December 21, 2012

Training Xchange puts UW research advances into practitioners’ hands

Dr. Mark Snowden, Harborview chief of psychiatry, discusses the implementation of an innovative depression treatment, PEARLS (Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives), with a group of administrators.

UW Training Xchange is on a mission to put more new therapies, tools, and process improvements into the hands of healthcare practitioners and other professionals for the benefit of millions of people. Life-saving advances continually emerge from faculty labs and clinics at the University of Washington, which is one of the nation’s largest recipients of federal research funding for biomedical science.

Most UW researchers publish journal articles about their new findings and proven methods, but many of their readers don’t know how to adopt them. Faculty and graduate students do not have time to set up and promote training programs. To address the innovation adoption gap, the UW is expanding its Training Xchange initiative to enable researchers to transmit their innovations to healthcare workers and other professionals locally and far beyond the Northwest.

Dr. Paul Ciechanowski, director of Training XChange, with Allison Waddell, program manager, in front of the Center for Commercialization sign. Photo by Brian Donohue.

“The UW is one of the nation’s leading centers for health, medical, and bioengineering research, and we’d like to see as many research advances out in the world making lives better for people, rather than sitting on a bookshelf. Training others in their use is a way to do this,” said Dr. Paul Ciechanowski, UW associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the Training Xchange. Ciechanowski co-developed the initiative with Dr. Richard Veith, chair of the UW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Their team created a training infrastructure that helps university researchers translate evidence-based information and methods from their labs and clinics into formats designed for wider dissemination.

Offerings include a range of in-person and online training products through which trainees gain tangible skills and practical knowledge they can put to work immediately.

“Combining our faculty’s expertise with the experience and platform of Training Xchange is a great way to bridge the gap between research and practice,” Veith said.

One major initiative called TEAMcare brings a proven UW faculty intervention to medical clinics. It integrates mental health and medical services for people diagnosed with both depression and diabetes or coronary heart disease. TEAMcare results in better treatment that can save lives. A group led by Dr. Wayne Katon, UW professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, developed TEAMcare with assistance from Training Xchange. Success in promotion and early adoption of  has earned the UW a $1 million award from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to expand the program as part of an $18 million national initiative to foster the widespread implementation of TEAMcare.

Allison Waddell and Zandra Grissom from Training XChange present a poster about the program at a Center for Commercialization’s Innovator Award Ceremony.

“Health professionals are eager to have concrete ways to help their patients, and the Training Xchange infrastructure makes it easier to transmit programs like TEAMcare,” Katon said.

Training Xchange is already at work across the country. It has been teaching health professionals at a major national health system how to reduce debilitating anxiety in patients with an approach developed jointly by UW and UCLA. Clients for Training Xchange programs now include Harborview Medical Center and The Polyclinic in Seattle, the California Institute of Mental Health, the national offices of the Epilepsy Foundation in Maryland and others.

As a program within the university’s Center for Commercialization, more commonly known as C4C, the Training Xchange has expanded from its early focus on healthcare to other training areas, such as education, computer science, and bioengineering.

“Over the coming years, we are committed to seeing more of our research outcomes in practice out in the world,” said Fiona Wills, director of Technology Licensing at C4C. “Training Xchange is a terrific option for our busy researchers to increase the visibility and impact of their innovations.”