Written by Kim Furlow, communications manager for the Institute for Public Health
The Center for Dissemination and Implementation at the Institute for Public Health recently convened more than 30 HIGH-IRI fellows and more than a dozen faculty from the U.S., Africa, Asia and South America for an annual three-day training event. HIGH-IRI is the HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Health Implementation Research Institute, which focuses on the intersection between dissemination & implementation science and infectious diseases.
Implementation science (IS) is the study of methods and strategies that help bring evidence-based practice and research into action by practitioners and policymakers. Practitioners often describe IS as “systemically aiming to close the gap between what we KNOW, and what we DO by identifying barriers that slow or halt the use of proven health interventions and evidence-based practices.” Center Director, Elvin Geng, MD, MPH, also HIGH IRI program director alongside Ross Brownson, PhD, says implementation science is a field that continues to grow in the U.S. and globally. “We’re trying to convene a global conversation around implementation science and I think we are creating a community here—one which will last a lot longer than the training.”
About half of the HIGH IRI scholars work in the U.S., while the other half are from Africa, Asia and South America. They focus on HIV treatment and prevention, and other issues such as vaccination, antimicrobial stewardship, neglected tropical diseases, and many others. The scholars include academics but also public health program leadership, such as Eleanor Magongo-Namusoke, MD, who leads the national pediatric HIV program in Uganda.
Second-year scholar Whitney Irie, PhD, MSW, an assistant professor at Boston College, works on HIV prevention strategies for Black women in the U.S., and agrees that HIGH IRI is definitely a catalyst for IS growth. “In this year’s institute, we learned from fellows and faculty that they want and need more tools to grow efforts in various settings and communities. HIGH-IRI is well equipped to support these efforts. The global growth of IS through HIGH-IRI begins with the training; is advanced through the application (through grant reviews and sharing of current IS research and opportunities), and is sustained through the networks that are formed (mentorship, collaborations).”
Other scholars traveled from overseas to participate. Halima Bello-Manga, MBBS, MPH, a hematologist, assistant professor and Dean of Faculty of Basic Clinical Science at Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital at Kaduna State University in Kaduna State, Nigeria, joined this year’s training and reflects on the collaboration with other IS experts. “Fellows learn from the best of the best and can use this opportunity to build capacity at our home institutions. For me, this is very important.”
Euphemia Sibanda, PhD, a second year HIGH IRI fellow from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (UK) and the Centre for Sexual Health and HIV Research (Zimbabwe) points out that as a researcher, the content studied will effectively help her change how she writes grant proposals. “I found very eye-opening the discussion around setting explicit theories and frameworks and how to apply them to my research. It’s good to see more and more people understanding the importance of implementation science—there is more appreciation nationally.”
In addition to WashU Faculty for HIGH IRI (including Drs. Geng, Brownson, Proctor, Powell, Baumann, McKay, and Huffman,) HIGH IRI faculty include leading implementation scientists from around the world.
Mosa Moshabela, MBChB, MSc, PhD, is a professor and Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research & Innovation at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, who works on health systems research. He says that global implementation science also involves thinking about how to navigate problems in context with the people affected, so that there is consensus about how to solve problems. He alluded to the diversity of this year’s cohort and the issues they face in the field. He feels a kinship with the fellows in HIGH IRI.
During the three days of training, participants watched lectures by various WashU dissemination and implementation experts, and discussed topics from the “Foundations of implementation Science” to “Theories and Frameworks in Dissemination & Implementation Science” and others. First-year cohort members were given one-on-one consultations with IS experts at a “mini-bootcamp”. Second-year scholars presented and received critiques on their grant proposals and received feedback aimed at securing project funding.
Speaking with any of the HIGH IRI scholars, one hears resounding positive feedback about the importance of collaboration as well as the advanced training elements that help aid their work. Elvin Geng added, “I’m excited that our HIGH IRI environment is helping catalyze wider engagement in Implementation Science. WashU has been a leader in IS for many years and I hope we will continue to make contributions to the conversation today, tomorrow and beyond.”
HIGH-IRI is generously funded by ViiV Healthcare Limited and the National Institute of Health.