Dr. Sally ShumakerTranslating the science of biomedical research into real-world patient care is a complicated business, contends Dr. Sally Shumaker, senior associate dean for research at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. To speed up that process and strengthen the ties between research and care, the medical school opened the Translational Science Institute (TSI) in 2007.

Much of TSI’s work is rooted in collaboration: Teams must work together across different disciplines, and researchers must rely heavily on others. “Multidisciplinary teams are not new, but they are increasingly important as biomedical research has become more complicated. The technology needs have grown, avenues of information are greater and an individual cannot be an expert in everything,” Sally explains.

But in the highly competitive world of medical academia, multidisciplinary work brushes up against long, established systems and a strong culture of individual achievement. To realize the benefits of effective, often complex, collaborative relationships, TSI needed to rethink processes and incentives, as well as invest in individual and team-level skills. Sally turned to CCL to help inject the organization with new perspectives and practical tools that would support more effective multidisciplinary teams.

CCL, partnering closely with Sally, her colleague Dr. Claudine Legault and staff from TSI, developed a two-tiered program. The goal of the initial one-day session is to solidify the line between collaboration and critical work outcomes, while also working on communication skills and techniques. The second one-day session focuses on group dynamics, building trust, stages of team development and the various roles of leaders. So far, 135 researchers, assistants, technology and administrative personnel have taken part in the training.

Participants gained valuable insights, practical skills and “they were eager to learn,” Sally says. “We thought they might be hesitant, but, if anything, they wanted more. This is a group of very dedicated researchers, and they know the benefits of translating their research. They saw the CCL program as an opportunity to learn new skills and tools for making it happen.”

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