How the HCA Healthcare Research Institute is moving medicine forward through clinical trials and research

How the HCA Healthcare Research Institute is moving medicine forward through clinical trials and research

The COVID-19 pandemic inspired renewed public interest in clinical research. But using it to help doctors and researchers learn more about diseases and improve healthcare is anything but novel. Every year on May 20, the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) celebrates Clinical Trials Day to recognize the day James Lind, a ship’s surgeon in the British Royal Navy, started what is often considered the first randomized clinical trial in 1774 to study effects of different treatments for scurvy. Over the past 250 years, clinical trials have evolved into standardized procedures used to look at new ways to prevent, detect or treat disease.

Across HCA Healthcare, clinical research has brought forth new medications, new ways of doing surgery, new medical devices, new ways to use existing treatments and new ways to improve the quality of life for our patients with acute or chronic illnesses. Our research teams strive to advance medical knowledge and foster innovation through partnerships with top academic institutions (including a long-standing research collaboration with Harvard) and government health agencies like AHRQ, CDC and NIH. Large-scale trials employing practice-based research aim to advance clinical knowledge faster, and their real-world nature allows for results to be more broadly applicable to, and more rapidly incorporated into, real-world practice.

“Research is simply the way we understand the world around us. It’s important to medicine and therefore, it’s important to HCA Healthcare. Whether it’s studying a new order set, a new way to staff our units, a new drug, device or even existing therapies – research is vitally important to healthcare and to American medicine.”


Our research projects involving antimicrobial stewardship, maternal health and COVID care have informed and improved patient care worldwide.

  • REDUCE MRSA – Among nearly 75,000 patients across 43 HCA Healthcare hospitals, we found that using antimicrobial soap and ointment to decolonize all ICU patients reduced bloodstream infections by 44% and MRSA by 37%. The CDC has since adopted this practice.
  • ABATE Infection Trial – At 53 HCA Healthcare hospitals with 330,000 patients in 194 non-ICU units, we found an infection control technique achieved a 31% reduction in bloodstream infections and nearly a 40% reduction in antibiotic-resistant bacteria among non-ICU patients with central line catheters and lumbar drains.
  • 39 Weeks – We developed evidence-based perinatal protocols through our longstanding partnership with March of Dimes, such as prohibiting elective delivery prior to 39 weeks to help babies have a healthy start to life, finding lower risk for elective deliveries at term, informing the development of a national “Hard Stop” policy to prevent elective deliveries prior to 39 weeks.
  • CHARGE – We formed a consortium of prominent public and private research institutions to use HCA Healthcare’s vast data on COVID-19 hospital care to improve patient outcomes and public knowledge.

In addition to these areas of focus, we invest in research related to trauma and burn care, nursing practice improvements, graduate medical education and much more. In recognition of Clinical Trials Day, we are shining a spotlight on the HCA Healthcare Research Institute, which has helped to improve care and quality outcomes for patients across the country.

HCA Healthcare colleagues holding a piece of paper that says, "Together we can..."
In honor of Clinical Trials Day, HCA Healthcare colleagues celebrate the dedication of clinical research professionals to improving the health and well-being of our patients and advancing medical knowledge for generations to come. Pictured (left to right): Lauren Horton, Director of Research North Texas Division; Dr. Michael Cuffe, HCA Healthcare Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer; Sybil Hyatt, AVP Research Operations, Dr. Gregory Fontana, MD, National Director, Cardiovascular Research

The HCA Healthcare Research Institute

Historically, the HCA Healthcare Research Institute has been closely connected to HCA Healthcare’s oncology research arm, the Sarah Cannon Research Institute (SCRI). In 1993, it all started with a goal to make cancer clinical trials accessible to the community without the support of an academic institution. The team established the first Phase 1 program in a community setting in 1997 and went on to become one of the largest programs of its kind in the world. Formally established as SCRI in 2004, it brought together community-based physicians, researchers and clinicians that conducted more than 600 first-in-human trials and became a clinical trial leader in the majority of approved cancer therapies in the last decade.

In June 2022, HCA Healthcare and McKesson announced plans to form a joint venture to expand clinical research services to improve cancer treatment options for patients. The joint venture combines the resources and expertise of McKesson’s US Oncology Research (USOR) and SCRI. Together, USOR and SCRI will create a fully integrated oncology research organization aimed at expanding clinical research, accelerating drug development and increasing availability and access to clinical trials for community oncology providers and patients, including those in underserved communities.

Today, the HCA Healthcare Research Institute is the multispecialty clinical research arm of our organization focused on advancing therapies for patients through our affiliated network of providers and care sites. Colleagues and clinicians across HCA Healthcare work to leverage our size and scale to support clinical research needs and collaborate with industry partners to advance medicine.

The HCA Healthcare Research Institute has conducted more than 500 industry-sponsored trials and enabled service and business lines to conduct high-quality clinical research across our sites of care, including interventional (device, pharma), non-therapeutic (early detection, screenings) and records-based (outcomes, real-world data).

The areas that the HCA Healthcare Research Institute supports at 36 research sites include:

  • Cardiac and vascular
  • Neuroscience
  • Robotics
  • Orthopedics and spine
  • Women’s and children’s
  • Infectious disease
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Complex gastrointestinal
  • Oncology
  • Pulmonary and thoracic
  • Burn
  • Behavioral Health

The HCA Healthcare Research Institute also offers multispecialty centralized and site support services for our facilities and large-scale clinical study support. Our research teams use real-world data to evaluate outcomes through advanced data analytics capabilities.

Medical City colleagues wearing scrubs in a hospital hallway
In 2023, HCA Healthcare affiliate Medical City Fort Worth participated in a heart failure implant clinical trial. Pictured left to right: Bhagawathy Sarma, Research Institute Site Manager; Brooke Howard, Clinical Trial Liaison Sponsor; Mel Fisk, Sponsor Technician; Dr. Senthil Thambidorai, Cardiology Electrophysiologist; Brenda Tapia, Clinical Research Coordinator; Miguel Reyes, Clinical Research Coordinator; Holley Rigdon-Brown, Clinical Trial Liaison Sponsor.

Partnerships to address current and future clinical research needs

At the height of the pandemic, Michelle Rowe, vice president of operations for the HCA Healthcare Research Institute had the privilege of working with physicians, nurses and research partners to expedite clinical trials in our facilities and leverage data to best care for our COVID-19 patients. That period of time energized Michelle’s passion for leading her skilled team of 150 clinical research professionals across corporate and local research sites.

“If you’ve been in a clinical trial, taken a vaccine, picked up a prescription, or purchased an over-the-counter medication, you’ve been a part of research directly or indirectly,” said Michelle. “COVID-19 showed HCA Healthcare just how capable we are to give patients the best therapies – and to create better ones.”

In 2023, the HCA Healthcare Research Institute is focused on expanding research activities, growing its footprint and maintaining a robust pipeline of opportunities to build its research portfolio and data capabilities.

HCA Healthcare colleagues standing near large letters that read "Together we can."
The HCA Healthcare Research Institute is comprised of 150 research professionals across HCA Healthcare dedicated to advancing clinical research. Pictured left to right at the 2023 Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) Conference in Dallas: Jessi Klinedinst, Manager Regulatory Affairs; Michelle Rowe, Vice President of Operations, HCA Healthcare Research Institute; Sharon Gates, Manager Clinical Education; Robbin Seago, AVP Research Ethics & Compliance; Corryn Weatherred, Research Nurse; Bianca Mobley, Clinical Research Coordinator.

Clinical research is the answer to give patients the best care, to find answers when there are none and to provide hope for the future. We believe that active and rigorous clinical trials and advancements lead to innovative care and quality outcomes both within HCA Healthcare and in the broader medical community.” 


Leveraging partnerships is a key component to expanding the HCA Healthcare Research Institute’s research capabilities. HCA Healthcare maintains a clinical trial portfolio and data research collaborations with organizations like Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, Abbott and approximately 140 sponsors of clinical trials. “Research and partnerships are fundamental to how we address our communities’ most pressing healthcare needs,” adds Michelle. “I truly believe patients don’t need to travel to get great care. They can get it in the communities where they live.”

As we commemorate 249 years of clinical trials and the vast advances in medical treatment and science that have occurred because of them, HCA Healthcare sends our gratitude to our clinical research professionals, colleagues and trial participants who champion clinical research for healthier tomorrows for all.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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