Training future generations of scientists and clinicians is necessary to provide for the health of our population while improving our understanding of, as well as treatments and outcomes for, the myriad diseases that affect us. We propose a new training program specifically targeted toward hearing, balance, and spatial orientation, all key areas within the mission of the NIDCD. Research on the senses of the inner ear confronts complex systems where the physical and biological worlds interact, and inherently require multidisciplinary approaches to achieve success and advancement. This proposal is founded on 4 principles: 1) the ideal training for investigators entering research careers in hearing, balance and spatial orientation cuts across lines of departments and disciplines;2) the training of future academic clinicians and scientists is facilitated by a common interactive path that combines different strengths, interests, and approaches to solve common problems;3) our targeted areas of research are particularly well suited for trainees with a background in both neurobiology and engineering;and 4) medical trainees most likely to succeed in research are those who have demonstrated a substantial commitment in both time and energy to research training, most clearly exemplified by M.D./Ph.D. students. Based on these principles, we propose an integrated training program that cuts across departmental lines, includes resident, pre-doctoral, and post-doctoral trainees, and focuses on multidisciplinary approaches to understanding hearing, balance, and spatial orientation, as well as disorders afflicting those systems. Trainees will include M.D./Ph.D. students, otolaryngology residents with demonstrated research interests, and pre- or post-doctoral trainees with graduate or undergraduate degrees in engineering pursuing biological research. A graduate course in hearing, balance, and spatial orientation will be the didactic cornerstone of the educational experience and regular interactions between trainees is reinforced through monthly research progress meetings. This proposal builds upon the existing research and clinical infrastructure around hearing, balance and spatial orientation at the University of Rochester - particularly the P30-funded Center for Navigation and Communication Sciences, with 24 independent researchers from 7 departments. Around this core group of investigators and resources, we now add educational and research opportunities to create an extensive, integrated environment for the conduct of research and training in these crucial areas of the NIDCD mission.
Particularly in the elderly, hearing, balance, and spatial orientation problems are among the most prevalent ailments, causing billions of dollars in health care expenses and immeasurable loss of life quality. Balance problems are a leading cause of physician visits for patients over 75 and hearing loss affects over 30 million Americans. Age-related hearing loss is the number one communication disorder, and one of the top 3 most prevalent chronic medical conditions of the aged.
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