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UNC School of Medicine and UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy leaders in professional development created a resource to help the National Institutes of Health evaluate T32 graduate and postdoctoral training programs at universities across the country. UNC School of Medicine’s Rebekah Layton, PhD, and Rob Nicholas, PhD, were co-leaders of this effort.

CHAPEL HILL, NC – A collaborative team of professional development and graduate education leaders from the UNC School of Medicine and the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy developed a web resource to promote critical evaluation of UNC T32 graduate and postdoctoral training programs.

The resource, funded through an $86,000 supplemental award to an existing $3-million Clinical Pharmacology T32 postdoctoral training grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), is the result of a year-long, evidence-based study across stakeholder groups, including graduate students and postdoctoral trainees, faculty, university leadership, industry scientific leaders, and national policy thought leaders.

The creators of this website and related resources are:

Rebekah Layton, PhD, and Rob Nicholas, PhD, from the UNC School of Medicine; and Jacqui McLaughlin, PhD, Kirsten Leysieffer, MA, Paul Watkins, MD, and Kim Brouwer, PharmD, PhD, from the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Watkins has joint appointments at the UNC School of Medicine and the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Dr. Tom Angelo, an international educational assessment expert, served as a consultant.

The website includes program evaluation basics for those new to assessment, as well as sample resources such as logic models, focus group scripts, and surveys – including a newly developed core survey plus additional modular survey options to allow program directors to customize their evaluation. In addition, links to internal UNC resources and external national resources are provided as a starting point, along with contact information to arrange one-on-one consultation for T32 Training Programs in the biological, biomedical, pharmaceutical, and life-sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The current resources were developed specifically to address NIGMS grant evaluation requirements. However, the tools are intended to be broadly useful to NIH T32 programs beyond the current 10 NIGMS-funded T32 programs across Carolina’s campus. The resources will be rolled out digitally on the website, presented at national conference venues for dissemination, and presented locally at the UNC T32 Directors Meeting (contact Dr. Rob Nicholas for questions or to be added to the listserv).

While the study was designed specifically around NIGMS training programs in order to select a subset with cohesiveness to purpose, areas of training focus, and similar skill development priorities, the project team has designed the resources to be useful beyond NIGMS-funded training grants, including other NIH T32s, R25s, and similar training programs. If you are a program director looking to revamp your evaluation plan, are planning for a grant submission or resubmission, or would just like to learn more about program evaluation options, we encourage you to check out the website.

Brouwer noted that, “Evaluation of trainees, mentors, and training program effectiveness is a high priority at UNC. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to assemble a strong team of educational experts, with support from NIGMS, to develop an evidence-based assessment process and share evaluation tools across all training programs to enhance program evaluation capacity.”

Watkins said, “It is clear that the NIH desires to have more vigorous evaluation methods for the training programs they support and we are very pleased that they selected UNC to help guide them with this effort.”

Layton added, “We hope this provides a useful resource for our own prospective and current Training Program Directors, starting with our NIGMS-funded training community on campus, but we hope it will be relevant more broadly across training programs, and even beyond UNC.”

Nicholas concluded, “It is crucial for T32 Program Directors to evaluate the effectiveness of their training programs, and this resource will be incredibly helpful to support programs in focusing on ways to improve the training of graduate students using evidence-based methods.”

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number T32GM086330. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.