Follow the White Powder
Harvard Catalyst Course Teaches Research Steps from Bench to Bedside
At the podium, Elliott Antman, held aloft a tube containing a pinch of white powder. “This powder has never been given to human beings. We’re going to talk about how you conduct the experiments that will let you do the first-in-human trial.” He then lifted a vial of pills. “Tomorrow, we will learn how to take that drug and determine whether or not it’s better than our standard of care. And we’ll talk about how we determine whether or not it’s cost-effective to use this new drug.”
With that, Antman, director of the Harvard Catalyst Postgraduate Education Program in Clinical and Translational Science and a professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, opened the most recent session of Introduction to Clinical Investigation (ICI). This five-day course, developed by Harvard Catalyst, the Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center, covers the fundamental principles of turning a bench-top discovery into a bedside intervention. Offered three times a year, ICI is tailored to early-career MDs and PhDs with an interest in general principles of clinical and translational (C/T) research, regardless of their medical or scientific specialty.
Teaching and Learning as a Team
The March course featured a keynote lecture by BWH president Elizabeth Nabel, who was until recently director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Nabel spoke about the NIH Roadmap for Research and its exciting implications for clinical and translational investigators.
Laying a Path for Education
The pathway Antman and Ware envision starts with introductory courses like ICI and another Harvard Catalyst course, Intensive Training in Translational Medicine. From there, the path traverses advanced courses offered a la carte by the Harvard schools and affiliated hospitals and catalogued in Harvard Catalystís Advanced Curriculum Compendium. The guideposts end with specialized training through masterís programs and fellowships, which are available through HMS, HSPH and Harvard Catalyst.
The ICI’s place is to provide a survey of the skills and concepts at the heart of C/T research, compiling much of the training and experience that fellows and young faculty in the past might have picked up piecemeal.
Ware said, “Much as there is a large gap between the bench and bedside when it comes to new treatments, so there is a gap in training, education and guidance between the end of fellowship and the first independent grant. In laying down this pathway, we will help close that gap.”
The students came away with a new appreciation of what goes into clinical and translational research. “I knew so little to start,” one participant noted. “I learned a great deal and value both the resources mentioned and the sincere willingness of the faculty to guide us.”
Copyright 2010 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College