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April 9th declared Translational Science Day in Lexington

Presenters in the yearly 60-second poster pitch competition pose for a photo in the Central Bank Center.
Clay Wallace
Presenters in the yearly 60-second poster pitch competition pose for a photo in the Central Bank Center.

During the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science’s 19th Annual Spring Conference, Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton presented a proclamation declaring April 9th Translational Science Day.

Translational Science is a discipline through which breakthroughs in medical research become clinical practice and policy. It involves collaboration between researchers, clinicians, students, and community members. Some of those partnerships are facilitated at Central Bank Arena, where presenters have gathered for a yearly competition.

“We’ve been collaborating with the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship for several years now,” said Mallory Profeta, communications director of CCTS. “[We] host a 60-second poster pitch competition to give folks an opportunity to pitch an idea for some sort of health innovation that they could potentially commercialize.”

Competitors get mentorship and training from the Von Allmen center and winners receive cash prizes. This year, 21 competitors pitched their ideas. Meanwhile, juniors from Frederick Douglass High School’s biomedical pathways program presented posters on health research.

Each attendee, whether a researcher or a student, has a role in the translational spectrum. Dr. Aaron Kruse-Diehr, conference chair and co-director of the CCTS Center for Implementation, Dissemination & Evidence-based Research (CIDER), says it takes 17 years for just 14 percent of original research to enter into clinical practice.

“So, you do your basic research, you then do some clinical studies on that, you then do efficacy studies and effectiveness,” explained Kruse-Diehr. “The idea is that we can speed that pipeline along because some of those innovations get lost at every step.”

Translational science can also inform policy. The event’s keynote speaker Ellen Hahn, professor emeritus of nursing and public health at UK, has spent decades campaigning for a tobacco-free Kentucky. Hahn spearheaded Lexington’s smoking ban in 2003 after she was approached by city leaders who asked her to speak with schoolchildren on the dangers of cigarettes.

“So I said, ‘Well, you could do that. You could have medical students go into schools. But, you know what? Kids already know that tobacco’s bad for them. Could we do something more high impact?’” recounted Hahn. “‘Could we talk about having a law in Lexington that would require all workplaces to be smoke free?’ Because I knew the science said that when people can’t smoke everywhere, they’re less likely to smoke as much, and they’ll even quit.

Since then, 13 Kentucky counties and over 50 cities have passed their own anti-smoking ordinances. Hahn says anyone wanting to do the same in their communities can reach out to UK’s Kentucky Center for Smoke Free Policy, which incorporates the research model developed by her original campaign.

“That’s what policy implementation science is. It’s really helping make the healthy choices the easy choices for people,” said Hahn. “So when they go to a big event like this, they don’t have to smell cigarette smoke; if they’re in a community and they’re on their bicycle, there’s a bike path everywhere.”

“Lo and behold, that doesn’t just happen. You have to change the law to make that happen.”