Improving Clinical & Translational Research Training: A qualitative evaluation of ACTSI's KL2-mentored research scholars program

This study was published by investigators and leaders of the ACTSI Research Education Program. The study was led by Dawn Comeau, PhD, MPH, research associate professor of behavioral sciences and health education, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory; co-authors include Cam Escoffery, PhD, MPH, CHES, associate professor of behavioral sciences and health education, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory; Thomas Ziegler, MD, MS, professor of medicine, Emory, co-program director, ACTSI Research Education, and program co-director, Clinical Research Network, Emory University Hospital; and Henry Blumberg, MD, professor of medicine (Division of Infectious Diseases), epidemiology, and global health, Emory University School of Medicine and Rollins School of Public Health, and director, ACTSI Research Education Program.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) originally designed the KL2 initiative to address the dwindling numbers of qualified clinical and translational researchers in the U.S. In 2007, the KL2 program was initiated by ACTSI. It provides didactic and mentored clinical and translational research training to junior faculty at the ACTSI partner institutions (Emory, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Georgia Tech). The KL2 program succeeded an NIH K12 grant that was originally funded in 2002.

This dynamic program helps to enhance the career development of junior faculty (MD, PhD, MD/PhD, or PharmD) from a wide variety of disciplines, providing a protective period in which these scholars can focus their careers on clinical and translational research and research training. This ACTSI-sponsored, unique KL2 program supports junior faculty of strong academic achievement and scholarship who demonstrate a commitment to a career in clinical and/or translational research. They possess the potential to become independently funded, successful, clinical investigators. The scholars are then guided by an established mentor at one of ACTSI’s partner academic institutions, who aid them in idea generation for research studies, study planning and design, and review of grant drafts and manuscripts.

The study evaluated the effectiveness of the ACTSI KL2 program amongst participants through extensive interviews. The KL2 program proved to hone their abilities, leading to increased research skills, strong mentorship experiences, and an overall positive impact on their career trajectory. Among the 43 scholars who completed the K12/KL2 program, 39 (91%) remain engaged in clinical and translational research. Thirty-two (74%) of the scholars received over $89M in federal funding as a principal investigator. Ultimately, this program allowed for the development of successful clinical and translational research scientists, and highlights the need for continued support of clinical and translational research training and career development opportunities for junior faculty.

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