The mentors of the University of Florida (UF) NIDA T32 Substance Abuse Training Center in Public Health are eager to submit the renewal for five additional years of funding to train diverse pre and postdocs for careers in drug use, addiction, and consequences of addiction with a population science and public health lens. Situated in the Department of Epidemiology in two Colleges of the six in the UF Health Science Center, its 19 faculty mentors/preceptors (from 10 departments in 6 colleges) base their model on five premises: reduce health disparities, fill a significant need for training, develop authentic partnerships, utilize a mentoring mosaic approach and value social justice and high ethical standards. Their collaborations with each other have been significant (7 per faculty). Directed by Linda Cottler and Co-Directed by Sara Jo Nixon, this T32 renewal is justified by: a) increased drug use in Florida, especially opioids and cocaine; b) a significant shortage of public health scientists in the drug abuse field; c) UF?s strong academic and research environment as a top 10 University in the third most populous state; d) the underrepresentation of NIDA and other NIH T32 training programs in the Southeast US region; e) a strong and enthusiastic group of mentors who have an excellent track record to train substance abuse researchers; and f) the commitment of UF. Since 2014, with 4 predoc and 2 postdoc slots awarded, our T32 has trained 9 predocs (4 minority/disability) and 5 postdocs (3 minority); this year both postdocs are minority scholars and 3 of 4 predocs are diverse for an overall diversity rate of 83%. The predoc publication record is 5.9 per person with 2 years of training; the postdoc publication rate in the same timeframe is 5.3 per person. No slots have gone unfilled. Going forward, the UF T32 is requesting 5 pre and 3 postdoc slots. A number of valuable approaches are encouraged for career growth of both the mentor and mentees; robust centers and institutes contribute to this growth. While this T32 has made excellent progress since 2014, there are additional goals to achieve. More than ever, public health researchers, especially epidemiologists, need to work together with scientists from other disciplines to develop best practices for addiction research through all translational stages. Thus, the T32 renewal will: i. provide trainees with an apprenticeship style education to master skills to critically evaluate data, conduct multiple aspects of addiction research and become successful investigators who contribute to the field; ii. be a beacon, model program, with a high return on investment as evaluated through outcomes that matter, and iii. train individuals to understand, apply and maintain the highest ethical standards in their science and scholarship and be socially responsible investigators. We at UF are ready to train the next cohort and facilitate trainees? contributions to the science of addiction medicine using all of the newest tools.
The UF NIDA T32 Substance Abuse Training Center in Public Health will train fellows to be leaders in the field to focus on basic high need areas: the epidemiology and prevention of substance use and its consequences, and the development of behavioral interventions to reduce substance use and its harmful consequences using the most available scientific tools. The Association of Schools of Public Health states that the US will require 250,000 additional public health workers by 2020, or one-third the workforce. It also estimates that one-third of academic researchers will retire in the next decade. While NIDA has approximately 60 training programs that focus on pre-doctoral, post-doctoral or a combination of both, the programs are largely focused on neuropharmacology and neurobiology. Fewer programs are focused on epidemiology/prevention/interventions. No program addresses all three. There is a disparity in the geographic representation as most programs concentrate in the northeast corridor and mid-west. Thus, the public health relevance of this program is very strong.
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