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Duke to Offer Graduate Degree in Clinical Research at the National Institutes of Health

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, N.C. -- In a first-time collaboration, Duke University Medical Center and the Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will train medical students and clinical fellows at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md., in clinical research beginning in September 1998.

Those who complete the distance learning program -- NIH's first to be tied to a graduate degree -- will earn a Master of Health Sciences in Clinical Research from Duke University School of Medicine.

The collaboration stems from an initiative by the NIH to encourage promising medical students and trainees to pursue careers in clinical research, research that includes patient-oriented studies of the causes and mechanisms of disease, the evaluation of new treatments, and the social and economic effects of the practice and delivery of medical care.

In order to offer a degree program, the NIH sought an academic partner with an established track record in training clinical researchers. It chose Duke's Clinical Research Training Program, one of the longest-standing programs to train physicians and other health professionals in the design and conduct of clinical research.

"Duke has long understood the importance of training top-notch physicians to pursue careers in clinical research," said Dr. Ralph Snyderman, chancellor for health affairs, dean of the School of Medicine and CEO of Duke University Health System. "We are extremely pleased to collaborate with the NIH to offer a formal training program in clinical research. Together we will shape the next generation of physician researchers – those who will help shape the future of medical practice."

Courses for the program will be conducted simultaneously for students at Duke and at NIH via a two-way videoconferencing facility at Duke designed specifically for the program. Interactions between Duke faculty and distant learners at the NIH will also make extensive use of the Internet. Some of the courses will also be conducted on-site at the clinical center in Bethesda by established NIH investigators that have adjunct faculty appointments at Duke.

"We're excited about this chance to enhance training opportunities for physicians and students interested in clinical research," said Dr. John I. Gallin, director of the Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center and NIH associate director for clinical research. "Education in how to perform clinical research has all too often depended on a medical student's access to a willing mentor. Today's research and medical education needs are far too complex for that to be the only route to develop the pertinent skills and insights."

Duke's training program is designed for clinical fellows and other health professionals who are training for academic careers in clinical research. The curriculum focuses on research design, statistical analysis, research ethics and project management along with a clinical research experience with an established mentor. Since 1986, several hundred physicians-in-training have taken courses in the Duke program.

"This is the first step in making our program more widely available to distant learners," said Dr. William E. Wilkinson, director of the Duke program. "The era of managed care has created a demand for more quantitative approaches to the evaluation of medical care, and recent advances in basic medical research have created a demand for clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of new treatment modalities. These demands can only be met by attracting more medical students to careers in clinical research and improving the quality of training for clinical researchers."

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