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LIJ hospital network gets $15M for clinical research

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U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) joined representatives of the Long Island Jewish-North Shore Health System in Manhasset Monday, calling for health care reform as she congratulated the hospital network on receiving a $15 million grant for clinical research.

It is the first time the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Research Resources has awarded the grant to a health system that does not have an affiliated medical school.

"You don't get this because you're well-connected, because you're well-situated, because you have a good reputation from the past," Clinton said. "You get it because of ... the kind of challenges you are willing to take on, the collaborative work you are willing to do, the patient-centered clinical research."

The clinical research funded by the grant will be done at the system's two main sites: North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset and Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park.

Work will focus on diseases such as Parkinson's, rheumatoid arthritis and schizophrenia for which effective treatments are still badly needed, said Kevin Tracey, program director for North Shore-LIJ's General Clinical Research Center.

"The GCRC is a place where the hypotheses, the dreams of our scientists and the hopes of our patients can be converted to action and progress," Tracey said.

Richard Rogers, a 30-year resident of Manhasset, told the 200-member audience about his experiences volunteering for leukemia studies at the GCRC. For 12 weeks after he was diagnosed with the deadly disease, Rogers drank naturally occurring heavy water and submitted to periodic blood tests so that doctors could measure the birth and death rates of cancer cells in his body.

"I knew that participation would be a minor inconvenience ... but would help somebody, somewhere," Rogers said.

Clinton lauded the leukemia study and urged the research center to use the grant money to continue to examine the genetic, environmental and behavioral triggers for the diseases that still plague millions.

But she added that the nation's political leaders must take steps to insure that the fruits of such studies are available to all Americans, regardless of income. Immediate bipartisan legislation in Congress to fund a Medicare prescription benefit was the first but by no means the last step in that process, Clinton said.

"Our existing health care system is no longer suitable for the challenges we face."

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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