Dr. Nabila El-Bassel, Willma and Albert Musher Professor of Social Work and director of the Social Intervention Group (SIG), and Dr. Elwin Wu, Associate Professor at CUSSW and SIG's Associate Director, have received a five-year grant renewal from the National Institute of Mental Health to continue their innovative HIV Intervention Science Training Program for Underrepresented New Investigators (HISTP). The grant will be used to enhance a research training infrastructure and program of activities aimed at facilitating the development of promising new scientists from underrepresented groups who are conducting HIV-related dissemination and implementation research.

HISTP, supported by a network of leading HIV scientific advisors and mentors across the country, will directly train and provide an innovative mentorship program to a total of 16 training fellows, to be recruited over the next four years. Fellows will also receive pilot funding and access to a multitude of resources and expert consultation. Another unique aspect of the program is the use of distance mentoring via a Web-based interface. This technological feature will permit the implementation of a nationwide recruitment effort, as trainees can participate from within their own institutions.

"We are very excited to have HISTP at CUSSW, where we have built a rich infrastructure to support innovative training programs,” says Dr. El-Bassel. “A number of faculty have committed to be mentors and to play other leadership roles in the program. The mission of this training program fits well with Columbia University’s mission on diversity.”

There is an urgent need to increase and improve dissemination and implementation research to ensure that effective HIV prevention interventions are delivered to the communities that need them. Thus, a new generation of HIV researchers needs to be trained to conduct such research to make a major impact in reducing new HIV infections, particularly among communities of color. Racial and ethnic minority populations are disproportionately represented amongst those living with HIV/AIDS, yet REM scientists trained as HIV/AIDS researchers are vastly underrepresented.

"Our dynamic HIV Intervention Science Training Program is designed to train the next generation of scholars in how to conduct HIV implementation research, which is critically needed in the field of HIV,” explains Dr. El-Bassel. “Participating in HISTP will bring these young HIV scientists ‘up to the next level’ by improving research skills as well as providing networking opportunities with each other and with foremost scholars in other disciplines. The HISTP will significantly increase the number of NIH-funded HIV researchers from underserved populations."

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