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Researcher Spotlight

Scott A. Fields, Ph.D.
Associate Professor; Director of Behavioral Science 
Chair, CAMC/WVU Institutional Scientific Review Board
President, West Virginia Psychological Association
​West Virginia University School of Medicine – Charleston Division
Department of Family Medicine
3200 MacCorkle Ave SE
5th Floor RCB Teaching Center
Charleston, WV 25304
Telephone: 304.388.4649
Fax: 304.388.4621

  1. What is translational science? (In layman’s terms)

A fair amount of the science that we know and base our clinical practice on originated from laboratories.  The reason for this is that lab researchers can typically maximize control over what they are studying and minimize outside variables or confounds.  Applied science has to do with the investigation of variables in a clinic or practice setting. While applied science can be more relevant to a specific clinic practice, it has the disadvantage of real world snags such as patient transportation issues, clinic closings, etc. Translational science essentially occupies the middle space between the lab and the clinic. The idea is to take the foundations that we have in laboratory based science and apply it in real world settings. In other words, translating science into practice.          

  1. What initially sparked your interest in this field?

I remember starting as a new psychologist in the Department of Family Medicine over a decade ago.  After a few months of providing clinical services, I began thinking more about why some patients improved and why others did not. As I got more experience and started making connections with other research-minded clinicians, it was a natural fit to collaborate on projects in our clinics to investigate what behavioral health interventions worked. I enjoy looking into how we can tackle health and behavioral health problems in primary care and empowering patients toward changes that lead to wellness.               

  1. How do you see the role of research changing in the next 5-10 years?

All stakeholders in health care are interested in outcomes. While it is certainly admirable, it is not enough to say that you do good work in your clinic and your patients like you. We have to have evidence as clinicians that we are helping our patients move toward better health and I believe in order to thrive we will have to have even more in the coming 5-10 years. That means that translational science will continue to grow and our practices will become even more geared toward quality improvement. 

  1. Explain the importance of your role with the ISRB.

The ISRB (Institutional Scientific Review Board) at CAMC/WVU is responsible for addressing the science of each investigator initiated study. While the IRB’s aim is the protection of the public, the ISRB is concerned with whether the science of the study is adequate. We do not want to put patients in situations where they may have to expend extra time and effort in a research study unless we are assured that the study is based on sound science. Furthermore, we want our researchers to get published and solid scientific work has the best chance at publication. As chair of the ISRB, my task is to review studies with the rest of the board and guide the board meetings so that we can give each study a thorough review, provide helpful feedback to investigators and determine if revisions in the protocol meet the standards of our board’s review. We have a diverse group of professionals from various medical and allied health disciplines on the board who I think do a great job providing feedback and guidance to investigators on campus. I am pleased to say that in a recent review, our ISRB was recognized by a research accreditation expert as a “best practice.”        

  1. What motivates you to come to work every day?

Well, it’s not just one thing. As Director of Behavioral Science at Family Medicine, there are three things that my role requires, and all of them motivate me.  1) Patient care – We have 18 medical residents and 7 faculty physicians in our department and I get referrals from all of them.  So taking care of people is the most important part of my job.  That can range from helping folks quit smoking to working with patients who have been diagnosed with depression and everything in between. 2) Teaching – We have residents, medical students and psychology interns that work in our department. Part of my role is to deliver evidence-based lectures and grand rounds on behavioral health topics so that they can further build their knowledge base.  I enjoy preparing for lectures and fielding difficult questions during a presentation. There is no question that this activity helps me provide better patient care. 3) Research – It is an exercise in patience, but working on a research project is very rewarding. I particularly enjoy seeing something go from a simple idea to a published paper. I just wish it happened faster! 

  1. What is your favorite thing about West Virginia?

I grew up in Southern Ohio about an hour east of Cincinnati. While it was a short drive into the city, I was living in the rural foothills of Appalachia.  I was outdoors almost all the time as a kid and if I am not at work, you will generally find me outside still today. West Virginia reminds me a lot of where I grew up and what I love about it is that it’s a giant outdoor playground. Wherever you live in the state, you are likely surrounded by hills, trees, and probably not too far from a trail.  I also like that Charleston has enough going on that I can enjoy some of the amenities of a larger city but still be close to the outdoors. 

  1. How do you spend your free time?

I kind of gave this away from the last question, but my free time is mostly spent outside. I enjoy distance running, playing ultimate frisbee, and walking my dog, Mr. Ollivander.  I do three to four road races a year and compete in about ten ultimate frisbee tournaments a year. The tournaments take me around the country which is good because my wife and I love to travel. When the weather is rough outside, I stay in and read or play guitar. I read mostly fiction books. I picked up guitar toward the end of high school and still mess around with it every now and then.       

  1. What’s your favorite genre of music?

That’s like asking me what my favorite type of pizza is.  I like a variety of music (as well as a lot of pizza).  If I had to nail it down, I would say I like alternative rock and classic rock the best.  But, sometimes I will just set my dial to a variety channel and listen to a little bit of everything.   


View Previous Researcher Spotlight with Audis Bethea, PharmD, BCPS



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