Dr. Heather Reisinger, associate director of engagement, integration, and implementation for the University of Iowa's Institute for Clinical and Translational Sciences (ICTS), joined the ICTS team after researching implementation science at the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Hospital.
Working on finding out the best way to get research into people's lives was vital to Reisinger, and she wanted to help the University focus as much on implementation as any other scientific work.
ICTS is one of over 60 translational science institutes across the country funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The work Reisinger focuses on is in three distinct areas – engagement, integration, and implementation.
ICTS aims to engage not just patients and healthcare workers but also all stakeholders involved in moving medical research into practice. Examples include manufacturers and purchases of medical drugs and devices, as well as hospital administration professionals.
Integrating special populations, particularly underrepresented populations, helps promote diversity in research participation. The ICTS works to make sure clinical trials at the University have diverse populations, including those from rural areas of Iowa.
Reisinger introduces her colleagues to implementation science and studies how researchers rapidly put their findings into practice. She helps researchers consider implementation from the beginning of their research process, rather than viewing it as an afterthought.
The ICTS works not just with researchers at the University but with students in multiple different programs. The institute supports an undergraduate Certificate in Clinical and Translational Science, an M.S. in Translational Biomedicine, and an M.S. in Clinical Investigation. Along with undergraduate students, many M.D. candidates, nursing students, and health sciences faculty work toward one of these degrees to bolster their translational research skills and obtain specialized training.
Besides its work at the University, the ICTS partners with organizations across the state to promote community engagement. One example is the Science Café program. Partnering with the Environmental Health Sciences and Research Center, the ICTS hosts informal gatherings in small towns like Mount Vernon and Fairfield to discuss what types of research could be helpful for their communities. Then, faculty at the University – typically experts in the areas identified by the community - come and give presentations on their research. The presentations are casual and essentially turn into discussions around the community's needs and how research at the University can help meet those needs.
The ICTS also connects with Iowa communities through Pilot Grants funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The ICTS awarded a Pilot Grant to Dr. Claudia Corwin and Dr. Kimberly Dukes to investigate the effectiveness of a mobile application that asks migrant farmworkers in Iowa about their health and medical care. Partnering with the Iowa-based federally qualified health center, Proteus Inc., the grant recipients aim to track workers' mental health concerns and attitudes to health, mental health, and vaccination and identify gaps in healthcare access in Iowa and beyond.
Workers answer questions through a texting app called Boomerang, which ICTS's Mobile Technology Lab developed. In the future, tracking workers' health through mobile technology could allow organizations like Proteus to follow up with patients who contribute essential agricultural labor while in Iowa. The project would allow continuity of care for one of the most mobile populations in the country.
Another Pilot Grant recipient works directly with Iowa communities to test arsenic levels in residential well water and study healthcare outcomes of consuming arsenic. Dr. Robert Blount is partnering with Iowa State Extension and Outreach, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and the Iowa Department of Public Health to demonstrate how they can implement community-engaged research in rural communities like Cerro Gordo and Bremer counties.
High school students from these counties will come to the University of Iowa to participate in lab work associated with the project, like measuring arsenic levels and analyzing the health effects of consuming those levels of arsenic in their communities.
Moving forward, the ICTS aims to continue to develop the workforce needed to catalyze innovative science, create new methods and tools to move research participation, data collection, and interventions from the clinic to Iowa homes, and promote an innovative, integrated framework for conducting clinical and translational research.
Visit icts.uiowa.edu for the latest ICTS news and opportunities to get involved.