Clinical research has been an important ingredient at the Columbia University Medical Center since 1928, when Columbia University, founded in 1754, and Presbyterian Hospital, created in 1868, joined forces to build a preeminent medical center in northern Manhattan. Early pioneering studies of diabetes and Addison's disease by Dr. Robert F. Loeb, of gout by Dr. Alexander Gutman, and of liver disease by Dr. Franklin Hanger helped to establish the national reputation of the center.
During the postwar decades of the 1950s and 1960s, the National Institutes of Health devoted increasing resources to funding basic scientific and clinical research. These research endeavors required clinical infrastructures to support patient-orientated research. To respond to these needs, the NIH National Center for Research Resources created the General Clinical Research Centers (GCRC) program.
A General Clinical Research Center was established at Columbia Presbyterian in 1971 and has been in continuous operation since that time, making it one of the oldest of the more than 70 GCRCs in the United States. In 1987, Herbert and Florence Irving pledged $11 million to Columbia-Presbyterian to build a new clinical research center that would consolidate previously scattered units and to provide a permanent endowment to support clinical research. Mr. Irving is one of the founders of SYSCO, a national food distribution group, and he and Mrs. Irving, having been treated at Columbia Presbyterian on a number of occasions, expressed their commitment "to give honor and recognition to our own personal physicians by establishing incentives for young physician-investigators to embark on a career of clinical research."
A major mission of the Irving Endowment -- to encourage young physician-investigators -- was achieved through funding of the Herbert and Florence Irving Assistant Professorships, more commonly known as the Irving Scholars. Since the establishment of the endowment, 78 outstanding young clinicians, whose ranks include the most promising and prominent physicians at the Columbia University Medical Center, have received these prestigious awards.
In October, 2006 the Irving Center for Clinical Research joined a national consortium created by National Center for Research Resources branch of the NIH to energize the discipline of clinical and translational research and to change the way clinical and translational research is being conducted, ultimately enabling researchers to provide new treatments more efficiently and quickly to patients. Funding from the new consortium U54 grant, the Clinical and Translational Science Award, with Henry Ginsberg, MD, Herbert and Florence Irving Professor of Medicine, as principal investigator, as well as increased support from the Herbert Irving Foundation, will allow Columbia to create the proposed Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. Dr. Ginsberg and Melissa Begg, ScD, Professor of Biostatistics, are Co-Directors of the Irving Institute. Karina Davidson, PhD, Herbert Irving Associate Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry, Nancy S. Green, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, and Harold A. Pincus, M.D., Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, serve as the Associate Directors of the Irving Institute.