One For The Team
Dan Clauw believes Michigan's biggest strength is in collaboration
Dan Clauw, M.D., is a team player all around. At work, he is director of the U-M Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center and the associate dean for Clinical and Translational Research. In these overlapping roles, he frequently works across departments to tap into the expertise of other U-M researchers and clinicians. Outside of work, he plays in an adult softball league—on a team called the “Veggies,” which he started as a medical student at U-M, took to Georgetown for 16 years, and brought back to Ann Arbor in 2002. Yet, despite all the teamwork, Clauw says he is not a competitive player.
“The cool thing about Michigan is that people aren’t threatened by other people’s success,” Clauw says. “People are friendly and motivated to work together. It is a very collaborative environment.”
This is great for Clauw, whose work on chronic pain and fatigue research involves around 20 faculty and staff across departments with critical expertise on the subject. Since nearly every department deals with pain, it is common to have multiple studies going on that use core methods in treating chronic pain conditions.
This team approach has led U-M to be a leader in fibromyalgia research. New drugs are in approval stages and educational lectures are held each month for patients and families.
“We want to offer a disease management program for fibromyalgia patients that combines drug and non-drug therapies,” Clauw says.
Clauw was also instrumental in the recent $55 million National Institutes of Health grant awarded to the University to encourage collaboration and interdisciplinary research. Clauw describes the process as “the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding.” He spent more than a year working with 30 different units and schools that do health research at U-M, with the goal of defining a shared infrastructure to support research.
“I feel like I’m a kid in a candy shop,” Clauw says. “With so many people doing such great research here, there are always possible win-win collaborations that can be formed.” If it sounds like Clauw is a huge U-M fan, it’s because he is. Whether it’s the Health System or sports, he claims to “bleed in maize and blue.” When he accepted the position at Georgetown, he and his wife agreed they would get satellite TV so he could watch U-M sporting events.
He is happy to be back in Ann Arbor with his wife and two sons. He plays on the Veggies to relax, but the pizza and beer after the game are more important than winning. However, sometimes the team “accidentally gets good” and wins a championship.