In the United States, an estimated 20 million people acquire a sexually transmitted disease (STD) each year, leading to $16 billion in health care costs. Globally, 35 million people live with HIV infection, including 1.1 million in the US. The classical STDs and HIV infection share modes of transmission, and consequently, opportunities for prevention. Thus, integrating research and training in STDs and HIV is logical and strategically appropriate. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), interdisciplinary training in STDs and HIV is conducted through the Training Program in Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) and HIV, currently in its 38th year of support from NIH. Of the living trainees since 1990, 91% of predoctoral and 83% of postdoctoral trainees remain engaged in research, education, or public health activities. In the ongoing cycle of support, we have trained 17 predoctoral and 13 postdoctoral trainees, including four African Americans and two Latinos/Hispanics. Among those that have completed training in the ongoing cycle, all are actively engaged in research or public health activities. The training program supports 6 predoctoral and 4 postdoctoral (MD or PhD) trainees. Predoctoral trainees supported by three academic departments (Microbiology & Immunology, Epidemiology, and Health Behavior); postdoctoral trainees are also supported in the Division of Infectious Diseases. The training faculty comprises 30 members in these four academic units, with support from an additional seven clinical and laboratory resource faculty members. Our training program has three primary goals: 1) Train pre- and post-doctoral trainees to conduct outstanding STD/HIV research; 2) Foster the development of the skills necessary to conduct productive interdisciplinary research; 3) Facilitate professional growth and development to ensure academic and research success. Our program incorporates a research project with a primary mentor in one of four core areas: STD/HIV Pathogenesis & Immunology; Clinical Research in STD/HIV; Epidemiology of STD/HIV; and Behavioral Interventions for STD/HIV. Our program focuses on interdisciplinary activities to foster the trainees' potential for impactful research. Oral and written communication is emphasized, with careful attention to communication outside of the trainee's specific content area. All trainees participate in the STD/HIV seminar, which incorporates both substantive content related to STD/HIV and professional development. This renewal significantly expands the focus on professional development to enhance the retention and success of our trainees in STD/HIV research. Training is individualized using individual development plans. The training program includes a robust evaluation plan, incorporating individual review of the trainees and short- and long-term review of the program. Program evaluation will also include an external advisory board of leading STD/HIV researchers. In summary, the trainees in the UNC STD/HIV Training Program are expected to go on to highly successful careers, conducting interdisciplinary research, and shaping the field of STDs and HIV infection.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STD), including HIV infection, cause substantial morbidity and mortality. To reduce the impact of STD, researchers must be able to work in interdisciplinary teams, bridging basic science, clinical medicine, epidemiology, and behavioral science. This training grant provides training to doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows, including physicians, to create a cadre of young scientists with the skills needed to reduce the burden of STD in the US and worldwide.
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