Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Clinical Center a hospital or a research center?

Actually, it is both. The Clinical Center is where NIH conducts its intramural clinical research; and that research is done in a hospital setting with patient/participants who receive not only experimental treatments but also the best in hospital care.

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How is it different from other hospitals?

Patients at the Clinical Center consent to participate in research studies (protocols) and are treated without charge. Unlike most hospitals, the Clinical Center does not routinely provide standard diagnostic and treatment services. Admission is selective: patients are chosen by Institute physicians solely because they have an illness being studied by those Institutes. In addition, numerous NIH guest scientists from around the world collaborate in Clinical Center activities. The Clinical Center also offers training in research medicine for physicians, medical students, and nursing students.

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How is the Clinical Center related to the rest of NIH?

The Clinical Center, as the world's largest hospital devoted exclusively to clinical investigation, is the research hospital for the National Institutes of Health. Its role is to support clinical research done by all the other Institutes and Centers, as well as to conduct research done by its own staff.

NIH is one of five health agencies of the Public Health Service, which, in turn, is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

NIH is one of the largest research centers in the world. The principal medical research arm of DHHS, NIH conducts basic, clinical, and applied research related to a broad spectrum of diseases and health problems. It represents the public's commitment to biomedical research and improving the health of its people. Over the years, NIH has supported the work of numerous Nobel Prize winners.

NIH is actually numerous Institutes and Centers created to study cancer; eye disorders; heart, lung, and blood disorders; genome research; aging; alcohol abuse and alcoholism; allergy and infectious diseases; arthritis, musculoskeletal and skin diseases; child health and human development; deafness and other communication disorders; dental and craniofacial disorders; diabetes, digestive, and kidney diseases; drug abuse; environmental health; general medical science; mental health disorders; neurological disorders and stroke; nursing research; information technology; complementary and alternative medicine; research resources; minority health and health disparities; and biomedical imaging and bioengineering.

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What are clinical studies, anyway? Are they the same as clinical trials?

Clinical studies and clinical trials are essentially the same thing. Sometimes they are referred to as "protocols." All these terms refer to research that is done with real people serving as volunteer participants. See Are Clinical Studies for You for more information.

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Who are the participants in Clinical Studies? Are they called "patients"?

We sometimes refer to Clinical Center participants in clinical trials as "patients" because they receive hospital care. In addition, many of them may be suffering from medical conditions or diseases. Some participants are not sick, however, but have volunteered to serve as controls in the clinical studies. We may call these healthy participants "healthy volunteers" or "clinical research volunteers."

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What services does the Clinical Center provide for patients and other volunteer participants?

The Clinical Center is an accredited hospital with state-of-the-art facilities, excellent nursing and medical care. It also provides a unique array of patient services, such as the Children's Inn, Children's School, Family Lodge and many more.

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What do you mean when you say that the Clinical Center not only does research, but also supports research?

This means that not only does CC staff conduct research done by its own staff, they also support the research projects of investigators from the various Institutes and Centers of NIH.

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What scientific breakthroughs have been made at the Clinical Center?

A short list of research advances that have taken place in the Clinical Center might include the following:

  • First cure of a solid tumor with chemotherapy
  • First chemotherapeutic cures for childhood leukemia and Hodgkin's disease
  • First use of immunotherapy to treat cancer
  • Evidence of a genetic component in schizophrenia
  • First successful replacement of a mitral valve
  • Use of nitroglycerin for acute myocardial infarction
  • First controlled trials of lithium's effect on depression
  • Analysis of the disorders of lipid metabolism and the pathogenesis of arteriosclerosis
  • Immunosuppressive therapy for nonmalignant diseases (lupus, Wegener's granulomatosis, midline granuloma)
  • Use of interferon gamma to reduce bacterial infections in chronic granulomatous disease
  • Enzyme replacement to treat Gaucher's disease
  • Use of hydroxyurea to treat sickle cell anemia
  • First computerized hospital information system designed to facilitate clinical research
  • Description of the pathogenesis of AIDS
  • Blood tests for AIDS, hepatitis
  • Use of AZT as the first treatment for AIDS
  • Reduction of transfusion-transmitted hepatitis from 30 percent to near zero
  • First gene therapy (for adenosine deaminase deficiency)
  • Use of magnetic resonance imaging to rapidly diagnose coronary artery disease in emergency room settings
  • Immunosuppressive therapy for aplastic anemia

For more information on Clinical Center accomplishments, see the Clinical Center 50th Anniversary Website

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What's the difference between intramural research and extramural research? Which kind of research is done at the Clinical Center?

The Clinical Center houses only intramural research; that is, research that is done on the NIH campus. The NIH, however, also provides grant money for many clinical trials that are done throughout the country; these are the extramural clinical trials.

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What do you mean when you say the Clinical Center provides training? Training for whom? In what?

One of the important functions of the Clinical Center is to provide training for clinical researchers. It offers standard courses in clinical research, which are open to professionals throughout the country.

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How do I become a patient or healthy volunteer?

Call the Patient Recruitment Office at 1-800-411-1222 or visit the our Healthy Volunteer page. They can answer your questions, and help you get started on the road toward participating.

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How do I verify credentials for doctors and research fellows as well as training and education completed at the NIH Clinical Center?

To verify doctors and research fellows as well as other training and education completed at the Clinical Center, please contact:

Office of Credentialing Services
NIH Clinical Center
10 Center Drive, Room 5D37
Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1187
Phone: 301-496-5937
Fax: 301-402-1751

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This page last updated on 07/12/2023

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