Randall Urban, MD
Vice President for Research &
Chief Research Officer

Dr. Randall Urban

Dr. Randall Urban leads a diverse research community in the bold mission to improve medical practice through progressive translational research endeavors. He has 145 peer-review publications, is the Principal Investigator of UTMB's Clinical and Translational Science Award, and has 3 major research interests funded by the NIH and private foundations. In addition to Vice President for Research and Chief Research Officer, Dr. Urban is Vice Dean for Clinical Research in the John Sealy School of Medicine, Professor of Internal Medicine, Director of the Institute for Translational Sciences, and Fellow, John P. McGovern Distinguished Chair in Oslerian Medicine.

Strategic Research Plan

The Strategic Research Plan, which is used by leadership to  develop a path forward through goals, objectives and tactics, has broad input. It includes six integrated health communities that bring together researchers, educators, clinicians and community members to use prevention and treatment to transform illness to health. Read more.

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UTMB student named All of Us Research Scholar

Hannah Luk, a medical school student at the University of Texas Medical Branch John Sealy School of Medicine, has been selected to be a student researcher for the 2023-2024 All of Us Research Scholar Program.  

The All of Us Research Scholar Program pairs early-career investigators with health research professionals and gives students access to data and training in programming and using machine learning in research.  

“They match you with a mentor, and then you essentially carry out a research project, including a poster presentation or an oral presentation at the end,” Luk said. “What drew me to the program was its uniqueness in that it's really focused on precision medicine.” 

The program encourages use of National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program’s Researcher Workbench, a dataset that includes study participants from communities that have been underrepresented in past health research.  

A main objective of the program is to include at least one million United States residents who reflect the diversity of the United States in a dataset that is broadly available for biomedical research.  

The precision medicine approach considers individual differences in patients' genes, environments, and lifestyles.  

Luk recently worked on a research project that looks at genetic resilience of type 2 diabetic nephropathy in self-reported Black/African Americans. She will now be able to continue this research. Type 2 diabetic nephropathy, also known as diabetic kidney disease, is a condition characterized by kidney damage resulting from chronic high blood sugar levels. While increased levels of glycated hemoglobin are indicative of poor blood sugar control and may contribute to the progression of end-stage renal disease.

“A lot of times diabetic nephropathy is talked about in the sense of comorbidities leading to chronic kidney disease, which is true,” Luk said. “But we're looking at a genomic component that is associated with type 2 diabetes actually being protective of diabetic neuropathy.” 

If a genetic difference causes type 2 diabetes to protect a patient from kidney disease rather than contribute to kidney disease, that finding would be important to a precision approach to treating specific patients.  

“If we're able to understand that protective level or protectiveness at the level of the gene, then a lot of treatment management and drug therapies can be altered to help mimic that,” Luk said.  

Luk, a first-year med student with a chemical engineering degree, worked as a reservoir engineer for seven years. She wanted to leverage the research experience she gained during that time by applying it to medicine.  

“The training I had and the resources I had just being at a corporation were pretty helpful and taught me how to answer questions,” Luk said. “I think just keeping up to date with research is something that won't ever go away for me. Whether I end up going into academics versus clinical medicine, I don't know yet.”