The BrIdGing the Gap to Enhance Clinical Research Program (referred to henceforth as the ?BIGGER? program) will provide a high-quality research experience for students in their gap year, defined as the period after college graduation and prior to enrollment in graduate/professional school. The program will comprise a partnership between Duke University, the University of North Carolina, and North Carolina Central University (the nation?s first liberal arts college founded for African Americans) to enhance the diversity of the clinical research workforce, thereby ensuring that health concerns of underrepresented minorities remain a part of the national research agenda. Students will be exposed to a hands-on research experience that will encourage future research careers, and they will obtain career development tools to foster professional success. The program will expand and complement NIH-sponsored training resources already in place at Duke University under the leadership of the principal investigators, Dr. Kevin Thomas and Dr. Vivian Chu. This leadership structure synergistically combines scientific expertise and connections in cardiovascular disease (Dr. Thomas) with clinical research and career development curriculum expertise (Dr. Chu). In addition, the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI) offers formal educational and support programs for junior faculty, fellows, residents, medical students, undergraduates, and high school students, with funding from internal DCRI resources as well as the NIH. The proposed program represents a unique piece in a continuum of NIH-supported training at the DCRI that runs the gamut from the high school-level to mid-career faculty. While the proportion of gap-year students is increasing, there are limited opportunities for these students to engage in a meaningful, career development experience. This program will be ideally positioned to fill this need using an established educational infrastructure with a track record of successful trainees. The program will take place over 6 months. Each participant will be paired with a senior Duke faculty mentor and will be integrated into the work of the mentor?s team for a collaborative research experience. Participants will work on an individual scholarly project, which will be original and hypothesis-driven. For the first 3 weeks of the program, trainees will work with their faculty mentors to develop a solid knowledge base of a specific clinical question based on a thorough review of the literature. During weeks 4-22, the trainees will develop a 6- page thesis consisting of a description of the research question, specific aims, methods, and figures/tables for the study. Throughout the program, didactics will focus on clinical research methods, research ethics, and writing skills and will be taught by Duke faculty and a dedicated medical writer. Trainees will work with their mentors throughout the course of the program to review their progress and the scientific validity of their work. At the conclusion of the program, trainees will present the results of their work to the faculty and staff at the DCRI. Finally, trainees will be followed for 10 years using a web-based database to assess the effectiveness of the training program. The proposed program will result in an improved, more diverse pipeline of future scientists whose practical experience in clinical research will facilitate their entry into research careers.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Effective approaches to addressing this condition must incorporate investigations into problems that historically have not received a great deal of attention and that disproportionately affect racially and ethnically diverse populations. Because research agendas are significantly influenced by those who choose careers in investigation, increasing the diversity of the health research workforce will lead to an acceleration of advances in medical and public health discoveries, particularly in vulnerable populations. The proposed BrIdGing the Gap to Enhance Clinical Research Program will provide a high-quality research experience for students in their gap year, defined as the period after college graduation and prior to enrollment in graduate/professional school. This program, which seeks to attract under- represented minorities, will result in an improved and more diverse pipeline of future scientists whose practical experience in clinical research will facilitate their entry into research careers.