Although clinical palliative care fellowship programs have been growing in number and quality, there is a paucity of research training opportunities in palliative care1 with reports from the Institute of Medicine and National Institutes of Health highlighting the need for basic, translational, clinical, and heath services research in palliative care. 2 3 4 5,6 One of the most important ways to advance care for older adults with advanced illness is to develop junior investigators. Such training is necessary to build the academic infrastructure required for continued evidence-based growth of the field. Recognizing this need, a 2012 joint statement from the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) and American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) recommended increased collaboration between palliative and geriatric medicine in workforce, education, research, and policy. 7 Given existing expertise, a critical mass of experienced investigators, and longstanding close collaborations between palliative care and geriatrics, the University of Colorado is uniquely qualified to address this urgent need through a T32 palliative care research training grant. The goal of this T32 is to prepare postdoctoral fellows for careers as palliative care researchers. This is accomplished by recruiting exceptional and committed applicants and exposing them to an environment which features dedicated, experienced, and outstanding Program Faculty who will serve as senior mentors and affiliated faculty who will serve as junior/co-mentors. These faculty represent key disciplines and resources essential for palliative care research: the Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy and Public Health, the College of Nursing, the Colorado Health Outcomes Program, the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, the Department of Psychology, the Kaiser Institute for Health Research, National Jewish Health, and the resources of the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI), the University of Colorado CTSA. From the School of Medicine, key connections and collaborations are between the Divisions of General Internal Medicine, Geriatric Medicine and Health Care Policy and Research. The specific objectives of this training program are to: 1) recruit and retain outstanding post-doctoral trainees;2) support their research training through experiential and didactic instruction;3) ensure the highest level of academic success through conscientious monitoring of a thoughtfully constructed personalized research career development plan;and 4) enhance the mentoring skills of junior mentors through co-mentoring with more experienced senior mentors, expanding the cohort of senior mentors in palliative care research. These objectives will be carried out by offering: 1) 2 years of research training support for 4-post-doctoral trainees per year;2) expert mentoring by experienced senior mentors (Program Faculty) with co-mentoring by less experienced investigators (Affiliated Faculty);3) relevant formal coursework tailored to the needs and prior training of individual fellows;4) regularly scheduled research and career development seminars;5) integration of trainees into the existing Program in Palliative Care Research activities and resources;6) frequent and careful review of trainee progress/success, incorporating feedback to and from trainees;7) ongoing appraisal of the program goals, strength and weaknesses;and 8) sound financial and administrative oversight. Our success will be evidenced by our ability to: 1) fill our positions wih outstanding trainees and foster an ongoing pipeline of trainee candidates;2) produce academically successful and productive trainees;3) expand the cohort of palliative care research mentors by engaging more junior faculty as co-mentors with a goal of transitioning them to Program Faculty / senior mentors as they gain experience/expertise;and 4) expand palliative care research capacity through deliberate and strategic interactions amongst programs and faculty, bringing new skills and expertise to and engaging new senior mentors in palliative care research. Of the 52 institutional training grants at the University of Colorado, ths is the only one specifically dedicated to palliative care research. Nationally, only 2 institutiona research training awards (T32) focus on palliative care, and both are limited to cancer (NIH RePORT, accessed 5/19/13).
Despite advances in clinical care and education, gaps remain in the evidence base to inform clinical palliative care. One of the most important ways to advance care for older adults with advanced illness is through the development of junior investigators who will contribute to generation of evidence and build the academic critical mass necessary for the future of the field. Although clinical fellowship programs in palliative care have been growing in number and quality, there remains a paucity of research training opportunities in palliative care. The goal of this T32 is to prepare postdoctoral trainees for careers as aging-related palliative care researchers.
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