Five years ago, several of our state’s top health organizations and schools came together to form the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute. This critical initiative is funded by the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences to promote health and to position West Virginia as a network member of leading-edge institutions across the country.

The name may be confusing. But the purpose is not. These groups are committed to bringing the benefits of health research out of the laboratory and into the lives of every West Virginian. They’re dedicated to improving health for all of us.

It included hospitals like Charleston Area Medical Center and the WVU Medicine system. Teaching institutions like the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine and all of WVU’s health schools. Our state government. Rural and community health centers and clinics.

Each of the partners committed funds – and more importantly, contributed their imagination, creativity and hearts, as well.

Guess what? It’s working.

Over the past five years, WVCTSI created the state’s first Practice-Based Research Network, a group of 74 primary care clinics, mostly in rural communities. Working with on-campus researchers, these clinics have conducted 77 projects related to improving health in West Virginia. Many of these community projects have impacted the way rural healthcare providers treat patients.

The organization also provided resources to bring the best minds in the state together – no matter where they worked, or what organization they belonged to – to tackle issues like the addiction crisis, cardiovascular and lung diseases, and infectious disease.

Recently, after reviewing its work and accomplishments, the NIH renewed the grant for another five years.

All the current partners signed back up, and committed additional resources. And three new partners, Marshall University, the Veterans Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, joined the effort.

WVCTSI will continue to offer funding and services to accelerate the creation and translation of new knowledge to impact health issues in rural communities. Additionally, WVCTSI has planned new programs and support, particularly for early career researchers starting their career in West Virginia. WVCTSI resources will be focused on five priority health areas including addiction and resulting emerging epidemics (such as hepatitis C), cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, and neurologic diseases. There will be a specific focus on the health needs of West Virginia veterans.

I’m particularly proud of the world of WVCTSI’s director, Dr. Sally Hodder of WVU, in making this project a success and spearheading the grant renewal. She is a committed, smart and very effective leader that promotes the health of the state’s citizens.

But what I really appreciate is the willingness of all of the partners in this group effort to cooperate, trust one another and work for a defining purpose – to make West Virginia a healthier, hopeful, abundant place to live and to work.

We are all in this together – for West Virginia.

It’s going to be a great five years.