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Health Workers Trained in Research Basics

August 31, 2012 - In June 2012, an energetic group of community health workers (promotoras) and clerical staff from community clinics in Imperial Valley participated in a UCSD Clinical and Translational Research Institute (CTRI) workshop series. The goal of the workshop was to make research more feasible in that medically underserved region. The Imperial Valley has had “more than its fair share of health problems, but less than its share of researched health interventions to solve them”, according to Howard Taras, MD, CTRI Community Engagement Director and co-designer of the training curriculum. CTRI hopes to change these inequities by training and equipping community-minded, local health professionals for work in research, and thus encourage investigators to choose Imperial Valley as a site for research studies.

The workshops were a collaborative project between the CTRI, Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo, and Sun Valley Research Center. The workshop series consisted of three innovative training sessions that focused on clinical research fundamentals. Topics included recruitment and retention of participants, informed consent, basic study design, and ethical considerations. Themes were taught interactively – through case scenario activities, group presentations, and by staging a hypothetical experiment. “We did not want this course to be a traditional class, where trainees stare at slides and take notes. It was very important to us that every step of the learning process be interactive”, notes Dr. Taras. According to one participant, this experiential training style helped attendees understand the context behind research protocols; “why so many questions and forms have to be completed in different ways”.

This training session contained content specific to Imperial Valley, and was carried out primarily in Spanish. The course can be modified for English-speaking audiences in other regions. Throughout the workshop, trainees were encouraged to share their own experiences in research and barriers to research participation among members of their community, and explain their cultural perceptions of basic research concepts. Promotoras also informed course facilitators on health topics that are important to members of their community, as well as how to address local barriers to participation.

As a rural and medically underserved area, Imperial County “meets criteria for many of the current [grant] announcements” prioritizing underserved populations, observes Bernardo Ng, MD, co-facilitator and experienced Imperial Valley clinical investigator. In addition, this area is home to community-minded, experienced community health workers. “Including promotoras in any research project will facilitate its successful execution in this community”, predicts Dr. Ng.

CTRI’s Community Engagement Division looks forward to helping CTRI members to seek out and initiate research opportunities in Imperial Valley. For more information about conducting research in Imperial Valley, or about training groups from other communities in research fundamentals, please contact Kathleen Kennedy at 858-657-5143, or email

This project was financially supported by the National Institutes of Health, Grant 8UL1TR000100-03, and took place with collaboration from Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo, Inc.

About UC San Diego Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute:

UC San Diego Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI) is part of a national Clinical and Translational Science Award consortium, led by the National Institutes of Health National Center for Advancing Translational Science. Established in 2010, ACTRI provides infrastructure and support for basic, translational and clinical research throughout the San Diego region to bring discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside, and facilitates training and education of the next generation of researchers. ACTRI carries out its activities in collaboration with institutional and corporate partners and currently has more than 1,500 members.