The recent Ebola epidemic exposed the fragility of Sierra Leones health system and highlighted the inadequate investments to date that are needed to support a well-functioning system capable of responding to a disease outbreak of this magnitude. To improve delivery of quality health services for patients with endemic viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHF) such as Lassa fever (LF), while strengthening capacity to conduct clinical trials during future epidemic VHF outbreaks such as Ebola, Sierra Leone must grow its pool of qualified health professionals with the methodological skills in implementation science and the conduct of clinical trials. We have just completed a Planning Grant for Emerging Epidemic Virus Research Training for West African Countries with Widespread Transmission of Ebola- Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone (D71TW010411), that has allowed us to evaluate existing research capacity of our in-country partner organizations, while refining our strategies for best approaches to address gaps in that capacity. Combining this with our extensive knowledge and history of conducting VHF research in Sierra Leone; as well as nearly two-decades managing institutional research, training, and capacity-building grants; we propose here our comprehensive research training plan in response to PAR-18-840-Global Infectious Disease Research Training. We seek to substantially advance implementation science research capacity at Sierra Leones principal medical school, the University of Sierra Leone (USL), College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS); as well as clinical trial infrastructure at the Kenema Government Hospital (KGH) through the proposed Partnership for Research in Emerging Viral Infections-Sierra Leone (PREVSL) [pronounced ?Prev Sil?].
Our Specific Aims are to 1) Enhance research capacity at KGH and COMAHS for the conduct of scientifically valid and ethically acceptable clinical trials, with a focus on Ebola, Lassa, and other VHF; 2) Strengthen and expand the KGH and COMAHS research pool with a focus on Implementation Science research for the clinical management of patients with VHF; and 3) Nurture innovative mentored research by PREVSL trainees/alumni to address the clinical management of VHF. Our comprehensive training program will consist of a combination of (1) long-term Masters training in clinical investigation with a focus on vaccine clinical trial capacity; (2) short- to medium-term clinical trial management training that reinforces south-south collaborations and builds regional networks; (3) short and long-term capacity building in health services implementation science research through in-country short courses and Masters training in Public Health; and (4) sustainable capacity building at KGH and COMAHS for the management and administration of future research grant opportunities.
The University of Sierra Leone, College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) and Kenema Government Hospital (KGH), in partnership with Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health and Tulane University; propose to train a new generation of researchers with a focus on implementation science and clinical trial capacity. Our anticipated emphasis will be to advance clinical and translational research focused on the delivery of quality health services for endemic VHFs like Lassa fever, while simultaneously building indigenous capacity on how to conduct higher-level clinical trial research during an epidemic like Ebola.