The goal of this competitive T32 renewal application is to continue a research training program that is preparing postdoctoral physician and PhD fellows for careers as investigators addressing priority research topics at the interface of geriatrics and palliative care. Funding is requested for 4 post-doctoral trainees per year, the same number of trainees as in year 5 of the current T32 award. This T32 research training program supports postdoctoral training for both physician-scientists and Ph.D.-scientists. The primary impetus for the current T32 training program, and this requested competitive renewal, is the urgent need for a pipeline of well-trained investigators positioned to advance the field of palliative care, ultimately improving care for older adults with serious advanced illness. This T32-supported research training program addresses a scientific knowledge and research workforce gap in aging and palliative care, namely, the paucity of robust research evidence and a pipeline of investigators. The initial funding period for this T32 focused on: 1) recruiting and retaining outstanding post-doctoral trainees; 2) supporting their research training through experiential and didactic instruction; 3) ensuring the highest level of academic success through conscientious monitoring of thoughtfully constructed individual research career development plans; and 4) enhancing 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 goals remain at the heart of this program and are reflected in the organization and focus of this training grant. The proposed competitive renewal builds on the demonstrated successes over the first funding period, enhancing the existing approach through a refined curriculum that meets the identified and evolving needs of the field and expanding the Program and Affiliated Faculty. Success in the initial 4 years of this T32 is demonstrated by ability to: 1) fill positions with 7 outstanding trainees and foster an ongoing pipeline of trainee candidates; 2) produce academically successful and productive trainees who are publishing peer-reviewed manuscripts, presenting in national venues, obtaining intra- and extra-mural grant funding and attaining research-focused faculty positions; 3) expand the cohort of research mentors by engaging more junior faculty as co-mentors; and 4) enhance geriatric 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. This T32 has, and with ongoing funding will continue to have, immediate local, regional, and national influence by developing a cadre of skilled, productive researchers.
Despite advances in clinical care and education, gaps remain in the evidence base to inform clinical palliative care, especially for older adults. 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 physician and PhD scientists for careers as aging-related palliative care researchers.
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