Universiti Malaya (UM) and Yale University have been awarded a multi-million grant to establish a research and training centre on HIV implementation science through the Fogarty International Programme at the National Institutes of Health. From the overall grant, UM is receiving RM1.5 million.
This programme, designed to train the next generation of implementation science researchers, builds on 15 years of research collaboration between the two universities to address critical issues at the interface of HIV, viral hepatitis, tuberculosis and addiction. This will be the second Fogarty International training programme at the Faculty of Medicine, UM, having established a Masters in Research Ethics together with the Johns Hopkins University two years ago.
The Malaysian Implementation Science Training (MIST) programme will be co-directed by Frederick L. Altice, a professor of medicine and public health at Yale, and Dato’ Professor Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at UM. Professor Altice has been a Visiting Professor and Academic Icon at UM for many years, whilst Dato’ Professor Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman has an appointment as an Adjunct Associate Professor at Yale University. Adeeba and Altice have had a long and successful history of collaboration in Malaysia on prevention and treatment of HIV, especially amongst vulnerable populations like men who have sex with men, prisoners, people who inject drugs, transgender women and sex workers. Their very successful and productive collaboration has resulted in multiple joint research grants and more than 50 joint publications including in high impact journals such as The Lancet and The Lancet Global Health.
According to Altice, “This training programme will create a new generation of implementation science researchers and practitioners in Malaysia to more adequately scale-up prevention and treatment services in a setting where HIV-related mortality and new HIV infections continue to increase.” MIST will train 4 current UM faculty members in implementation science along with 10 doctoral students in public health over the next five years to create the local expertise to address HIV prevention and treatment.
MIST will also train 25-30 local public health practitioners during a summer implementation science “boot camp” in Malaysia. This practical training will incorporate implementation science skills embedded within a human rights framework because harsh criminalisation of drugs, sex work and homosexuality have undermined optimal implementation of HIV prevention and treatment services.
Adeeba notes that, “This programme will serve as a model for integrating human rights into real-world implementation for HIV prevention and treatment and hopefully reduce stigma and discrimination toward key populations with or at risk for HIV.”
“Furthermore, more the Implementation Science expertise generated from this programme will ultimately be applicable across all diseases,” she adds.
Doctoral training will be provided through a hybrid training model where Malaysian trainees will participate in a combination of distance-based and onsite learning with Yale faculty. While at Yale, they will complete one semester of coursework, attend seminars and receive mentorship with leading implementation science experts. Professor Altice will be joined by many other leading implementation science experts at Yale, including Donna Spiegelman, Luke Davis, Sten Vermund and others.
Dr. Vermund, Dean of the School of Public Health, remarks that, “Yale is deeply committed to international training, which has been transformative both for the university, but especially for our international partners who become our colleagues.”
“Universiti Malaya has begun developing a programme in implementation science. This programme will establish a solid foundation and transform recognition for this emerging area of research for the university and in the region,” states Deputy Dean for Research, Faculty of Medicine, UM, Professor Dr. Ng Chirk Jenn.
The two universities are now finalising the curriculum for the training and beginning to select the faculty and PhD candidates who will start in October. Trainees will receive a research grant to use their training to conduct research to complement their training.