UF Health Cancer Center
The University of Florida Health Cancer Center stands alone in the state of Florida in its unique ability to blend comprehensive patient care and innovative research in a collaborative, multidisciplinary environment. It boasts a membership of more than 140 researchers and clinicians from across the University of Florida and UF Health, the Southeast’s most comprehensive academic health center. The center and its members are dedicated to providing cutting-edge cancer care and conducting original research for the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Clinical and Translational Science Institute
The UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute speeds the movement of scientific discoveries made in the laboratory to the bedside in the form of new drugs, devices and treatment options. These efforts result in improved health in our communities and beyond, and ensure effective new approaches reach people who need them. The institute provides opportunities for people to participate in health research conducted at the university through clinical research studies, programs such as HealthStreet and initiatives such as the Citizen Scientist program. Researchers use volunteers to participate in studies, some of which otherwise would end early due to a shortage of participants. Anyone wishing to become involved in such research can visit ctsi.ufl.edu/community or ufhealth.org/research-studies-clinical-trials.
Formed in 2015, the UF Diabetes Institute is the umbrella organization under which diabetes education, research, prevention and treatment are coordinated at UF and the academic health center. More than 100 faculty members with the institute are working to prevent, diagnose and treat diabetes in the areas of genetics, endocrinology, epidemiology, patient and physician education, health outcomes and policy, behavioral science, rural medicine and more. Led by director Mark A. Atkinson, Ph.D., the institute is widely considered to be among the top five in the nation for Type 1 diabetes research. UF is internationally recognized for its efforts in diabetes care and research, and houses a model for statewide diabetes education through collaboration with UF/IFAS Extension in all 67 Florida counties.
Emerging Pathogens Institute
Florida’s unique geography and climate require novel disease prevention and control strategies. Florida’s residents and industries, especially agriculture and tourism, are threatened by new diseases, such as Zika virus, dengue fever, H1N1 swine flu and citrus greening. The UF Emerging Pathogens Institute was created in 2006 to provide a world-class research environment to facilitate interdisciplinary studies into the emergence and control of human, animal and plant pathogens of concern to Florida, the nation and the world. The institute strives to understand the genetic changes and evolutionary drivers that lead to the emergence of new pathogens; to appreciate the complex interaction of environmental and host factors that permit these pathogens to spread within plant, animal and human populations; to train the next generation of investigators in emerging diseases in an interdisciplinary setting; and to disseminate information about emerging pathogens, and their control, to the people of Florida.
The Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute
The Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida is one of the nation’s most comprehensive and technologically advanced centers devoted to discovering how the normal brain operates
and how we can repair the brain amid injury, disease or aging. Collectively, the MBI’s investigators hope their research and teaching will make a difference for those who suffer from disorders of the brain, including neurodegenerative diseases, brain cancers, addictive and psychiatric diseases, stroke, acute spinal cord injuries and brain injuries, as well as memory loss associated with normal aging. Led by executive director Todd Golde, M.D., Ph.D., the MBI has 200,000 square feet of research space and encompasses a nexus linking more than 300 investigators across all 16 UF colleges who are pursuing potentially transformative research related to neuroscience and the brain.
The UF Genetics Institute is a biomedical research center that promotes collaborative and multidisciplinary research using the tools of genetics and genomics. Formed in 1999, the institute involves more than 240 faculty members representing seven colleges and 50 academic departments. Their research includes fields such as human genetics, bioinformatics, agricultural and plant biology, and evolutionary biology. They also study pressing issues such as the impact of climate change, health-related genetic mutations and feeding an expanding global population.
Institute on Aging
The UF Institute on Aging, formed in 2005, builds relationships between researchers who study aging in different fields. In addition to providing primary care on the UF campus as well as care at Oak Hammock at the University of Florida retirement community, the Institute on Aging is also changing the way older adults receive care at UF Health Shands Hospital. Geriatricians are embedded in the hospital’s trauma unit and the general hospital unit. They meet with older patients to help design health care around their unique needs and the diverse medical conditions they may have. The institute also focuses on the prevention of injury and illness in older adults. Other recent research endeavors include studying methods to help these patients better manage pain, preserve cognitive abilities and maintain mobility. Maintaining mobility and independence helps older adults prevent memory and cognition from declining.
Institute for Child Health Policy
Founded in 1988, the Institute for Child Health Policy serves as a transdisciplinary hub for child health research at the University of Florida. Institute multidisciplinary faculty and affiliate members are nationally and internationally recognized for their expertise in pediatric quality of care, health outcomes and biomedical informatics, and are dedicated to conducting and promoting rigorous research that leads to impactful solutions for improving the lifelong health of children in Florida and nationwide. Elizabeth A. Shenkman, Ph.D., is the institute’s director and chair of the department of health outcomes and policy in the UF College of Medicine.
UF Research and Academic Center at Lake Nona
The University of Florida expanded its footprint in Orlando on Nov. 30, 2012, when it opened the UF Research and Academic Center at Lake Nona. The $53 million, 110,000-square-foot LEED-certified facility is home to hundreds of faculty, staff and students working in several institutes, centers and college branches. They include the UF College of Pharmacy’s Doctorate in Pharmacy Program; the Center for Pharmacometrics and Systems Pharmacology; the Center for Quality Medication Management; the Florida Minority Cancer Research and Training Center and the UF College of Medicine Institute for Therapeutic Innovation.
Nursing researcher Gail Keenan, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, an international leader in nursing informatics, was hired as part of UF’s preeminence initiative in September 2014. She came from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she served as director of the Nursing Informatics Initiative. Keenan serves as the Annabel Davis Jenks Endowed Professor at the UF College of Nursing.
As a recipient of more than $7.5 million in research funding, Keenan focuses her research on creating and implementing useful electronic health records. Specifically, her research team has built and refined an electronic plan of care method called Hands-on Automated Nursing Data System — HANDS — designed to improve the consistency of documentation and handoff communication.
Keenan said she was drawn to UF because she could immediately feel the energy of the interdisciplinary environment with faculty members and students who are collaborating to move science forward together.
“It is very exciting being able to be a part of this wonderful university at such a dynamic time,’’ she said. “I was sold quickly on the potential for my informatics research at UF after witnessing firsthand the depth and breadth of genuine interprofessional scientific collaboration.’’
Keenan also understands the importance of nurturing and building confidence in her students — the “next generation of the profession … who will eventually be our leaders.”
“I have a responsibility to help students find and devote their passions around nursing practice and research,’’ she said. “I engage students in any and all activities that will help them build their confidence, skills and knowledge, applying humor, joy and fun as needed.”
Jose A. Lemos and Jacqueline Abranches
In 2015, Jose A. Lemos, Ph.D., decided to return to his academic roots. Recruited as part of UF’s preeminence initiative, Lemos left the University of Rochester, where he had been an assistant professor, to join the UF College of Dentistry, where he had previously worked as a postdoctoral associate and research assistant professor in the department of oral biology from 2001 to 2007.
Lemos and his wife, Jacqueline Abranches, Ph.D., an assistant professor of oral biology in the UF College of Dentistry, oversee the Lemos-Abranches Laboratory at UF.
While in Rochester, Lemos continued to collaborate with his one-time mentor, Robert Burne, Ph.D., a distinguished professor and chair of the department of oral biology at UF. When the opportunity to return to Gainesville arose, Lemos said there was much to like.
“The prospect for different collaborations across disciplines was very appealing. The growth that I could see in the years since I left has been very impressive,” he said.
In particular, Lemos was struck by how the College of Dentistry, a part of UF Health, interacts with the College of Medicine and other health sciences.
“Dentistry is part of the biomedical sciences, and it makes a big difference to be in a place where everything is well-integrated. It creates more opportunities for collaborative research,” Lemos said.
Jinying Zhao, M.D., Ph.D., came to the University of Florida to be a pioneer. An epigenetics researcher and professor in the department of epidemiology in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and the UF College of Medicine, Zhao was hired as part of UF’s preeminence initiative and came to UF from Tulane University.
At UF, she is building a new division of genetic epidemiology, a relatively new discipline that is rapidly expanding alongside the explosion of genetic data, improving computing capabilities and new statistical methods.
“While many universities have a course in genetic epidemiology, few programs have a full division with several faculty who are all focused on the same issue,” said Linda B. Cottler, Ph.D., M.P.H., chair of the UF department of epidemiology and PHHP’s associate dean for research and planning. “We are fortunate that Dr. Zhao has joined the department. It is important for UF to be at the leading edge of research on genetics and individual and population risk factors for major chronic diseases that people are concerned about, such as hypertension, diabetes, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Zhao said she was drawn to UF for its excellent resources and collaborative environment. She is exploring partnerships with members of UF’s Informatics Institute, Genetics Institute, Diabetes Institute, and Clinical and Translational Science Institute, as well as with pharmacogenomics experts in the College of Pharmacy.
“There are so many faculty members doing excellent work here who could help me open up new pathways in my research,” Zhao said.