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Training Program


Bioethics and research ethics training at UNC-Chapel Hill



A beautiful picture  of the Old Well

UNC-Chapel Hill offers a matrix of resources for bioethics and research ethics training.

The School of Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill is one of the premier public health institutions in the United States and enjoys an international reputation in public health research. The School hosts a number of federally funded international research projects, including projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and South Africa. UNC researchers have experience -- on a very practical level -- with the ethical complexities of conducting health research in resource-poor countries. This makes the School a natural home for the Public Health Ethics program, founded and directed by Jim Thomas.

The mission of UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Social Medicine is to broaden medical education by examining the social conditions and characteristics of patients, the social causes of illness and the social barriers to effective care, and the social and ethical responsibilities of health care professionals. Faculty members Gail Henderson (co-investigator in this Fogarty bioethics project) and Nancy King are experts in qualitative approaches to research ethics issues, research ethics training in non-Western settings, and the legal, ethical and social aspects of genetic research. Henderson and King are also co-editors of Beyond Regulations: Ethics in Human Subjects Research.

UNC-Chapel Hill enjoys a special relationship with Family Health International (FHI) in nearby Durham, North Carolina. FHI is one of the largest and most established non-profit organizations dedicated to the promotion of public health in resource-poor settings through research, education and service. Besides its vast international experience in HIV prevention, sexually transmitted infections and reproductive health, FHI has substantial expertise in research ethics, and has designed research ethics training curricula that have been used throughout the world.

UNC-Chapel Hill's integrated system of five Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) is known for its excellence in the ethical review of domestic and international research. It is overseen by the Office of Human Research Ethics, whose director Dan Nelson is faculty member of the School of Social Medicine and past president of the Applied Research Ethics National Association (ARENA).

The Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) at UNC-Chapel Hill provides infrastructure to support clinical, virological, pharmacological, behavioral and immunological research on the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The Behavioral Core supports studies on the ethical aspects of HIV/AIDS research, while the International Core provides research ethics guidance and promotes international collaborations with other centers for research ethics training and education. The Center is also home to the UNC CFAR Ethics and HIV Working Group, established in 2005 to improve understanding of ethical issues arising from ongoing UNC HIV research.


Expected outcomes of UNC bioethics and research ethics training


The three main expected outcomes of the Fogarty bioethics and research ethics training at UNC are:


  • Bioethics and research ethics curriculum building

Fogarty scholars will create course packages to be integrated into the Master's of Public Health curriculum at the Kinshasa School of Public Health. The course package will form the basis of an intensive two-week module, covering relevant themes in public health ethics, research ethics and medical ethics.


  • Bioethics Research and project development

Fogarty scholars will work with research mentors to create a peer-reviewed publication and/or create a research protocol and proposal to be submitted for funding. The research may be purely conceptual, or employ qualitative and/or quantitative empirical methods.


  • IRB skills-building and resource development

In consultation with members of Kinshasa School of Public Health, Fogarty scholars will develop skills and create materials to enhance the strength of ethical review at the Kinshasa IRB. Possible activities include design of standard operating procedures, informational brochures for investigators, an IRB toolkit or a guidebook for community representatives. Scholars will attend sessions at the different IRBs within UNC and meetings of the FHI Ethics Review Committee. They will also gain hands-on training by working with an IRB administrator at UNC's Office of Human Research Ethics.


Other activities and opportunities


Course attendance


While at UNC, Fogarty scholars can audit gradate-level UNC courses that match their research interests, such as History and Philosophy of Epidemiology, Foundations of Public Health Ethics, HIV/AIDS in Developing Countries, or Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Global Health.


Meetings and conferences


Fogarty scholars also have the opportunity to attend local, regional and national bioethics and research ethics meetings. In Fall 2006, these meetings can include the National Human Protections Conference being held at nearby Duke University, whose theme is 'Crossing the line: What is acceptable risk?' (Sept 25-26); the workshop on Ancillary care responsibilties of researchers working in developing countries held at Georgetown University (Oct 20-22); 'Challenging Voices' is the theme of the upcoming American Society of Bioethics and the Humanities conference in Denver, Colorado (Oct 26-29); the annual Human Research Protections Programs (PRIMER) conference held this year in Washington DC, entitled 'Advancing the mission of human research protection programs' (Nov 15-18). Scholars are also invited to attend the meetings of the local UNC-Duke Bioethics forum.



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