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eDocTalk article

New VP plans to use NIH experience to draw attention to research

July 2017

Joseph Frascella, Ph.D., has joined Legacy as vice president of Legacy Research Institute, following a national search. He comes to Legacy from his most-recent position as the senior science adviser to the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) within the National Institutes of Health. He was also on special assignment as a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). He remains on faculty at UMBC.

He holds a Ph.D. in experimental psychology and neuroscience, and Master of Science in experimental psychology from Brown University. Not just a scientist, Dr. Frascella is a professional musician who plays guitar and an enthusiastic motorcyclist.  See his full bio on the MyLegacy intranet.

What interested you most about joining Legacy Health?

After more than three decades working in research and research administration within the government, I wanted to apply what I had done at the NIH in a different setting. I will use my previous experience to bring a broader perspective on research and to stimulate new connections and collaborations across areas.

I also look forward to working together with Joe Cioffi, senior director of research and who was interim vice president of research at Legacy Research Institute. Joe brings historical knowledge and practical experience, and together we bring industry, academia and government knowledge to the job.

What are the greatest challenges and opportunities facing medical research?

Money is the biggest challenge — it opens doors or closes the floodgates down to a trickle. The amount of money that goes into research directly affects outcomes and discovery, which advance the field and impact patient care. It is more important now than ever to counter the growing “anti-science” sentiment with messages about the value of research and to provide clear examples of how research directly advances patient care.

Our field is also impacted by health care transformation. “Personalized” or “precision medicine” is the term used to remind us that not every patient presents the same and treatment should reflect those differences. For instance, look at chronic or recurring conditions such as diabetes, addiction and mental illness. We know in some cases there are targeted drugs that can help manage patients, but the other discussion that should happen is related to lifestyle and behavior changes. I have been particularly interested in research on the commonalities between obesity and substance (and other) addictions, and these have similar underlying bio-behavioral etiologies. Prevention and treatment approaches must take into account both aspects, as well as reflect individual differences.

What makes you most excited about the future of Legacy Research Institute?

A tremendous potential exists for targeted, strategic growth of our research program that links directly to Legacy’s vision of being essential to the health of the community. We have some extremely exciting science happening here, and that should be no secret! At present, our main areas of research include the neurosciences, glaucoma, bio-mechanical engineering and cancer. More importantly, these research programs here are highly translational and can be applied directly to improving patient care. Our track record of success with discovery, getting extramural funding and publishing in peer-reviewed journals is extraordinary for our size.

We’ve also recently initiated a program in clinical outcomes research. Over the next two years, I expect some very high profile and meaningful data will come out of these outcomes studies that will lead to improvements in Legacy’s clinical care.

Finally, we at Legacy Research are very excited about our proximity to Unity Center for Behavioral Health and the chance for collaboration between researchers and psychiatrists treating patients next door. There is opportunity to have a direct benefit on this population. It’s a perfect fit.

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