S.A. trauma research hub to launch with UT and Army funding – San Antonio Express-News

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Brooke Army Medical Center emergency room personnel work on a COVID-19 patient on Jan. 5, 2021. The University of Texas System and the Department of Defense will collaborate on a new trauma research hub in San Antonio.
A person injured in a vehicle accident is treated at Brooke Army Medical Center in this 2015 file photo. The University of Texas System and the Department of Defense will collaborate on a new trauma research hub in San Antonio.
A trauma patient is treated at Brooke Army Medical Center in this 2015 file photo. The University of Texas System and the Department of Defense will collaborate on a new trauma research hub in San Antonio.
From brain injuries to blood transfusions, the San Antonio region will soon have a one-of-a-kind trauma research center generating knowledge that could save countless lives.
The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio plans to house the Trauma Research and Combat Casualty Care Collaborative, or TRC4, with help from $2.5 million recently allocated by the UT System Board of Regents.
“Ultimately this is going to be really great for San Antonio, and for trauma patients locally and hopefully nationally,” said Dr. Susannah Nicholson, a University Hospital trauma surgeon and director of trauma research.
“Trauma is the leading cause of death for people under the age of 44, and the leading cause of death for children — highlighted by the recent unfortunate events in Uvalde,” Nicholson said. “So I think there’s a lot we can do together to improve trauma care for our patients, and we do that for advances on research.”
Partners in the collaborative include University Health’s Level 1 trauma center at University Hospital, the U.S. Department of Defense, and existing local and regional partnerships with University Health and the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council, or STRAC.
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The UT System investment of $2.5 million will focus on establishing the center, with no more than 10 percent of the funds going to overhead costs and the rest being used to support research that improves clinical care.
The U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, or USAISR, agreed to match these funds by providing research equipment valued at $2.5 million for the center. It also agreed to make its own research labs available to the UT institutions. USAISR is based at Brooke Army Medical Center.
According to a presentation to the UT regents, an advisory committee of researchers and leaders across UT institutions, among other partners, will oversee TRC4. The collaborative is expected to submit annual progress reports.
Meetings between the TRC4 partners started about a year and a half ago, Nicholson said, with a focus on creating a hub in San Antonio.
The area is well positioned for the effort thanks to collaborations between the health institutions that span more than 20 years, she said, with Level 1 trauma centers at University Hospital and Brooke Army Medical Center and a wide range of ongoing trauma research.
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The science is expected to expand through this collaborative, from burn and wound therapy to cold-stored whole blood research, pain-reduction treatments and the use of artificial intelligence for decision support to help improve response time and coordination.
“We are doing a lot of research with traumatic brain injury, involving stem-cell research to help restore brain function,” Nicholson said. “That same technology can also be potentially used for patients who suffer from a stroke.”
With an estimated 6 million patients in the United States suffering from trauma-related wounds and more than 1.2 million injured by burns each year, Nicholson said, the impact of research efforts will go far beyond San Antonio.
The creation of this hub also is expected to be an opportunity for students and faculty at all 13 UT System schools to become involved as trauma research grows.
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“We are hoping that this serves as a foundation and a platform for subsequent funding and research to happen,” Nicholson said. “And as this grows, it will also help fund more people to do research in these areas.”
When trauma happens, there’s an inclination to not think of it as a regular health issue, she said. The research center might help change the way trauma-related injuries are viewed, to consider the long-term impact for the patients and the healthcare system in general, Nicholson said.
“It is truly a health problem, because the patients can end up in the hospital for a long time, they can suffer from infection, or a lot of other systemic organ failure,” she said. “It ends up being a leading cause of death for many people, and a leading cause of disability that can be a major strain in the healthcare system.”
danya.perez@express-news.net| @DanyaPH
Danya Perez joined the Express-News education team in January 2021. Before moving to San Antonio, she worked as digital producer focusing mostly on newsletters at the Houston Chronicle for two years, and as an education reporter at The Monitor in McAllen, Texas, for more than four years.
Danya is originally from Mexico and was raised in the border city of El Paso, where she became the first in her family to graduate with a college degree from the University of Texas at El Paso. Before graduating, she began her journalism career as reporter and later city editor of Borderzine.com, and moved on to intern at the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Having spent most of her life in Texas, Danya considers the Lone Star State her home, with Mexico remaining an important part of her life. She is bilingual, as Spanish is the main language spoken by her family.


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