Yale professors join colleagues from Universiti Malaya for a science implementation boot camp

Faculty members from the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) and Yale School of Medicine (YSM) recently joined an interdisciplinary group of students and researchers in Kuala Lumpur for an Implementation Science Summer Bootcamp.

The three-day series of lectures, presentations and working groups was the first in-person boot camp since Yale University and Universiti Malaya established the Malaysian Center for Implementation Science Training (MIST) last year. The center, supported by a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Program and partially hosted by the Malaysian Center of Excellence for AIDS Research, aims to train the next generation of health scientists in translating research into action plans for governments and communities in Southeast Asia.

“In the last few decades, it has been recognized that a lot of scientific evidence does not make it into everyday practice because it is not easy to do so. It’s not simple, it’s not a given,” said Luke Davis, MD, MS, Associate Professor of Epidemiology (Microbial Diseases) at YSPH and Associate Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary, Intensive Care and Sleep Medicine) at YSM. “Not only do we need to implement health interventions, but we also need to help people change their practices and behaviours. and that is the basic science of implementation.”

The boot camp, which has more than 140 participants this year, focuses on using implementation science to improve health equity, particularly in relation to HIV prevention and treatment in Malaysia. Davis and other faculty members also led workshops on implementation science theory, new techniques, COVID-19 case studies, and more. The boot camp also prepared attendees with basic research techniques such as grant writing and instructional design.

The work of implementing public health research is particularly important in Malaysia because of the existing political barriers that can prevent the delivery of harm reduction programs to drug users or other groups, said Sten Vermund, MD, PhD, Anna MR Lauder of Yale, YSPH Professor of Public Health and YSM Professor of Pediatrics, who also lectured at the training camp.

This is where implementation science comes in.

“There may be laws where we need to engage politically and educate politicians about how the legal policies they’ve put in place can harm the ability to reach vulnerable populations and reduce their risk,” said he.

The diverse range of lecture topics reflected the diverse backgrounds of the attendees. While many focused their work around HIV, Yale faculty members, government officials, students, and members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were able to share their experiences through informal discussions and daily afternoon teas—made possible by the in-person boot camp.

“We were able to have these parallel sessions where there were working groups, there were comments and discussions,” said Frederick L. Altice, MD, MA, Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases) at YSM and of Epidemiology (Microbial Diseases) at YSPH. “People sat together and ate lunch together, and I saw before my eyes people coming from other disciplines and trying to find some time to talk.”

Other Yale faculty members who traveled to Kuala Lumpur for the boot camp included Mona Sharifi, MD, MPH, associate professor of pediatrics (general pediatrics) and biostatistics (health informatics), YSPH; Sheela Shenoi, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases), YSM; and Zhao Ni, PhD, RN, assistant professor, Yale School of Nursing and YSM. Kaveh Khoshnood, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Epidemiology (Microbial Diseases), YSPH, and other faculty and staff joined the boot camp remotely from New Haven.

Participants in last year’s boot camp — held remotely, with some Yale faculty members negotiating a 12-hour time difference to participate — even became “independent experts in their own right” at the 2022 session, Altis said. “Local people have started to recognize that there is local leadership emerging that you really want to see happen.”

Indeed, two years into the five-year grant, the training camp has attracted significant attention from the Malaysian Ministry of Health, said Adeeba Kamarulzaman, MBBS, FRACP, FASc, Associate Professor (Associate Professor) of Medicine, YSM, former Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Professor of Medicine and infectious diseases at Universiti Malaya, who is co-director of MIST. Malaysian officials recently asked MIST to create a series of shorter, one-day science implementation programs for wider use, and recorded lectures from this year’s boot camp will inform other training in the future.

“Being able to influence how colleagues at the Ministry of Health implement evidence-based programs is very, very important,” Kamarulzaman said.

She added that the training in basic science techniques at the training camp in June will help Malaysia develop its global research profile.

“It was this golden opportunity to have all these experts from Yale in Malaysia, who are champions of getting big NIH grants, to impart that knowledge about some of the dos and don’ts of international grant writing.” -special,” she explained. “It was really a golden opportunity that many young researchers wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

Encouraged by the positive feedback and delicious Malaysian food, Yale faculty members said plans are already underway for an on-site boot camp next year — and beyond — in an effort to help Malaysia fight not only HIV, but a wide variety of other epidemiological problems.

“We’re just building the foundations right now,” Altice said. “And there’s incredible potential, I think, to go from there.”

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