Letter From the President
After twenty years in academia, and a doctoral program before that, I should be comfortable with uncertainty. Surely dealing with the vagaries of study sections, the critiques of peer reviewers, and a multitude of futile experiments helps to build hardiness. But, none of it prepared me for the uncertainty we face today. As we start to plan for Translational Science 2021, it is pure guesswork whether we can hold events in person, or if we’ll still be communicating via teleconference. My institution is planning in-person classes in the fall, but maybe they will be virtual instead. Finding myself with double the work as I plan for both, I have turned to my colleagues and mentors for support. Sometimes, though, inspiration comes from unexpected sources.
Late last week, after spending a day staring at talking heads on my computer screen for what felt like the 10th straight hour of Zoom calls, I got an e-mail from a prior student. He had been trying to help his research team weather a particularly challenging time without the direct social support we’re used to. He wanted to let me know he was borrowing from a class I used to teach on bouncing back from adversity. That class always began with a rendition of what I consider the anthem of resilience – Tubthumping by Chumbawamba. If you don’t know the song, the chorus is simple:
I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down
That e-mail lifted my spirits. It reminded me of the importance of our networks and teams, and that we all benefit from outreach. It also reminded me that through our work as researchers, mentors, and scholars, we are impacting lives that in return impact us for the better. It got me thinking about the broader importance of our work, and the consequences of improving health. If we can begin to address health inequity, are we creating opportunity for societal vibrancy that will benefit the world in new ways? If we find treatments that can prevent deaths and devastating consequences of COVID-19, do we enrich the world with voices that would otherwise be dulled? These are the possibilities enabled by clinical and translational research. Bringing health to our communities creates opportunities. Understanding how to do this is harder.
We have created a lot of interventions built on robust theoretical and mechanistic frameworks, but many remain on the sidelines. Maybe they were the wrong intervention for the target community, maybe the intervention was inaccessible, or maybe we were interested only in testing efficacy and never took steps towards implementation. Whatever the reason, there is an absolute imperative to translate research findings into practice so we can achieve the changes we intend. Recently, I have been learning a lot from implementation scientists about picking the right problem to solve, and how to design interventions that are scalable and likely to be adopted. At the core of the work is engaging stakeholders, both the people who are targets of the intervention and those who will be deploying the intervention. That engagement should be authentic and bi-directional. That is, to achieve change requires sincere teamwork. I am again reminded of a song lyric that I believe embodies the true spirit of engagement. In the words of Vanilla Ice: Stop, Collaborate and Listen.
Music from the 1980s and ‘90s may not be an inspiration to all, but these few lines reminded me of the importance of improving the health of our communities. More importantly, they reminded how to achieve positive change even during difficult times – keep going, together.
Christopher John Lindsell, PhD
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Journal of Clinical and Translational Science
Volume 4 / Issue 3 of the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science is available online!
JCTS's mission is to provide a forum for the rapid communication of topics of interest and relevance to the large and diverse community of clinical and translational scientists with the goal of improving the efficiency with which health needs inform research and new diagnostics, therapies, and preventive measures reach the public. The Association for Clinical and Translational Science has partnered with the American Physician Scientists Association (APSA) and the Clinical Research Forum (CRF) to support the growth and development of JCTS.
Submit your article today to be featured in future issues of JCTS! Please also visit the JCTS website for information on our themed issue related to Design, Development, Evaluation, and Dissemination of Team Science Interventions in Clinical and Translational Research.
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