LUBBOCK, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Officials with the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center recently announced that the school has been recognized as a special focus four-year research institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

According to a news release from the university, this designation is for universities across the country with a curriculum that focuses on health care and medicine, research and other specialized fields. Only 22 universities across the country have this designation. Universities qualify for the classification after achieving a combination of more than $5 million in research expenditures and conferring at least 20 doctoral degrees.

In 2021, Lance McMahon, Ph.D., the university’s senior vice president for research and innovation, said TTUHSC conferred 55 PhD or scholarly research degrees.

“The designation places TTUHSC in elite company among health-related institutions, including not only those in Texas such as Baylor College of Medicine and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center but also outside the state, including the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Sciences, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Rockefeller University among others,” McMahon said in the release. “We are proud of our world-class faculty and the exceptional doctoral degree trainees who have worked together to secure TTUHSC’s designation as a global leader in academic health-related research.”

Officials said in the release that the goal of the university is to help prepare researchers to engage in science as a profession.

“The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education is important because it helps measure the impact the university has on its local community in terms of teaching and research,” TTUHSC President Lori Rice-Spearman said in the release. “To be ranked in the Very High to High Research category demonstrates the extraordinary impact we have on health care through education, discovery and delivery of care.”

McMahon said as a healthcare institution, TTUHSC’s primary focus is on research related to human health and disease, and how they can create better treatments by understanding the underlying mechanisms of disease.

“Those areas of cancer, neuroscience, infectious disease, and obesity and metabolic diseases are key areas of emphasis for our institution,” said McMahon. “We’re very proud of not only the the bench research that’s taking place in those areas, but our attempt and interest in translating our basic science discoveries into treatments that impact and improve the lives of our patients, including patients in our region. We’re very committed to helping improve the health of our regional communities throughout the panhandle of West Texas and Eastern New Mexico.”

According to McMahon, TTUHSC’s Amarillo campus was an important part of achieving the distinction.

“We have multiple schools and they’re all important to the mission of our institution, to transform healthcare through innovation and collaboration. But the School of Pharmacy in particular, has an important role in this research designation because they bring in large amounts of external research dollars through their basic sciences research, and they confer a number of those PhD degrees in their Pharmaceutical Sciences program.”

For PhD candidate and research assistant in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Shiva Hadi Esfahani, her research focuses mostly on developing a drug for stroke recovery.

“This is very important because we don’t have a lot of FDA approved drugs for stroke recovery, maybe just one, like FDA approved drug, which like has its own disadvantages,” she said. “So, we want to develop a drug that can be a very good option, a very good drug for stroke patients to live a better, healthier life, better quality.”