To fuel the future success of substance abuse research, young clinicians from diverse backgrounds need to be attracted to the field. As part of the national effort to draw health professionals to clinical substance abuse research, NIDA-supported researchers led by principal investigator Dr. Marc Gourevitch at New York University (NYU) developed the Substance Abuse Research Education and Training (SARET) curriculum. SARET comprises eight Web-based, interactive modules that introduce addiction research to graduate students of nursing, dentistry, and medicine. All three medical professions were included because they contribute to substance abuse research, clinical screening, and referral for substance abuse treatment. Students who complete the SARET curriculum may apply for stipend-supported training—lasting either a summer or a full year—with an addiction researcher on the NYU faculty. Student stipends are competitive with similar research stipends.
A recent pilot test of the first 30-minute curriculum module suggests that participating in SARET increases students' interest in addiction research, report Dr. Adina Kalet, the SARET Curriculum Director, and NYU colleagues. That module, called "Investigators Needed," features four filmed interviews with NIDA-funded investigators. In these films, the scientists discuss their research, highlight major areas of inquiry in addiction science, and present major principles of rigorous medical research.
Participants took surveys both before beginning the module and 6 weeks after completing it. Among the 376 second- and third-year dentistry students who completed the module, 277 responded to the followup online survey assessing their experience. Fifty-seven percent of the responders reported being "somewhat" or "very" interested in addiction research after participating in the module, compared with just 22 percent before the start of the pilot test. The students' behaviors also reflected interest in learning more about addiction research: 37 percent discussed the topics covered in online forums; 35 percent requested more information about SARET; and 60 percent requested additional information about the research presented.
Using the preliminary findings, Drs. Gourevitch and Kalet and colleagues will develop the remaining seven modules of the SARET curriculum. They plan to determine whether students who complete the first module continue with the curriculum and to evaluate whether those who enroll in SARET go on to participate in mentored research.
Kalet, A., Gillespie, C., Naegle, M.A., and More, F. Attracting health professional students to substance abuse research. Medical Education 43(11):1094, 2009.