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An Innocent Abroad – Australian reflections from MT-DIRC 2015

August 4, 2015   |   Bogda Koczwara

An opportunity to escape Australian winter to the warmth of Midwestern summer with some quality D&I learning at a top U.S. research university is not something that one would wish to pass by. Not even for fear of jetlag. And so I found myself in St Louis in early June ready to join in a selected cohort of participants from all over United States, 1 Canadian and 2 Australians to join the Mentored Training for Dissemination and Implementation Research in Cancer cohort 2.

The program is focused on D&I research relevant to cancer and attended by mid-career academics from a range or disciplines relevant to cancer control including public health, epidemiology, psychology and health services research with a strong representation of oncologists (very impressive cohort of surgical oncologists) and nurses, which keep conversations relevant to what happens to patients in a real world setting. The curriculum is comprehensive and includes large group sessions with a lot of lively debate (plus occasional light-hearted but thought-provoking banter from faculty) and small group discussions relevant to specific projects aimed to get you to the submission of a grant application stage. This focus on the outcome makes the program more personalised and applied than the usual didactic session that one may catch at conference or a course. More importantly, the program does not end at departure time – the mentoring continues with regular skype conferences and email contact. At conclusion of my week in St Louis, I left with a plan for a small grant application, idea for 2 papers with co-authors lined up and a preliminary plan for collaborative project with one of the faculty. Not bad for a week’s work!

While the grant schemes commonly discussed are not entirely relevant to the Australian setting, the principles are the same, and in fact, the discussion opens up opportunities to consider the US funding schemes and international collaborations. The key here is to focus on what happens after the residential part and take advantage of the network of colleagues around the world with the same interest. This is truly the opportunity (as well as the challenge).