The Importance of Research in Healthcare with Dr. Richard Larson – Ep #56

Research is a critical component to continuing advances in technology and treatments in healthcare. A focused research mission is what leads to those improvements, and the ability for researchers to secure funding and operate efficiently goes a long way towards achieving that goal. So where is the best place to put resources into research and development?

This week’s guest believes that research is best done hand-in-hand with academic institutions, and has a career of success to back it up.

Dr. Richard Larson is an entrepreneur and an academic leader. He serves as Executive Vice-Chancellor of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, as well as President and Chairman of the Board of the New Mexico Bioscience Authority. 

Dr. Larson also helped to found TriCore Reference Laboratories, New Mexico’s 10th largest business and its largest Medical Laboratory. He was formerly Chairman of the Board of TriCore, and currently is a member of the Board of Directors. 

Dr. Larson received his PhD in Immunology from Harvard University as well as his MD from Harvard Medical School. He’s also a summa cum laude graduate of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where he earned his AB in chemistry.

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks

  • [2:37] The challenges Dr. Larson has faced in his mission to improve public education and health care across the state of New Mexico
  • [3:57] Why university research is important
  • [5:34] Utilizing new discoveries to improve healthcare and society to promote job growth
  • [12:04] Promoting Healthcare equity for minorities
  • [18:30] Lessons Dr. Larson has learned in his work at the Health Sciences Center
  • [24:22] Improving wealth by improving health
  • [29:01] Dr. Larson’s advice for upcoming entrepreneurs

Connect with Dr. Richard Larson

Improving collaboration between departments

One of the difficult things about scientific discovery is that the scientific community as a whole is compartmentalized. Traditional medical school is broken up into different departments such as neuroscience, cell biology, and neurology. The faculty in these departments do not typically work with each other very often. As Dr. Larson says in the episode, it is difficult for a pharmacist to work with a neurologist. 

Dr. Larson saw this issue and developed mechanisms that allowed them to collaborate more often and create a connection between departments. Because of these endeavors, as well as his work implementing incentive-based pay programs, Dr. Larson and his team were able to increase funding and advance their work in vaccines, HPV, Ebola, and sleep apnea. The increased results have helped lead to the funding of over 900 active projects.

Improving equity in the healthcare system

One of the biggest problems with healthcare in America today is the issue of equity. Treatment for the same injury will differ for each individual patient based upon their economic status, as well as other factors such as ethnicity. The work that Dr. Larson does in New Mexico is a unique experience because the state is one of the few majority minority states in the US, with 45% of the population being Hispanic, while 40% is Caucasian. 

As Dr. Larson points out in this week’s episode, there is also growing research into the idea that certain ethnic groups actually need different treatments. For example, Dr. Larson’s research and clinical trials were able to show the differences in the way that African American children should be treated for asthma. So, while the need for equity of treatment quality needs to be improved for lower-income families, some treatments are better suited to one ethnicity than another. 

Learn more about Dr. Richard Larson and his research at the University of New Mexico on this week’s episode of When Science Speaks.

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