Yale University and the University of Malaya (UM) in Kuala Lumpur have been awarded a multi-million dollar grant to establish the Malaysian Implementation Science Training (MIST) center to catalyze research and training through the Fogarty International Program at the National Institutes of Health.
The program, expected to launch this fall, will train the next generation of researchers in implementation science and builds on 15 years of research collaboration between the two universities to address critical issues surrounding HIV, viral hepatitis, tuberculosis and addiction. Implementation science is a relatively new discipline of research that studies methods and strategies that facilitate the uptake of evidence-based practices and research into regular use by practitioners and policymakers.
The new MIST center will be co-directed by Frederick L. Altice, a Yale professor of medicine and public health, and Adeeba Kamarulzaman, dean of the faculty of medicine at UM.
“This training program will create a new generation of researchers and practitioners in Malaysia to more effectively scale-up prevention and treatment services in a setting where HIV-related mortality and new HIV infections continue to increase,” Altice said.
New HIV infections decreased 9% in the Asia Pacific region, but Malaysia is one of 5 countries in the region where new infections and death are increasing, primarily in key populations such as people who use drugs, men who have sex with men, sex worker and prisoners. These populations account for most infections and have suboptimal access to HIV treatment and prevention services despite HIV care being free in governmental settings.
MIST will train four current 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. Additionally, MIST will train 25 to 30 local public health practitioners annually during a summer “boot camp” program to create real-world implementers. This training will incorporate implementation skills embedded within a human rights framework because the harsh criminalization of drugs, sex work and homosexuality have undermined optimal implementation of HIV prevention and treatment services.
“This program will serve as 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,” Kamarulzaman said.
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 take one semester of coursework, attend seminars and receive mentorship with leading experts. Altice will be joined by many other leading implementation science experts at Yale, including Yale School of Public Health researchers Donna Spiegelman, Luke Davis and Sten Vermund.
“Yale faculty are deeply committed to international training for global capacity-building in universities, non-governmental organizations, and government services. These engagements have been transformative for our own academic culture and has bonded us with our overseas partners for decades as colleagues and friends,” said Vermund, dean of the Yale School of Public Health.
Spiegelman noted that implementation science has emerged as a powerful strategy to introduce and scale-up evidence-based practices. “Our Center for Methods in Implementation and Prevention Science (CMIPS) is ideally situated to mentor and partner with our colleagues in Malaysia,” she said.
The universities are currently finalizing the curriculum for the training and beginning to select the faculty and doctoral candidates who will start in the fall. Trainees will receive a research grant to use their training to conduct research to complement their training.