Basic Biomedical Research
Clinical Research

OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine is the youngest of the OSU Colleges. It was established as a free-standing medical college to meet the state’s needs for primary care physicians, especially in underserved/rural Oklahoma. In 1988 the college merged with Oklahoma State University, a land-grant institution with a similar rural/extension mission. The merger did, however, effect a major change in mission for the College of Osteopathic Medicine as it was now a member of one of the two major research institutions within the state. As such, there has been a concerted effort to enhance the research and graduate education activities on campus. As the college is located in Tulsa, it has found itself in the midst of an expansion of higher education in Tulsa. It makes up a small but growing core of basic and clinical biomedical researchers from which expanding programs in research and graduate education are evolving.

In 1997 a new Ph.D. program in Biomedical Sciences was approved for the Tulsa campus. The first student graduated in 2000, and currently fifteen students are enrolled in the program, three of which are dual-degree (D.O./Ph.D.) candidates. The program has been well received and applications far exceed the capacity of the small graduate faculty. Also in 2000, the State Regents approved a Masters level program in Forensic Sciences. This program is multidisciplinary and will involve faculty from most of the colleges of OSU. It is slated to accept its first student in 2001. In addition to these programs, a Masters program in biomedical sciences will be submitted in 2001 for approval by the state regents. This program will complete the already successful Ph.D. program and will better meet the diverse needs for quality graduate education in northeast Oklahoma.

The expansion of graduate education programs will and already has done more to establish a viable environment for biomedical research and training in Tulsa and northeast Oklahoma. Long-term plans include expansion of faculty numbers in basic sciences to forty, roughly twice the current size. To support this growth, plans include the construction of new research and teaching facilities on the new OSU-Tulsa campus. The growth of quality biomedical research programs in Tulsa will help assure Tulsa’s competitiveness for expanding related industries within the state for the future.
As in any medical college, research falls into two broad categories: Basic Biomedical Research and Clinical Research.

Basic Biomedical Research
Basic sciences is organized into three multidisciplinary departments. Those departments are Anatomy and Cell Biology, Biochemistry/Microbiology, and Pharmacology/Physiology. Among the faculty making up these departments, several areas have grown to become focus areas or evolving centers within the research program. Among these are neurosciences, genetic and molecular biology, endocrinology, and renal/cardiovascular physiology. The new Forensic Science program will also drive an expansion of faculty in the areas of toxicology, infectious diseases, and DNA forensics.

One of the largest new centers is in the area of neuroscience, with investigators working on questions of pain perception, neuroimmunology, artificial vision, and the neuroscience of aging. A second area is cardiovascular research. In this area various members of the faculty from several disciplines are working independently or as teams on such questions as (1) the effects of diet on the cardiovascular system, (2) the protective effect of estradiol on the cardiovascular system of women, (3) the effects of stress on the cardiovascular system, (4) renal physiology as it pertains to hypertension and stroke, and (5) endocrine mechanisms in the CV system.

Other areas of interest include arthritis, alcoholism/alcohol metabolism, tumor immunology, reproductive endocrinology, and several studies relating to infectious diseases (i.e., immunology, virology, bacteriology, and parasitology). Examples of externally funded projects include a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded study on the effect of nerves on kidney function; two OCAST funded studies on (1) the genetic analysis of IV foocytes and embryos and (2) the effect of peptide YY on Collecting Duct Function; a National Institutes of Health, FIRST Award that is studying cytomegalavirus in baboon tissues for potential use in human transplantation; and a Cancer Research Institute funded project which is studying melanoma vaccine. A hypobaric chamber, provided by the U.S. Air Force, serves as a core facility at OSU-COM and provides hypobaric testing for pilots in the armed forces and private airlines as well as a research tool to attract research dollars in the aviation health sciences. Another core laboratory maintained by OSU-COM is an Electron Microscopy Core Laboratory, which supports faculty research and is available for contract work with outside programs. OSU-COM is also expanding its horizons via collaborations with scientists at Tulsa University and the H.A. Chapman Institute for Human Genetics. Four scientists at the Chapman Institute have been given adjunct faculty status in the OSU-COM Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology and have received graduate faculty status at OSU. These actions all represent additional steps by OSU-COM to become the hub for biomedical research in northeastern Oklahoma and the Tulsa metropolitan area.

In an increasingly competitive market for funds to perform research, the program at OSU-COM has been able to continue its slow but steady growth, contributing to the academic environment of the college and also making contributions that should ultimately improve the quality of life for the citizens of Oklahoma. It is hoped that as the programs continue to grow through the addition of new research faculty and expanding graduate programs, the OSU-COM campus will become a resource for the foundation for northeast Oklahoma’s growth and expansion of health related industries and technologies.

Clinical Research
Clinical research takes many forms at OSU-COM by involving basic original research as well as a rapidly growing number of sponsored drug trials. The mission of the college has remained in the area of primary care and rural health. With those focuses there are two evolving centers within this division: a Center for Women’s Health and an Institute for Rural Health. With this in mind, much of the research evolving has been in the primary care disciplines of Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and Obstetrics/Gynecology. OSU-COM also sponsors a variety of programs through its Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Oklahoma Area Health Education Center (OkAHEC). These projects have included a laboratory and field study on psychological factors in cardiovascular disease, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health. Another area of interest is in field research pertinent to program evaluation. Also, several federal and state grants have been funded supporting health promotion and prevention of alcoholism, breast cancer, drug abuse, suicide, and type II diabetes.


The college has also developed a unique core facility for higher education. That facility is referred to as the Center for Aerospace and Hyperbaric Medicine. It houses two large multiperson hypobaric chambers and one large hyperbaric chamber which are available for hyperbaric medicine applications and aviation high altitude training and research applications.

Residents in all clinical departments are required to pursue some form of scholarly activity. Many of these physicians become involved in research projects overseen by faculty, ranging from new drug trials to the study of basic questions pertaining to various medical problems or diseases. Expanding numbers of clinical faculty in areas such as Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Pediatrics, and OB/GYN should result in significant increases in clinical research activity on campus over the next few years. Current research topics include areas such as OMT in Otitus Media, wound healing, respiratory distress/asthma, and the treatment of HIV. Several faculty in these departments contract with pharmaceutical companies to test and develop new drugs in OSU-COM’s clinics.

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