Most fellows participate in two to five hours of didactics per week. Didactic offerings are as follows:
Monthly Professional Development Seminars. The monthly Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior (DPHB) postdoctoral seminar sponsored by the Clinical Psychology Training Consortium is required for fellows with Ph.D.s in clinical psychology. Recognizing that some of the fellows will likely spend a percentage of their career involved in clinical practice, the topics in this seminar series focus on clinical practice such as: the licensure process, career paths, supervising and mentoring, and other professional issues.
Academic Grand Rounds. The DPHB presents Grand Rounds during the academic year. Grand Rounds provide state-of-the-art information from a diversity of experts in the field of health care. The format for Grand Rounds consists of a formal presentation followed by a question and answer session. Academic Grand Rounds are held the first Wednesday of every month and feature nationally known experts in psychiatry.
Research Methods. These sessions cover basic concepts and principles of methodology in clinical research, as well as several “design by example” sessions. The didactic sessions cover such topics as specific design issues in treatment research, measuring therapist adherence and competence, therapist effects, strategies for sample recruitment and retention, sample size and power determination, data management, basic computer methods for research management, and the uses of qualitative versus quantitative methods. The sessions also include presentation of sophisticated statistical techniques such as survival regression analyses and time varying covariate analyses. Several sessions are devoted to a "design by example series", in which different investigators present the design of one of their funded studies, and go over in detail the rationale for the basic design decisions. The design-by-example series are structured to include examples of clinical trials, naturalistic studies, and health services studies. In the Design by Example series, focus is on methodological issues related to grantsmanship (e.g., how the investigator adjusted methods in response to critiques, what goals were sacrificed to achieve a feasible design). The involvement of younger faculty in Design by Example sessions give fellows exposure to the experiences of those close to the fellows in their career paths. In the Analysis by Example series, a senior quantitative faculty member typically presents in collaboration with another faculty member on a difficult analytical problem. These seminars allow the teaching of the process of data analysis (the exchanges between investigator and statistical consultant) as well as the content of statistical methods with which the fellows may not be conversant. We have found that a combination of didactic and by-example sessions give fellows a better appreciation for how research methods are applied in a variety of clinical settings. The by-example sessions have typically received high ratings from the fellows.
Special Topics in Statistics. Each year, the fellows are polled regarding topics in statistics in which they would like more in-depth instruction. One topic is selected for each monthly seminar. This seminar, taught by biostatisticians in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior and the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, offers fellows a chance to work on applied problems in statistics. This past year, for example, multiple and logistic regression analyses was the topic. In the regression seminar, the following areas were covered:
- Assumptions involved with regression analyses
- Distribution, skewness, outliers, curtosis and transforming variables
- Correlation coefficients, predicted scores, and residuals
- Variance: unique variance, shared variance
- Causal models and regression
- Bivariate correlation and regression
- Contrasts and interactions
- Forward and backward stepwise regression
- Statistical power and effect size calculations for multiple regression
Grant-Related Information. Consistent with the program’s emphasis on the importance of funded research, a number of sessions of the core seminar series are devoted to the logistics and mechanics of obtaining grants. These include an overview of types of NIH grant mechanisms, sources of non-Federal funding, the process of submitting a grant, the NIH review process, and an introduction to the basics of grant writing. Copies of NIH grant application forms are distributed, and each section reviewed. The NIH website is described, and instructions provided on how to access the CRISP database. Early sessions are more didactic, and begin with introductory information about various funding agencies. This is followed by a more detailed presentation of how NIMH is organized, and how the grants review process works. Instruction on how to complete each component of a PHS grant application, including the budget as well as the research protocol, is provided. Each step in preparing the grant is reviewed, including dealing with the Brown offices for Biomedical Research and the Office of Research Administration, and the local Institutional Review Boards.
Ethical Issues in Psychiatric Research. This seminar series was developed for the T32 programs and refined over the last five years so that the most engaging presenters and formats for teaching ethical principles in scientific research are currently used. The sessions on ethics are interspersed with the sessions on research topics and methods, providing the opportunity to integrate the principles with real life examples. For example, the research methods sessions on sample recruitment and retention raise key issues regarding ethics, which are also addressed in the ethics sessions on safety monitoring/withdrawal, and ethical issues in subject recruitment. A resource used for the ethics sessions is Teaching the Responsible Conduct of Research Through a Case Study Approach (AAMC, 1994). Case-based discussions are led by members of the training faculty, and occasionally by outside experts. A minimum of 14 different sessions are provided and required over the 2 years of training, with topics alternating every two years. Topics covered during the past year include: guidelines for authorship in supervisor projects and other research collaboration; special issues associated with the use of minors in Human Subjects research, safety monitoring/withdrawal in clinical research projects, the use of placebos in research, informed consent and the IRB process, and ethical issues in recruitment. Examples of topics covered in the alternate year include obtaining consent in cases of diminished capacity, definitions and examples of misconduct in science, and issues surrounding diversity in research.
Grant-writing seminar. Preparation of an individual grant proposal for submission to NIH or an appropriate foundation is a component of this application. In this seminar, each trainee works one-on-one with his or her supervisor, and presents his or her research plans at weekly research discussion group meetings discussed below. Continuing sessions are devoted to analysis and feedback on grant proposals as they are developed by trainees. Each component of their proposed research is reviewed and critiqued by selected 2nd year fellows, the grant-writing seminar leaders, and the fellow's individual faculty supervisors. Study aims, significance, preliminary studies, and methods of study are written section-by-section, and rewritten following the critiques. At the culmination of this experience, each fellow completes an entire application that is presented to faculty and training fellows, simulating an IRG. Faculty members with pertinent expertise are chosen to serve as primary reviewers of the grant, as is one fellow. The primary reviewers write their critiques using the outline provided to IRG reviewers. These written critiques are given to the fellow applicant at the completion of an oral review of the proposed study. The oral review is conducted much like an IRG review, except that a whole seminar session is devoted to a single grant review. Following the oral presentations, a discussion occurs where the fellow and the reviewers engage in dialogue directed at assisting the fellow in improving his/her application.
Track Specific Clinical Seminars. Another seminar series available to each fellow is the "track specific" seminar which covers more intensive and specific clinical and research topics within each of the four areas of specialization. This seminar series is sponsored by the Internship Program and fellows may attend the seminars with interns whose attendance is required. Attendance at the track seminar varies by track depending in part on the fellow's background.
Postdoctoral fellows are encouraged to become familiar with other ongoing seminars and courses at Brown University and within the DPHB. There are also numerous other educational opportunities at various teaching hospitals and on campus.