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Release: Dec. 12, 2000

UI receives NIH grant to promote clinical research training for clinicians

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Managed care, increased health care competition and higher levels of indebtedness following training have made it increasingly difficult for health care professionals to devote adequate time to clinical research projects and to apply for funding. However, a new University of Iowa health sciences program aims to change that by providing interdisciplinary clinical research training to UI post-doctoral fellows and selected junior faculty.

Recently funded by a nearly $1 million, five-year renewable National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant, the UI Graduate Training Program in Clinical Investigation is recruiting trainees to begin next summer. The program includes hands-on research experiences specifically tailored to each trainee and mentoring by established clinical research faculty with active research programs and peer-reviewed funding in the UI Colleges of Medicine, Public Health, Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy, and Liberal Arts. The project also involves research settings in the UI Division of General Internal Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine, the UI General Clinical Research Center, the UI Preventive Intervention Center and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City.

The program is designed to help physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and psychologists become well trained and experienced in clinical epidemiology and health services research, said program director Brad Doebbeling, M.D., UI associate professor of internal medicine and epidemology.

"Over the past 10 years, there has been a marked decline nationwide in the number of clinical investigators actually doing research, while federal support for biomedical research has been increasing," Doebbeling said. "The NIH and other experts recognize the need to better prepare clinical researchers for academic careers in order to be successful in conducting excellent, clinically important studies."

Approximately 10 fellows will be accepted into the first class. They will learn how to design and implement studies and explore the spectrum of research that ranges from patient-oriented research, which involves small groups of patients, to population-oriented and health services research involving large groups of patients. Clinical research includes such areas as improving diagnostic techniques, assessing an innovative treatment or studying factors that influence the effective delivery and outcome of health care.

Doebbeling said the NIH grant develops a series of new training experiences and brings together and enhances different existing opportunities in the UI health sciences that were not previously available to clinical research trainees.

Robert F. Woolson, Ph.D., UI professor and head of biostatistics and associate dean for research in the College of Public Health, will help lead that college's contribution to the program's core research methodology training in epidemiology, evaluation, health services and biostatistics. Program participants will have the option to earn one of several master's degrees designed to specifically train them in clinical research methods.

"This clinical research training program strengthens ties among the university's health science colleges and supports the university's aim to develop an excellent interdisciplinary program in clinical research," Woolson said. "A variety of new training experiences and formal degree options will be open to trainees and will provide a strong base from which new clinical research initiatives can be developed."

"Dr. Doebbeling is an experienced investigator and research mentor who is uniquely trained in internal medicine, epidemiology and health services research to lead this program," he added.

In addition to Doebbeling and Woolson, the project's executive committee includes J. Jackson Barnette, Ph.D., associate professor of community and behavioral health and associate dean for education and student affairs in the College of Public Health; Gary E. Rosenthal, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine and director of the division of general internal medicine; James C. Torner, Ph.D., professor and head of epidemiology; and Toni Tripp-Reimer, Ph.D., professor of nursing and anthropology and associate dean for research in the College of Nursing. Doebbeling and Rosenthal are also staff physicians and researchers at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City.

"Many of us think that clinical investigators are uniquely positioned to move research forward," Doebbeling said. "It is a crucial time to provide the best training for post-doctoral trainees in clinical research methods and the hands-on experience and careful mentoring that will help ensure our trainees' success."

Allyn L. Mark, M.D., Roy J. Carver Professor of Internal Medicine and associate dean for research and graduate programs in the UI College of Medicine noted, "A decline in the numbers and morale of clinicians who have the training and time to conduct patient-oriented research and apply basic research discoveries to the prevention and treatment of human disease poses a serious threat to the future of medical care at the very time when basic research holds unparalleled promise."

"This program, led capably by Dr. Brad Doebbeling and involving all of our health science colleges, represents an important step in addressing this challenge," Mark added.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.