Based on experience from the Geriatric Psychiatry Summer Research Institute (Halpain, 1997
), and guided by our Jackson State University partners on the needs of faculty from HBCUs, we developed a course outline for the SRCDI. The process for developing the course outline with a distant academic partner involved weekly conference calls for 6 months. Shown below is the Course Outline for the 2005 and 2006 Institutes. Based upon feedback from 2005 participants and faculty, we offered 2006 participants a more in-depth discussion on choosing a mentor, which included topics such as effective listening and developing a network of mentors. We also offered a more detailed presentation on writing and publishing manuscripts. Participants in 2006 found it useful to hear about writing from the editor of a public health journal and to learn about impact factors for major medical and public health journals.
We incorporated many of the “research survival skills” from the NIMH-sponsored Geriatric Psychiatry Career Development Institute, along with information of particular relevance to scholars working in minority health and health disparities. All of the course sessions were interactive and encouraged discussion among participants and SRCDI faculty. We provide here brief descriptions of key sessions:
Participants had the opportunity to listen as two senior minority health disparities scholars discussed their training, how they chose their areas of research interest, the mentoring and guidance they received, and aspects of balancing their career development and personal lives. This session demonstrated models of academic success in minority health disparities and allowed SRCDI participants to get to know SRCDI faculty more personally. Both of the discussants in this session were African American. We believe it was particularly important for SRCDI participants to see role models of successful minority scholars.
Junior Faculty Panel
This session featured three underrepresented minority junior faculty scholars, two of whom had successfully competed for an NIH “K01” Career Development Award and a third for R01 funding. All three junior faculty discussed how they developing their academic careers and offered advice about issues such as achieving work-life balance. One discussant was African American, one was of African descent, and one was Native American.
Choosing a Mentor
SRCDI faculty discussed the qualities to look for in a mentor, and what constitutes an effective, productive mentoring relationship. In 2006, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Career Development gave a presentation that included information on selecting specific mentors for specific career needs.
Academic Career Pathways in Public Health
Discussants in this session took a longitudinal view of academic training and professional development. Their presentation included a discussion of NIH funding mechanisms and the NIH Loan Repayment Program. This session was aimed at helping SRCDI participants decide which funding mechanisms would be most appropriate to their career development.
Discussion of the Center for Minority Health’s Community Research Advisory Board
This session addressed academic-community partnerships, community-based participatory research, and educating community organizations about academic research. A Community Research Advisory Board (CRAB), comprising faculty, community participants, human service agency representatives, academic researchers, and other interested parties, meets monthly to hear presentations from researchers seeking input from the community on proposed research projects. The CRAB is a model of community engagement with academic research. The session described the CRAB’s creation and work with investigators who have come before this board seeking feedback and assistance with research design. Several CRAB members participated in this presentation.
Key Elements of a Good Research Proposal
The session discussed the preparation of a NIH R01 proposal using the standard PHS 398 application form. Discussion included key issues and critical tips for proposal preparation based on the experiences of the presenters and other SRCDI faculty. This session was enhanced by the presence of a program officer from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Office of Special Populations, who added a funding agency’s perspective to the discussion.
Oral Platform Presentations by Each Participant
Participants were each given 10 minutes to make a presentation that addressed the following questions - What am I doing? Why is it important in the context of health disparities? How am I doing it? What do I need? Participants were divided into four research interest groups (1 – Psychiatry/Psychology; Stress; 2 – HIV/AIDS/Oncology; 3 – Minority Health Disparities (in general); and 4 – Pediatrics & Adolescent/Environmental Health). Two SRCDI faculty were assigned to each group as facilitators/mentors. This session was designed allow participants to become familiar with each other’s research and to facilitate peer support.
Participants were asked to prepare a PowerPoint presentation consisting of a maximum of five (5) slides. In the interest of increasing face-to-face discussion and interaction with peers and faculty, we asked participants to print their slides in handout form and to speak directly from the paper handouts; participants were asked to avoid “lecturing” and to be informal, facilitating interactive conversations with their fellow participants and SRCDI faculty.
Each presentation was followed by 10 minutes of questions and comments from fellow participants, and then by 10 minutes of questions and comments from the SRCDI faculty assigned to their group, for a total of 30 minutes per participant. This session gave participants the opportunity to form connections with peers and assigned faculty mentors that have continued beyond the SRCDI.
Mock Study Section
This session offered participants a glimpse into the workings of NIH study sections. SRCDI faculty who had either served on, or headed, a study section acted the part of NIH reviewers. The Program Officer from NIMH acted the part of the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) administrator. Two SRCDI participants provided real grant applications currently under development (a K01 and an R21) before the SRCDI for “review” by the Mock Study Section. Reviewers wrote their reviews before the Mock Study Section, summarized them during the session, and then discussed each application among themselves, in front of the group. All of the SRCDI participants found this session enlightening and useful. The two participants whose applications were discussed received extensive feedback on their grant proposals.
Issues in Health Disparities Research
A Co-Director of the EXPORT Health Immunization and Pneumonia Disparities Core presented a paper entitled “Health Disparities: Defining a Research Agenda”, which articulated a conceptual model for health disparities research (Kilbourne et al., 2006
). The paper described the evolution of health equity research. The first generation documented the existence of disparities; the second explained the reason for disparities; and the third generation suggested solutions for eliminating health disparities. The paper provided a framework that participants could use to formulate their own research agenda.
Negotiating for a Faculty Position
SRCDI faculty presented the elements of an academic job offer that prospective junior faculty members should consider when negotiating for their first academic position. SRCDI faculty encouraged participants to think of all of the benefits that can contribute to academic success, such as protected time for research, release time from teaching, more laboratory or office space, getting a new computer or key piece of laboratory equipment, start-up funds for setting up a laboratory, institutional seed money or pilot funding for research. This session provided a safe forum in which participants could ask questions they might feel uncomfortable asking in the context of their home institutions or in an actual search process.
Developing an Effective Curriculum Vita
A discussion followed on how to effectively plan for and document one’s academic career to address the elements necessary for a compelling promotion and tenure dossier, including: highlighting one’s most important scholarly activities, developing a national reputation (e.g., publishing in well-indexed, high-impact journals and presenting at national meetings), and creating an effective Curriculum Vita.
Writing and Publication Strategies
This session on writing for publication and choosing appropriate journals described the process of peer review, how to respond to reviews, and how to communicate with editors. Participants were invited to submit academic products such as papers in progress, grant applications in progress, and course materials in development. We asked SRCDI faculty and EXPORT Health Core Directors to review these manuscripts and provide feedback during the SRCDI. Participants and their assigned faculty reviewers interacted in person, by telephone and via e-mail. We also asked SRCDI participants to query the University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences Faculty Research Interests Project (FRIP) database to identify faculty they would like to consult with during their stay in Pittsburgh. Some chose one-on-one consultations with SRCDI faculty; others chose Pittsburgh faculty who were not affiliated with the SRCDI. Meetings were arranged between the SRCDI participants and the University of Pittsburgh faculty they asked to meet.