Winter 2019

Joining Forces for Good

Harris BermanToday, antimicrobial resistance is considered one of the biggest threats to global health.

We’ve been aware of the problem since the advent of penicillin. Shortly after the discovery of the so-called wonder drug in 1928, researchers found that some staphylococcal bugs were resistant to it. Still, doctors widely—and often inappropriately—prescribed antibiotics, not just to treat infections but to prevent them.

Our own Stuart Levy, who joined Tufts as an assistant professor of medicine in 1971, sounded the alarm long before anyone else. After the Food and Drug Administration approved antibiotics for use in animal feed, Stuart presented the first evidence that low-dose antibiotics in farm animals encouraged the proliferation of resistant bacteria that can transfer to humans. He was a voice in the wilderness for decades—but now people recognize that we could end up with no effective antibiotics if we keep using them the way we have been.

Building on the research that Stuart began, we’ve put together a group to take this work to the next level with the new Center for Integrated Management of Antimicrobial Resistance (CIMAR). The center will combine the strengths of our stellar microbiology department with those of the first-rate infectious-disease department at Tufts Medical Center. We hope this will become a model for collaboration in other areas where the medical school is doing disease-related basic science research and the hospital is treating those same conditions right across the street. I am also pleased to share that CIMAR’s March 18 symposium is named in honor of Stuart: the 2019 Stuart Levy Tufts CIMAR Symposium.

In a way possible only at Tufts, CIMAR will also encompass researchers and leverage assets from across the university, including the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, the School of Dental Medicine, the School of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Engineering. Faculty working together across disciplines can bring fresh approaches to the issue, leading to new ideas and new solutions.

Similarly, collaboration reigns at another of our important research initiatives: Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). Tufts CTSI offers us opportunities to work with the extended Tufts family— the medical school has affiliations with several institutions as does Tufts Medical Center. We can coordinate research among them all and give clinical-trial access to patients at hospitals that don’t conduct research. And thanks to Tufts CTSI’s new partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, we’ll have a scientific base that is unparalleled.

Both CIMAR and the CTSI fit Tufts University’s research philosophy of not trying to do everything, but instead focusing on key areas where we can do a world-class job. Yet these initiatives also represent a new direction at Tufts: They take full advantage of our unique constellation of health-science schools and health scientists to solve the most urgent real-world health problems.

Harris A. Berman, M.D., Dean, Tufts University School of Medicine

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