New UIC center aims to improve research impact

woman looking at test tubes, wearing goggles and white jacketThe UIC Center for Dissemination and Implementation Science (CDIS) has a simple vision: to improve health around the world by speeding the delivery of proven interventions and programs to the people who will most benefit from them.

“In order to effectively disseminate interventions and programs, we need to know more about how to design interventions that work in the real world as opposed to just under ideal conditions in a lab or at the hospital,” said Dr. Geri Donenberg, professor of medicine and psychology in the UIC College of Medicine and director of the new center, which held a kick-off party in December.

The center, which is housed in and supported by the College of Medicine’s department of medicine, has already produced more than 20 scientific publications, garnered more than $18 million in research funding and has numerous current grants and contracts and has hired several new faculty members. More than 50 agencies and community organizations have partnered with or collaborated with the center on research projects.

“We launched the center because we have all these interventions that researchers have designed and tested and that work, but we need to be sure they can work in the community, and dissemination and implementation science is devoted to the study of what makes an intervention successful or not,” said Dr. Patricia Finn, the Earl M. Bane Professor of Medicine and head of the department of medicine at UIC. “There’s a statistic that says that it takes upwards of 17 years for interventions to make their way into the community, and it may take longer in vulnerable populations. That’s just too long. We need to get that number down.”

“When designing a study, dissemination and implementation are things you want to think about right from the start,” said Dennis Watson, associate professor of medicine and the Center’s associate director of community engagement.

Examining and understanding barriers to acceptance or uptake of an intervention is a key goal of dissemination and implementation science.

“What if there is a vaccine but nobody uses it? Knowing what the barriers are and why they are there can help researchers tailor the delivery of the vaccine or design education to explain why people should consider taking the vaccine,” Donenberg said.

CDIS faculty also look at facilitators to implementation and the feasibility, cost-effectiveness, sustainability and acceptability of interventions and programs. Key focus areas of the center are mental health, adolescent sexual and reproductive health, HIV prevention and treatment, and urban and global health. The center also hosts orkshops, courses, meetings and seminars, as well as training and internship opportunities.

Watson is currently working on a research project through the center that looks at the delivery of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to people with opioid use disorder who present at an emergency room. MAT uses medications like methadone or suboxone to treat opioid addiction. The study evaluates the effectiveness of having the patient meet with a peer recovery coach after discharge who has personal experience with opioid use disorder versus having emergency room staff discuss MAT.

“We know that there can be barriers for both the patient and medical staff in discussing MAT,” he said. “Our early findings suggest that patients respond better to peer coaches and are more likely to accept MAT when it comes from someone who has been through a similar experience. This is a great example of how implementation of the intervention – in this case, MAT – makes a big difference.”

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