News Center for Dissemination & Implementation

Dissemination and Implementation Science flourishes at WashU centers, institutes and initiatives

Written by Kim Furlow, communications manager at the Institute for Public Health

Dissemination and Implementation (D&I) science takes what we know and seeks to improve how evidence-based public health solutions are adopted, implemented, and maintained in the real world. As public health is a key focus of WashU’s Here & Next Strategic Plan, one of the university’s strengths—D&I science—continues to advance by leaps and bounds. In the St. Louis Region and across the globe, through a cross-disciplinary D&I community dedicated to research, training and practice, WashU is propelling innovative, professional collaborations, training future leaders, and bringing evidence-based interventions to our community and our world. Here are some 2023 WashU D&I highlights.

WashU launches a D&I doctoral concentration

In 2015, Washington University faculty identified dissemination and implementation core competencies, and since then, WashU’s K12 Mentored Training in Implementation Science (MTIS) Program has been the first of its kind to offer D&I research training in heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders. The program continues to refine and expand its model and curriculum to better incorporate D&I research.

In 2023, WashU launched a D&I science doctoral concentration in which students complete relevant D&I-specific coursework, participate in research assistantships and other training opportunities, and conduct dissertation research that contributes to the field. Helen Etya’ale is a public health professional from Cameroon and Switzerland, who is currently pursuing her PhD in Public Health Sciences and is excited to take advantage of the new D&I concentration. “I was drawn to the PhD concentration in D&I because I saw it as an opportunity to explore research questions with real-life implications on health practice. Understanding what approaches are best suited to improve health access and health service delivery concretely and systematically, in resource-limited settings, is a topic that is of interest to me. It is truly a privilege to work with and learn directly from D&I experts at Washington University, who are at the forefront of moving the field forward.”

In addition to this exciting D&I curriculum, WashU’s Center for Dissemination and Implementation annually hosts innovative and popular training opportunities for students here and across the world. From those interested in adding a D&I component to their work to seasoned D&I researchers and practitioners, the goal is to provide top-tier, mentored instruction and to nurture future leaders in implementation science.

Annual Bootcamp offers consultation and camaraderie
2023 D&I Proposal Bootcamp attendees | Photo: Tina McGrath

A daylong intensive called the D&I Proposal Development Bootcamp provides tailored consultations aimed at advancing grant proposals from idea to draft to external funding. Each year, the popular event features round-table consultations with WashU and external D&I experts. Bootcamp includes the annual Enola Proctor Lecture, named to honor WashU’s Shanti K. Khindka Distinguished Professor Emerita Enola Proctor and her cardinal contributions to D&I science. The lecture centers on key D&I topics such as the challenges of leveling up this growing science now and in the future.

The 2023 Enola Proctor Lecturer, Rani Elwy, PhD, a professor at Brown University, said she received implementation science (IS) training at WashU and found the learning sessions invaluable. She is now one of the training faculty at WashU’s annual HIGH IRI symposium (more on that below). “People sometimes think they can’t be implementation scientists because there aren’t enough training programs, or because it’s not a well-known discipline,” Elwy said. “Here, mentors really help researchers feel like implementation scientists who can make an impact.”

I was deeply engaged during the consultations. It was energizing to talk about the work and possible directions to take it.

2023 Bootcamp participant

Top row above: Assoc. Professor of Surgery, Ana Baumann, far left, consults with a researcher. Right, Center for D&I Co-Director Byron Powell prepares for a consultation as Assoc. Professor of Medicine, Jing Li looks on

Bottom row: Mentor Ross Brownson, far right in first photo, advises a group of investigators. At right, speaker Rani Elwy poses with Center for D&I Director, Elvin Geng and Shanti K. Khindka Distinguished Professor Emerita, Enola Proctor | Photos by Tina McGrath

HIGH IRI nurtures future IS leaders

Faculty and implementation scientists from the U.S., Africa, Asia, and South America convene at WashU annually for the five-day HIGH IRI training symposium. It is not only a global conversation around implementation science but, according to Director of the Center for D&I, Elvin Geng, MD, a professor in WashU’s Division of Infectious Diseases, the training is also an experience that “creates community.”

In 2023, HIGH IRI faculty member Mosa Moshabela, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, brought with him seven implementation science colleagues. He said he is always impressed with how HIGH IRI Fellows leave the training and use what they learn right away.

“This year, there was a lot of debate, which has opened up participants to feel like they can maybe talk about topics that are controversial or unapproachable at home,” Moshabela said. “Here, we discuss opposing views and I’ve seen Fellows leave more humble or at least more open to different ways of looking at interventions. Fellows feel like they can take these differing ideas back home and work through them with colleagues.” He added, “These fellows will be at the forefront of implementation science later, so it’s like faculty is passing the baton to future IS leaders, which is very intriguing to me.”  

Eleanor Namusoke Magongo, a 2023 HIGH IRI Fellow from Uganda, works with children with HIV. Compared with other implementation training she has received across the U.S., she calls HIGH IRI “different” and a “game-changer.”

“Here, we learn more about the core of IS research and how to bridge the gap in evidence-based research and public health,” Magongo said. “I have learned new models and terminology such as ‘implementation mapping’ and ‘mechanisms’. It is a richer and more detailed training and pleasantly interactive. It has been a very worthwhile journey.”

Also facilitated by the Center for Dissemination and Implementation, the Infectious Disease – Dissemination and Implementation Science Initiative (IDDI) is designed to cultivate implementation research in infectious disease to meaningfully improve evidence-based prevention and treatment of infectious diseases in the St. Louis Region and beyond. This year, the Initiative sparked $80,000 worth of pilot grant funding for infectious disease-related pilot grants and co-hosted a Symposium that brought together over 70 regional stakeholders focused on antimicrobial stewardship and infection prevention.

D&I faculty update book on D&I Research to Practice

Called the “ultimate guide to D&I research for public health, medicine and social sciences,” the third edition of the book, Dissemination and Implementation Research in Health Translating Science to Practice has been released. Leading D&I scholars, Ross Brownson, the Steven H. and Susan U. Lipstein Distinguished Professor of Public Health; Graham Colditz, the Niess-Gain Professor and Chief of the Division of Public Health Sciences in the Department of Surgery; and the Shanti K. Khindka Distinguished Professor Emerita, Enola Proctor edited this edition. The book addresses how to evaluate the evidence base on effective interventions; which strategies will produce the greatest impact; how to design an appropriate study; and how to track a set of essential outcomes.

Read more about WashU’s work in D&I science via these institutes and centers.