vice President for Research Integrity & Compliance, U2M2 hired Nikita Abraham, MPH in the role of Scientific/Medical Illustrator. Nikita works with longtime U2M2 Science Medical Illustrator Diana Lim, MS, on preparing figures for scientific publication, including appropriate use and communication of various types of data. Building on this hands-on experience, her role in the Office of Research Integrity & Compliance is focused on developing best practices for data use in publications and communicating these to scientists across campus, including designing and teaching RED 305, “Image Manipulation: Research Misconduct,” and incorporating the appropriate use of data into MDCRC 6300, “Research Graphics Bootcamp,” in partnership with the Utah Clinical and Translational Science Initiative.