K-12 Virtual Clinical Research Center & Medical Ignorance Exploratorium

October 19, 2006

By Flinn Foundation

Grant No. RR022720-01
Award: $1,350,000 Principal Investigator
Marlys Witte, 520-626-6118
University of Arizona, Tuscon, AZ

Health literacy and science literacy have been placed at the top of the nation’s health and education agendas. This public recognition of deficiencies and a commitment to improve health/science education and innovation in schools and communities meshes with the NIH Roadmap and NCRR strategic plans to “re-engineer the clinical research enterprise,” including refueling the clinical researcher pipeline and enhancing public understanding of clinical research. Until we initiated the University of Arizona’s Curriculum on Medical Ignorance (CMI), few had capitalized on the power of shifting the science/medical education paradigm to focus on “what we know we don’t know,” and “what we don’t know we don’t know, and think we know, but don’t,” the terrain of all learning and discovery in medicine and clinical research. Nor had many experimented with authentic student-centered inquiry strategies to recognize and deal with scientific/medical ignorance by valuing Questions, Questioning, and Questioners.

In this proposal, we plan to introduce a broadband Internet-based Arizona-wide and then national K-12 audience to:

  1. first ever Virtual Clinical Research Center (VCRC); and
  2. Medical Ignorance Exploratorium, where students can become skilled “Questionators,” surf resources, and both query and navigate expanding “Isles of Medical Ignorance” as members of clinical/translational research teams.

Through established and emerging multi-institutional/organizational partnerships and Arizona’s internationally recognized Telemedicine Program, VCRC and the Medical Ignorance Exploratorium will create progressive, live and Internet-based, age-appropriate and culture-sensitive, collaborative experiences, spanning clinical research topics from artificial hearts, to breast cancer, to gene therapy. These will be designed to engage and progressively involve the participant in the diverse multidisciplinary Teams, complex Technologies, and bench-to-bedside “community Translation”, investigating the questions that generate the heartbeat of the clinical research enterprise.

The 3-stage project evaluation model will focus on the principles of:

  1. design-test-refine;
  2. implement-test-refine; and
  3. disseminate-test, incorporating evaluations of both process and outcome using an experimental model assessing dose-response relationships, and mediators and moderators of success and effectiveness both short- and long-term.

Thus, the K-12 Virtual Clinical Research Center and Medical Ignorance Exploratorium aim to show the K-12 community how current medical ignorance fuels the 3Qs that energize the clinical research enterprise. Further, showcasing clinical research and clinical research teams in this collaborative, inquiry-driven, Internet-based environment should further the NIH Roadmap by recruiting and assembling the diverse clinical research teams of the future, forging the complex infrastructure for new pathways of discovery, and educating the public about clinical research, thereby facilitating the translation of basic science advances from bench to bedside to community.