U-M faculty launch research workshop for Kenyan partners

More than 100 doctors and other healthcare leaders in Kenya got a crash course in clinical research courtesy of some committed partners at the University of Michigan.

Dan Clauw leads a session during the February clinical research workship in Meru, Kenya.

Faculty from the Medical School and the College of Pharmacy, in collaboration with the Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research (MICHR), in February hosted a first-of-its-kind research training conference that drew health researchers and leaders from across Kenya. The two-day workshop focused on clinical research processes, from study design to results analysis and more.

“Our course was really a culmination of 10 years of needs assessment,” said Dan Clauw, Professor of Internal Medicine and a Senior Associate Director of MICHR. “Over the years, different universities we’ve worked with in Kenya have expressed a desire to do clinical research, but really there are very few people in Kenya who’ve been appropriately trained conduct clinical research. There aren’t training programs available.”

Clauw, MD, was a primary organizer along with Professor of Pharmacy Vicki Ellingrod, Pharm.D., and Associate Professor of Internal Medicine Elizabeth Jackson, MD, MPH.

Faculty members from the Medical, Pharmacy, Dentistry and Engineering colleges have been working for a decade on cross-disciplinary programs to improve healthcare and overall community health in and around Meru, in central Kenya. But the recent workshop marks a significant milestone for the collaboration, extending the reach and potential impact well beyond Meru. The event was organized with partners at Meru University of Science and Technology and nearby Consolata Hospital Nkubu, but it attracted more than 110 participants from a dozen universities, health centers and government offices from around the country.

Adapted primarily from MICHR courses for U-M students and lab staffers, the workshop focused on identifying clinical questions, writing aims and hypotheses, and crafting grant proposals, as well as good clinical practice regulations for studies – the kind of research skills that can significantly improve care in resource-scarce settings.

“It was really clinical research 101 highlighting point-of-care research skills that are essential for providers in developing communities,” said Clauw. “If you don’t understand basic research principles, it’s hard to truly understand the health challenges facing the community you’re charged with caring for.”

The workshop was very well received and another even larger event is already in the works for 2018. Organizers plan to expand next year from two to three days and offer multiple tracks allowing returning attendees to build on their skills while continuing to welcome new participants.

“The attendees were so enthused. We think that it will grow fairly rapidly through word of mouth as people encourage more of their colleagues to attend,” Clauw said. “We’re excited about the future of the program in Kenya and potentially beyond. We think this model could be recreated by another group of faculty looking to do something elsewhere with a strong local partner with similar needs.”

The U-M sponsored event attracted  more than 110 participants from a dozen universities, health centers and government offices from around Kenya.