This EUREKA Virtual School tackles the intrinsic difficulties of effective translational medicine. It is designed for early-stage researchers interested in this field. COVID-19 has given the world one of its most significant challenges. Translational scientists play a crucial role in tackling these challenges, from developing and implementing diagnostic tests to treatments and vaccines and health policy. The October 2021course "Eureka Virtual School Translational Medicine: Essential skills for impactful research during COVID-19 and beyond" was specifically designed to address those challenges.
I am so grateful to CARRA and the Arthritis Foundation for the opportunity to attend the Eureka Virtual School this year. This was an outstanding opportunity to connect with colleagues across the globe and was without a doubt the best virtual meeting that I have been to! The unfolding case and small group work allowed us to discuss and apply the material that we were learning through the course and to work collaboratively across time zones to strategize on equitable vaccine distribution, revealing the complexities of this important goal. It was wonderful to have such a strong rheumatology representation at the school and to have the opportunity to both connect with colleagues that I have met through CARRA previously as well as to meet new colleagues and friends. I appreciated the insight and perspective that the school provided, and it has prompted me to consider even more deeply the why and how of the research that I am pursuing as well as how best to involve patients in the research process.
The course was incredibly well structured with a thoughtful mix of educational sessions, breakout groups, round tables with speakers, time for reflection, and sessions on resilience and personal growth. I especially appreciated the daily sessions on resilience, critically useful strategies in medicine, research, and during these COVID times. I found the opportunity for reflection and goal setting particularly valuable and appreciated the connections that I was able to form with the other participants. Having the chance to participate in the course as an early investigator also helped to inform, shift, and broaden my view of my career. Not only did I find that the course provided valuable background on different aspects of translational research and allowed us to develop an international network of colleagues, the course also provided a new perspective to guide my career development.
I had the honor to receive one of the CARRA scholarships to attend 2021 Eureka Virtual School in Translational Medicine course. It was an amazing experience, where I had a chance to learn from world renowned experts about several different steps on how to develop a successful translational research career.
The course did not focus as much on methodology, but it was geared towards helping you decide the important questions to ask and decide what to do with your research findings – which is something I had never thought much about before. They shed a light on many issues such as regulation and intellectual property rights, as well as talked about the difficulties to pursue research in an area that bridges two different fields of knowledge: clinical care and basic science.
For me, one of the biggest contributions of the course was talking to leaders from patient groups, who explained how patient involvement since the very initial stages of the study could help so much on designing a study that will address the right questions in the right way.
Even though the course was virtual, it was a great opportunity for networking with world level experts in the field of rheumatology and translational medicine, as well as with other young investigators from similar fields from around the world. After each session we had small breakout rooms with other participants, where we could discuss the issues brought up on the previous session. The smaller rooms made it possible to connect with the other participants in a closer level.
We were also able to set up meetings with the more senior researchers, and they were very friendly and approachable. Dr. Norman Rosenblum and Dr. Berent Prakken in particular were extremely approachable and gave great career advice. I will certainly keep in touch with them, and I hope to foster future collaborations with their groups.
Another opportunity to interact with the other participants was our group project, in which we played a part of a small company who had invented a new stabilizer for the COVID vaccine that would allow it to be stored at room temperature. Even though vaccinology is not my area of expertise, this project helped me think through all the steps that are required from making a discovery to having it implemented in the real world. It was also a very nice opportunity to bond with my colleagues who were part of my group.
I would like to thank again CARRA and the Arthritis Foundation for this amazing opportunity, and the Eureka Virtual School for continuing to inspire new generations of translational researchers from around the globe.
I greatly appreciated the opportunity to attend the 2021 Eureka Utrecht Virtual School for Translational Medicine: Essential Skills for Impactful Research Beyond COVID-19. This course was truly unlike any other research training experience I have ever had. The overarching emphasis of the curriculum was to teach both conceptual and practical skills for formulating rigorous scientific questions that matter to patients and other key stakeholders and mapping out the steps that can translate a scientific discovery into high impact interventions. The week-long course was built around a group project in which we had to utilize the skills and information conveyed by an eclectic mix of guest lecturers and synthesize this new knowledge into a presentation pitching a novel technology to a potential sponsor (in this case, a novel method for stabilizing mRNA vaccines being pitched to the drug manufacturer while advocating equitable distribution). We were treated to interactive presentations from highly regarded speakers on translational research frameworks, intellectual property and licensing, comparisons of academic vs industry-funded research, ethical and social justice frameworks in medicine including health equity, and regulatory aspects of translational research. We quickly realized the sheer complexity facing scientists who hope to make an impact on public health with their discoveries but were also equipped to break down the necessary steps and barriers and pursue solutions. One aspect of the course that I greatly appreciated was the acknowledgement that this is hard work and that we must care for ourselves and others in order to be truly successful. The course emphasized strategies for fair and productive collaboration, skills for resolving conflict in ways that can enhance teams, and methods for adopting reflective practices to bolster our resiliency during challenging times. Finally, even in a virtual environment, the course organizers made sure there was time to socialize freely and take time for relationship-building, which was a real treat given the diverse, international attendees. I am very grateful to CARRA for supporting early investigators, fellows, and other members of the pediatric rheumatology community in our development as thinkers and leaders and would highly recommend to other CARRA members that they strongly consider applying for the CARRA Travel Award to attend the Eureka Utrecht Virtual School.
I am grateful to CARRA for providing the opportunity to participate in this year’s Eureka Utrecht Virtual School for Translational Medicine: Essential skills for impactful research beyond COVID-19. The course aimed to highlight the intrinsic difficulties of effective translational medicine. The week consisted of didactic lectures, virtual round table discussions as well as group work completing a case study. The various teaching styles, as well as eclectic research backgrounds of the participants (MDs, PhDs, MSc, teachers, pharma employees etc) allowed for a more effective learning experience. Not only was the course informative, but its interactive design resulted in great networking and peer-mentoring opportunities.
The invited speakers were passionate and inspiring. Pat Furlong’s perseverance is incredibly motivating. If you have not heard her story, I encourage you to read “Mother Courage” in the New Yorker. Detailed lectures regarding intellectual property and regulation of clinical trial research were enlightening. I also found it helpful to hear successful senior scientists simplify their approach to problems.
Although the course was incredibly informative, summarizing what was learned is difficult. The course challenged participates to improve essential skills in research that are not typically taught: collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving and communication. The week was inspiring while taxing as the lecturers challenged participates to approach problems from a different perspective. By the end of the week, I found myself taking more time asking questions pertaining to the question itself. In doing so, other issues were accentuated, eventually strengthening my answer. I hope to apply this mode of thinking to my research and future collaboration with colleagues I met during the course.
I encourage all CARRA trainees/early investigators interested in translational medicine to attend.