The gold standard for evaluation of medical treatments and procedures in humans is clinical trials. However, clinical trials are unable to answer all important clinical questions. Therefore, another component has been recognized as equally important: the translation from bedside to real-world practice utilizing disciplines such as epidemiology, statistics, ethics, public policy, management and economics research. These types of studies are ideal for evaluating the reach, efficacy, effectiveness, adoption, implementation and maintenance of more traditional bench-to-bedside interventions. Funding organizations have increasingly recognized the importance of this broader sense of translational research. However, training in these fields requires the same rigor as traditional ?wet-bench? research; and undergraduate exposure and training in public health and epidemiology are relatively uncommon, leading to a significant underrepresentation of these fields in graduate training, particularly in areas of emphasis for the NIDDK. This shortage of qualified clinical investigators for rigorous clinical research is particularly reflected in a paucity of women and underrepresented minorities. To address these needs, we propose to establish the new Undergraduate Clinical Scholars Program (UCSP), an innovative undergraduate research opportunity (URO) at the University of Pennsylvania. The cornerstone of the UCSP is an intensive clinical-research experience that entails close interaction with and mentorship by a training program faculty member; and a structured curriculum in basic epidemiology complimented with a statistical laboratory experience and topics in ethics, scientific writing and pathways to medical school admissions (MD and combined degree programs). The UCSP program also includes a focused student research symposium in which students will have the opportunity to interact with keynote speakers who are international leaders in clinical research. Performance of the UCSP and its trainees will be tracked with longitudinal data, and guided by both an established clinical-research based Internal Advisory Board and a multi-disciplinary experienced External Advisory Board. The program also will work closely with the Office for Inclusion and Diversity at the University of Pennsylvania. The overarching interrelated specific aims of the UCSP are two-fold:
Aim 1. To foster a strong interest among talented undergraduates in human clinical research with a focus on digestive, pancreatic, liver, kidney and diabetes research;
and Aim 2. To establish durable mentoring relationships between talented undergraduates interested in pursuing clinical research and supportive faculty mentors. In aggregate, this innovative URO provides the superb faculty, exceptional scientific resources and exciting intellectual environment for trainees to be exposed to and expand their knowledge and interest in clinical and health services research. The key outcome of the UCSP is to motivate trainees to pursue careers in clinical research with a focus on digestive, pancreatic, liver, kidney and endocrine related research.
In response to an inadequate and declining number of scientists with expertise in clinical research methdology, we propose a new undergraduate research opportunity, the Undergraduate Clinical Scholars Program (UCSP); a program which will be closely linked with the University of Pennsylvania's world-renowned Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatics, the interdisciplinary home of epidemiology and biostatistics research at Penn. Students will receive career mentoring and complete a comprehensive core curriculum spanning the methods of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics (to which they will not have had exposure otherwise); and participate in a structured and mentored research project the output of which will be abstracts, publications, presentations and applications for next-stage fellowships. We believe that an early exposure to this rich environment will encourage talented young students to pursue careers in clinical investigation related to nephrology, endocrinology, digestive and liver diseases, in line with the NIDDK's missions.