Primary Care Research Institute has NRSA post-doctoral fellowship opening

diverse graduates

Published September 14, 2018

Now accepting applications

The Primary Care Research Institute currently has an opening in its T32 National Research Service Award (NRSA) fellowship program. This T32 fellowship prepares primary care research (PCR) fellows (both health professional and research-related doctorates) with PCR skills, emphasizing the Triple Aim research agenda. 

This is a national fellowship program funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (T32HP30035). See the Call For Applications below for more information about applying for the post-doctoral position.

Program to train next generation of health services researchers

The UB Primary Care Research Fellowship Training Program was established through a five-year, $2 million federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. 

“Our intent is to increase the number of health services researchers, which involves taking what has been proved in clinical trials and translating it into either clinical practice or in a community setting.”
John S. Taylor, Executive Director of Development
Primary Care Research Institute

The program’s aim is to provide rigorous research training leading to successful primary care research career progression at the postdoctoral level. Candidates are recruited by the general clinical units and primary care-related disciplines across UB and nationally. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis with an emphasis on minority and disadvantaged candidates.

Translating evidence into practice by clinicians

“Our intent is to increase the number of health services researchers, which involves taking what has been proved in clinical trials and translating it into either clinical practice or in a community setting,” says John S. Taylor, executive director of development for UB’s Primary Care Research Institute (PCRI), and a co-author of the grant.

“Clinical trials and basic science are all about proving cause-effect relationships,” Taylor says. “But in order to do so, you eliminate confounding variables in your design and thus create an unreal environment.”

“It is difficult to take clinical trial evidence and apply it to the real world because these ideal settings do not exist in a doctor’s office or a low-income community,” he says.

For example, real patients may be illiterate, obese or have other comorbidities that may be confounders excluded in the clinical trials, according to Linda S. Kahn, PhD, research professor of family medicine and the project director who co-wrote the grant application.

Bridging reality of health systems and existing policies

Because of these factors, Kahn says that, for instance, a heavily-resourced intervention program developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) may not always be able to be implemented in the real word.

“What we would look to do is to adapt some aspects of the NIH protocols,” she says. “We would take a study that has been proved efficacious by NIH and then look to how we can make it work at a safety net primary care practice in a low-income community.”

Taylor says what is often neglected in traditional clinical trials is that often those who are recruited to participate are of higher socioeconomic status.

“We are trying to bridge the reality of the health systems and the existing policy and procedures,” he says. “Typical research topics have a lot to do with how to overcome system failures or system barriers to treatment.”

principals

John Taylor and Linda Kahn (center), wrote the grant for the Primary Care Research Fellowship Training Program; Christine Verni (right) was the first trainee.

Research provides ‘last steps to get over finish line’

“Hopefully, the work we all do together will inform medical care in a very practical way,” Kahn says. “As a medical anthropologist, I don’t embark on a study unless I feel it can help physicians, nurses, clinicians and patients — or inform health policy.”

Ranjit Singh, MB BChir, MBA, associate professor of family medicine, vice chair of research and director of the PCRI, says the NIH spends about $30 billion per year on research.

“There is a huge amount of knowledge that is being developed through all of that investment at the NIH that can be used to help patients, but in order to get it to those patients, we have to do this health services research or late stage translational research to take the last steps to get over the finish line.”

Chance to empower patients, aid health care delivery

The grant supports six postdoctoral fellowship slots per cycle. Taylor says the talent pool for the fellowship training program includes people with both clinical and basic science backgrounds who all share the desire to translate evidence into practice.

Another aim in the recruitment process is focusing on reaching out to members of underserved groups. “Not only because there is a shortage of people qualified to do this type of translational research, but also because we need underrepresented minorities to be doing that work since they bring a perspective that helps inform the work,” Singh says.

Training tracks tied to ‘triple aim’ research agenda

The training program is focused on preparing scholars to conduct and disseminate primary care research related to four health services research training tracks.

The four tracks are directly tied to federal “Triple Aim” research agenda (better health, better care and better value) and will be led by nationally recognized faculty from the PCRI and collaborators who specialize in these areas:

  1. Patient activation focuses on all aspects of fostering and supporting patient self-management, especially chronic complex patients and population groups with health disparities. This track typically involves Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) methods where community members are involved in all stages of research – what research questions are relevant, what interventions are doable, and what outcomes are meaningful. This research is always done in real world settings (community and/or clinical) and often address the social determinants of health.
  2. Geriatric Harm Reduction Track focuses on changing care team workflows, practice improvement science, patient /care giver engagement, and implementing evidence into practice. This track typically involves Practice Based Research Networks (PBRNs). It deals with adaptive reserve of practice organizations, health information technology adoption and meaningful use, implementation science, and system wide issues such as medication reconciliation and care management across settings.
  3. Addiction management focuses on all aspects of medical management of addiction recovery integrated with behavioral health services, screening and brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT), co-occurring pain management, changing prescribing patterns across the system, prevention and early detection of the initiation of risky behavior, initiation of recovery and supporting self-management across settings.
  4. Hybrid track in primary care research could be any other topic related to primary care or “Triple Aims,” such as obesity, trauma informed care, patient safety, cultural competency, geriatric end of life choice, patient provider communication, etc. 

“By the end of this fellowship, the trainees will be qualified to write and submit an NIH career development award or other NIH grant,” Kahn says. “Some of them will go on to become faculty here at UB or at other institutions.”

Collaboration between several university entities

Kahn says the early success of the training program reflects the support it has received through the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the primary care-related disciplines in the UB Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

The program represents a partnership consisting of:

CTSI plays vital role in gaining project funding

Taylor says the infrastructure of the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) that funds the CTSI allowed them to identify across all disciplines all faculty willing to be mentors, as well as identify fellowship candidates who were able to be documented in the grant application.

“It showed we were ready to ramp up immediately with an array of competent mentorships,” he says. “And it enabled us to win a very competitive grant. Most of the other institutions that were funded were Johns Hopkins University and the like.”