Quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) is a research domain that addresses exposures to microbial pathogens and infectious disease processes in order to characterize human health effects. It has become a well-established framework for predictive and retrospective evaluations of health risks. QMRA is a translational science requiring integration of knowledge from mathematics, statistics, biology, engineering, and public health. Though complex, QMRA is highly useful for addressing societal problems encountered within the multidisciplinary biomedical community - public health, emergency response, environmental control measures, decontamination, industrial hygiene and medical countermeasures. Exposure to microbial agents of disease and subsequent development of infection are dynamic processes associated with substantial variability and uncertainty across the population, which must also be communicated in order to effectively manage risk. Since risk science is inherently interdisciplinary, few programs in the contributing disciplines offer courses and training in QMRA. Though training, models and tools have increased as the result of our preliminary work, barriers to full participation across the biomedical community still exists especially needs in mentoring and outreach. Our long term goals are to increase the capability for biomedical and behavioral scientists: (i) to incorporate and contribute to microbial risk assessments related to their research; and (ii) to increase their ability to lead and contribute to diverse, interdisciplinary team science projects related to microbial risks. The objective of this project is to provide the biomedical community with comprehensive training in microbial risk sciences, evidence-based mentoring approaches to support inclusion and participation of scientists from diverse backgrounds and a data/computational platform to facilitate deeper learning and the QMRA practice. The proposed project builds upon several, successful, ten-day courses offered through the NIH funded QMRAIII program (2014 to 2018) and previous one week-long, intensive courses conducted through the Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment) from 2006 to 2011. Each year, there were significantly more applicants than allowable enrollment; and mid-career and senior faculty members were generally excluded to prioritize early career researchers. Our evaluations and assessments support our model of practice for reaching learning objectives. However, the balance of contributions across the biomedical community would be greatly enhanced through sustained mentoring and outreach opportunities which are complementary to the course as well as an online platform for future trainees and educators.
Reducing the spread of infectious diseases through environmental media (air, water, soil, food, surfaces, etc.) requires contributions from clinicians, epidemiologists, microbiologists, engineers, public health professionals and other disciplines to perform rigorous risk analysis. However, quantitative microbial risk assessment methodology is not widely understood though it is recommended by the World Health Organization and various U.S. agencies for supporting intervention and prevention strategies as risk based decisions. The QMRA IV education and mentoring program will equip professionals across biomedical disciplines with sustained academic and instrumental mentoring to conduct research and make decisions to minimize risks from infectious disease.