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As the field of D&I (dissemination and implementation) science grows to meet the need for more effective and timely applications of research findings in routine practice, the demand for formalized training programs has increased concurrently. The Mentored Training for Dissemination and Implementation Research in Cancer (MT-DIRC) Program aims to build capacity in the cancer control D&I research workforce, especially among early career researchers. This paper outlines the various components of the program and reports results of systematic evaluations to ascertain its effectiveness.
Essential features of the program include selection of early career fellows or more experienced investigators with a focus relevant to cancer control transitioning to a D&I research focus, a 5-day intensive training institute, ongoing peer and senior mentoring, mentored planning and work on a D&I research proposal or project, limited pilot funding, and training and ongoing improvement activities for mentors. The core faculty and staff members of the MT-DIRC program gathered baseline and ongoing evaluation data regarding D&I skill acquisition and mentoring competency through participant surveys and analyzed it by iterative collective reflection.
A majority (79%) of fellows are female, assistant professors (55%); 59% are in allied health disciplines, and 48% focus on cancer prevention research. Forty-three D&I research competencies were assessed; all improved from baseline to 6 and 18 months. These effects were apparent across beginner, intermediate, and advanced initial D&I competency levels and across the competency domains. Mentoring competency was rated very highly by the fellows––higher than rated by the mentors themselves. The importance of different mentoring activities, as rated by the fellows, was generally congruent with their satisfaction with the activities, with the exception of relatively greater satisfaction with the degree of emotional support and relatively lower satisfaction for skill building and opportunity initially.
These first years of MT-DIRC demonstrated the program’s ability to attract, engage, and improve fellows’ competencies and skills and implement a multicomponent mentoring program that was well received. This account of the program can serve as a basis for potential replication and evolution of this model in training future D&I science researchers.