Survey results prove successful partnership among SC CTSI, local high school and USC to educate next generation

by John Tibbetts — July 28, 2023

Nearly all participating students at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School agreed they learned something helpful to advance their career goals after attending one or more of three educational workshops implemented by the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI) February 2-9, 2023. Bravo High School is located on the USC Health Sciences Campus, near the Los Angeles General Medical Center. The students at the school are diverse, with 97% of the students enrolled from historically underserved backgrounds. In addition, 87% of the students are economically disadvantaged.

The workshops described many career opportunities in clinical and translational research (CTR) and encouraged the students to develop their skills in this rapidly growing area. An anonymous nine-question feedback survey of 74 participating students showed that 97% reported they would recommend these workshops to others. A new report outlining students’ feedback and workshop outcomes is available here.

Many CTR professionals are either unaware such jobs exist, or transition to jobs in this area only after many years in the workforce. Entry to this career pipeline should begin much earlier to meet growing staffing requirements in CTR.

“It is important to reach younger students earlier so that they learn about possible careers in CTR rather than when they are midway through their careers,” said Allison Zumberge Orechwa, Ph.D., MBA, SC CTSI Senior Director of Strategy and Innovation. “We want to expose students early to a broad range of career options within CTR.”

Another workshop objective is to build greater diversity within the CTR workforce. CTR fields serve a diverse population of research participants, and clinical staff should more closely match that.

“These workshops can help promote a pipeline for our local community members to CTR careers so that our workforce resembles our community and trial participants,” Orechwa said. “The goal of exposing younger students to CTR is to create a broader, cross-cutting workforce that will feed all areas of clinical research down the line.”

The three 2023 workshops covered Clinical Trial Basics, Careers in Clinical and Translational Research, and Professionalism. Students gave high marks to the workshops’ interactive group activities; diverse, personal career stories; and situational workplace examples.

“The students responded very positively to the clinical trial basics workshop, saying they gained a greater understanding of how research works,” said Laura Stoddard, Project Specialist in Strategy and Innovation at SC CTSI.

Student participants praised the CTR careers workshop for offering inspiring examples of people working in this field.

“I loved to hear from the speakers about what they do and how passionate they are about their jobs,” wrote one attendee.

Another attendee felt moved by seeing diversity in action.

“I especially liked the personal narratives of the doctors because I was able to envision the profession with more information,” noted another workshop attendee. “I also felt that their stories were inspiring in that you could see yourself in them, for example, being a woman, immigrant, Hispanic, or a first-generation student.”

The professionalism workshop offered real-world, interactive examples of workplace challenges. The presenter for this workshop was Nicki K. Apaydin, Ph.D., CTSI Associate Director of Communications. When designing the workshop, she wanted to ensure students learned tips for communicating and collaborating effectively with others, how to be successful in an interview, how to go above and beyond in the workplace, and how to set boundaries.

“I provided hypothetical scenarios that we worked through as a group, which I think helped the students grasp the concepts more concretely,” Apaydin said.

Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

“It was genuinely one of the best learning experiences I have ever encountered,” noted a student participant.

In future iterations of the professionalism workshop, the plan is to expand.

“We’d like to continue to develop the professionalism workshops to include interviewing skills and tailoring tailor a resume to applying to CTR jobs,” Stoddard said.

The workshop organizers hope to offer the program to other high schools and higher education institutions and share it with other academic medical centers The CTR workshops, co-organized with the USC Science, Technology, and Research (STAR) Program, are among a series of career development and diversity efforts to meet a sub-aim of the overall SC CTSI grant.

“The feedback we have received shows how impactful these workshops can be in exposing students to CTR careers,” Stoddard added.

NIH Funding Acknowledgment: Important - All publications resulting from the utilization of SC CTSI resources are required to credit the SC CTSI grant by including the NIH funding acknowledgment and must comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.