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Penn State CTSI core services expand to include implementation science

One of the greatest challenges faced by scientists and health care practitioners might be the translation of research findings from the lab to their implementation in real-world settings. In other words, our academic and research community is constantly innovating, finding new, evidence-based interventions to improve people’s health and well-being. However, there is a gap between knowing these interventions exist and their routine use in communities; implementation science is a relatively new field of study working to close this gap.

A team led by William Calo, PhD, JD, MPH and supported by the Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and a Catalyst Award from the College of Medicine’s Comprehensive Health Studies Program, aims to establish the Implementation Science Core (ISC) within CTSI. This core’s aim is to improve health equity, by increasing the adoption, integration and sustainability of evidence-based practices into real-world settings, especially in rural Pennsylvania communities.

“A goal of the Comprehensive Health Studies Program is to build the educational programs necessary to support interdisciplinary teams of scientists to solve some of the most complex problems in medicine, which is precisely what the ISC is poised to do,” says Comprehensive Health Studies Program interim director, Cynthia Chuang, MD, MSc.

“Penn State and the College of Medicine are uniquely positioned to advance health equity through implementation science based on the campus network’s access to diverse communities and the quality of our academic, research and health service programs.” – William Calo, PhD, JD, MPH

The Implementation Science Core (ISC) will provide infrastructure to:

  • Support innovative, interdisciplinary implementation science studies with potential for external funding through consultations,
  • Provide educational and training opportunities on implementation science, and
  • Create and coordinate a College-wide workgroup of researchers and trainees to develop a collaborative research agenda for implementation science.

Implementation science studies the use of strategies to enhance the adoption and integration of evidence-based interventions into clinical and community settings to improve patient outcomes and benefit population health. “As an implementation scientist, I test and evaluate these strategies to inform practitioners or clinicians how they can maximize the adoption of interventions, their implementation with fidelity and sustainment,” explains Dr. Calo.

Evidence-based interventions are programs, practices, guidelines, or policies that have demonstrated an impact in improving health behaviors or health outcomes.

The ISC will focus on three main areas:

Consultations. For almost two years, the ISC has been offering consultative services in many aspects of implementation science to faculty . Within the infrastructure of Penn State CTSI, this process will be more formalized. Consultations will include support for researchers in framing implementation research questions; selecting theories, models or frameworks; identifying promising implementation strategies; choosing appropriate study measures and assistance writing grants. To learn more about consultations for investigators and trainees, visit the CTSI website.

Workgroup. Made up of 10 people, including senior faculty, junior faculty and trainees, the workgroup maximizes collaborations for larger grant applications to support implementation science studies. Since there is a growing number of requests for grants that require projects to include implementation science, the workgroup provides a space for faculty and trainees to develop a shared research agenda and increase the number of implementation scientists at Penn State. The workgroup’s quarterly meeting will also review progress toward building the College of Medicine’s capacity to grow in this field.

Education and Training. With bi-monthly seminars on emerging implementation science topics and methodological approaches, featuring Penn State faculty and other nationally-renowned experts will be offered. Trainees will also have an opportunity to present their ongoing implementation science work; further, these seminars can be integrated with training for other existing programs, such as KL2 and T32.

“Penn State and the College of Medicine are uniquely positioned to advance health equity through implementation science based on the campus network’s access to diverse communities and the quality of our academic, research, and health service programs,” mentions Dr. Calo. “The support from the Catalyst Award and CTSI to formally establish the ISC reinforces that commitment.”

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