Training to increase competence in cardiovascular disease research: the Jackson heart study learning community
Brenda W. Campbell Jenkins, Clifton Addison, Monique White, Marinelle Payton
Background: The Jackson Heart Study (JHS) Graduate Training and Education Center (GTEC) at Jackson State University (JSU), Jackson, MS, United States of America is the first GTEC established as a part of a major research study. GTEC implemented the 2-year Daniel Hale Williams Scholar Program (DHWSP) for graduate students who have completed the Bachelor’s degree and are enrolled in either a Master’s degree program or a Doctoral degree program. This paper describes the GTEC learning community (LC) that was used to train graduate students in cardiovascular epidemiology. It summarizes the processes that may inform other schools or training programs that aspire to initiate innovative strategies to augment students’ academic and professional training and development. Methods: GTEC implemented a LC, a learning design that promotes academic family- type cooperation and closeness where the GTEC LC students enter a formal program and complete their courses as a cohort. The GTEC DHWSP provides a strong grounding in epidemiology, cardiovascular disease (CVD), health disparities, and professional development to increase the likelihood of African–American graduate students entering careers in biomedical sciences. The DHWSP that began in 2014 successfully trained 22 scholars within four cohorts from two JHS institutions, JSU, and University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC). Instruction for the 2014–2018 cohorts was conducted face to face. For the 2018–2023 period, the DHWSP has been expanded to include JSU, UMMC, the University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi Valley State University, and Alcorn State University. A total of eight graduate students each year will be selected for this new contract period. The revised format also incorporates an on-line instruction format, utilizing Canvas on-line teaching and learning management systems, Webinars (webcast seminars), and Webex on-line conferences. Results: Scholars begin their DHWSP LC experience with an orientation session, followed by a 1-week long Research Camp that includes lectures in cardiovascular epidemiology, biostatistics, and scientific writing. This is followed by participation in an enrichment curriculum, mentoring by LC advisors and other professional development activities. By the end of the contract period in 2018, 22 scholars, matriculating through four cohorts, had successfully completed the program and received certificates of completion, after completing 30 presentations and 15 publications. A new cohort of eight scholars is currently being prepared for the entry into the program with a revised format. Conclusion: The GTEC DHWSP has emerged as a singular, comprehensive medium to facilitate increasing the academic proficiency of the DHW scholars and to ensure that scholars can continue to advance their cardiovascular research capabilities. Going forward, the JSU GTEC will continue to afford scholars opportunities to interact with epidemiologists and other biomedical scientists to learn to identify, predict, diagnose, prevent, treat, and expand their understanding of the epidemiology of CVDs using the JHS data.