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The Dahms Clinical Research Unit: A Cornerstone of Support for Scientific and Medical Discovery

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UH Research & Education Update | November 2022

By John Dannug and the DCRU Staff, UH Clinical Research Center

In 1962, University Hospitals established a new Clinical Research Center with a mission to create capacity, opportunity, and a supportive environment for clinical and translational research. In 2007, the Clinical Research Center was renamed the William T. Dahms Clinical Research Unit in honor of Dr. Dahms's long tenure as Program Director. For the past 60 years, the Dahms Clinical Research Unit (DCRU) has been a cornerstone of support for scientific and medical discovery, partnering with investigators from all disciplines to support pediatric and adult clinical research visits. Within those 60 years, the DCRU support services grew to include a deployable and flexible nursing staff with specialized research training, inpatient capabilities, support for Phase I clinical trials, a research processing and analytical laboratory, bionutrition services with a metabolic research kitchen and a research-dedicated DXA for body composition analysis.

Dedicated Leadership

For the last six years, 2016-2022, Grace McComsey, MD, FIDSA, University Hospitals Vice President of Research, Associate Chief Scientific Officer, and Director of the University Hospitals Clinical Research Center, has served as the Program Director of the DCRU. In this period, Dr. McComsey has further elevated DCRU’s status as one of the most respected and trusted clinical research teams in Northeast Ohio.

Grace McComsey, MDGrace McComsey, MD, FIDSA

While DCRU's accomplishments during Dr. McComsey’s tenure are vast, a few deserve highlighting:

  • Increased overall utilization of the DCRU between 2016-2022
  • Modernized operations and transitioned to digital workflows and processes for study team interaction, study onboarding, patient scheduling and information dissemination. 
    • 2016: The DCRU moved away from paper workflows towards increased REDCap utilization, which allowed for greater efficiency with protocol intake and implementation, SOP and protocol training, amendment tracking, quality assurance and equipment tracking.  An Operations Specialist was also added to lead study onboarding, financial and operational metrics tracking and physical plant management
    • 2019: A DCRU Regulatory Support role was added and more than 80 DCRU Standard Operating Procedures and Job Aids were created.
    • 2022: An Amendment Nurse role was added to the team to expedite the review of DCRU study amendments. A DWP informational site was launched and houses support and announcements for investigators and study teams.
  • Continuously updated facilities and equipment to provide cutting-edge capabilities for study teams
    • 2016: A research-dedicated DXA machine was purchased to measure whole-body composition and bone density.
    • 2018: The Unit upgraded and relocated from Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital to Lakeside Suite 65, planting roots closer to the Clinical Research Center’s main office in Lakeside 1400.
    • 2022: A new ADA-compliant bathroom was built along with a new Bionutrition Metabolic Kitchen, and the DCRU sample processing lab was upgraded with new benches, desks and an eyewash station.
  • Adapted to researcher needs during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and remained fully operational, keeping interventional research studies moving forward despite significant challenges
    • March 2020: The relocation of the Coleman Cancer Suite was expedited from Seidman Cancer Center's 3rd floor to the 6th floor to protect vulnerable inpatients.
    • October 2020 – March 2022: The DCRU Lab processed 5,044 COVID-19 Biorepository samples (including serum, plasma, swabs, saliva, urine and stool) and 560 tubes for peripheral blood mononuclear cells.
    • DCRU nurses provided over 1,000 hours of Helping Hands support throughout the hospital, covering approximately 125 inpatient shifts.

Looking Towards the Future

As we celebrate DCRU’s accomplishments of the past under the direction of Dr. McComsey, we are delighted about what the future holds with the appointment of the new Program Director, Debora Bruno, MD, in August 2022.

Debora Bruno, MDDebora Bruno, MD

Dr. Bruno hails from the Division of Hematology and Oncology, Thoracic Oncology at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. Since joining UH Seidman Cancer Center in 2018, she has conducted 13 industry-sponsored oncological clinical trials as the institutional Principal Investigator.  In addition, she is a passionate researcher in earlier phase trials, many of which were conducted utilizing DCRU support and resources.

Dr. Bruno will be a great advocate for clinical research and DCRU with her understanding of complex clinical trial operations, standard procedures, good clinical practice, and FDA regulations and requirements. We look forward to her support, collaborative leadership, medical oversight, strategic planning, and metrics-based management

Celebrating 60 Years of Service

Dahms Clinical Research Unit members at anniversary event 2022 Dahms Clinical Research Unit members.

The DCRU celebrated its 60th anniversary on October 21, 2022 with a special virtual event featuring guest speakers, and the  “CTSAs as a National Resource: Lessons from COVID” keynote address by William G Powderly, MD. View a recording of this event.

Visit the DCRU website to learn more about how this team can support your discoveries.

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