Clinical and Translational Science (CTS) Fellowship (TL1)

The TL1 Clinical and Translational Science (CTS) Fellowship may be just a few months old, but it grows out of a rich tradition of our previous TL1 fellowship that the Institute for Clinical Research Education (ICRE) has run over the years. Moreover, it is already adapting to the unique needs of the current health research environment in a way that prepares it to be effective in implementing the vision of the program’s director, ICRE Director Dr. Wishwa Kapoor: to develop future scientists who will translate the latest discoveries in health research, and to improve the efficiency with which these discoveries are implemented in practice.

With some interesting innovations both underway and in the works, the TL is in a great position to capitalize on the increased focus on efficiency in health care. And because it accommodates research from all phases of translational research—from translating basic science findings to humans, to conducting population health studies based on results of clinical trials—the TL1 encourages novel methods and applications. The development of a few specific tracks, or areas of specialization—in commercialization and in a learning health system, in particular—is notable. The commercialization track combines didactic work with training in entrepreneurship, starting a company, working with CEOs, and developing drugs, devices, or other applications. For a trainee with a kernel of an idea about how to improve patient care, this training track could help them develop their idea and chart a path to actualizing it. The learning health system fellowship is intended for those who are interested in finding ways to improve the health care system at large, and to work within such a system in order to achieve positive change. It provides participants with experience in stimulating reform within a complex health system, and transmits the principles of pragmatic research design and facilitation.

One of the TL1’s biggest assets is the multidisciplinary mentoring that it provides to trainees. Mentoring teams perform a variety of functions such as assisting fellows as they design and plan research projects, and helping fellows develop solutions to specific problems that may arise during this process. Team members discuss trainees’ progress with them, and provide advice when needed on managing projects. Finally, the members of the mentoring team use their expertise to help guide trainees through data collection, analysis, and manuscript preparation. When combined with comprehensive career development training in entrepreneurship, team science, grant writing, stakeholder engagement, interdisciplinary research skills, and managing a research career, the TL1 prepares trainees for careers in clinical and translational research in a manner that few other programs can match.

The research interests that the program encourages—minority health and diversity, health services research and policy, and commercialization—are all of particular relevance in the current health research climate. Trainees are able to conduct projects in any of the following realms: health services, comparative effectiveness, community and population health, and health policy research. Within the curriculum, several innovations are underway, most recently in the area of team science. Already a basic tenet of all of the ICRE’s programs, it is becoming even more integrated into the curriculum by means of a forthcoming course in team science and simulation-based training.

Interestingly, the TL1 is open to trainees from all of Pitt’s academic schools, from engineering to arts & sciences. While this enlargement has yet to be capitalized on, it leaves the door open to a broader cohort of trainees interested in conducting all kinds of health research that could be translated to human beings, such as in health economics or medical anthropology. All of these attributes of the TL1 provide a platform for great success, and should help to add to the over 400 alumni who have graduated from the ICRE’s training programs through the years.

The Institute for Clinical Research Education serves as the Research Education and
Career Development Core of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).

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