Voils Awarded NIH Research Education Grant for Behavioral Interventions Training Program

Corrine Voils, PhD, Professor in the Division of Minimally Invasive Surgery, Morgridge Distinguished Chair in Health Services Research, and Director of the Wisconsin Surgical Outcomes Research Program, has been awarded a four-year, $840,000 Research Education Program (R25) grant from the National Cancer Institute. The grant will provide funding for Dr. Voils and her collaborators to host an annual advanced-level short course that provides early- to mid-career scientists with training in innovative approaches for designing and conducting randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of behavioral interventions.

“Behavioral interventions can be extremely effective to prevent and treat chronic conditions like obesity, substance use, and cancer,” said Voils. “The challenge is that, unlike RCTs of new drugs or medical devices, in the field of behavioral medicine the intervention development process is not as standardized. Investigators who want to develop and test behavioral interventions really require specialized training to learn innovative methodologies and implement best practices for how to design and conduct these types of studies.”

Iterations of this course have been funded by different NIH institutes for nearly 25 years. Initially known as the NIH Summer Institute for Randomized Trials of Behavioral Interventions, the course was created and led by Peter Kaufmann, PhD, for over 15 years and was then led by Dr. Kate Stoney of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for two years. At the time, the course consisted of two consecutive weeks of in-person training led by core faculty who are leading experts in various behavioral intervention research methods and who have real-world experience conducting these types of research trials. Kenneth Freedland, PhD, assumed leadership of the course from 2019-2023, during which time the course format was altered to nine consecutive days of in-person training. The course draws clinician and non-clinician learners from diverse disciplines and universities in the United States and is popular among budding behavioral researchers; many career development award applicants list it as a training activity.

With this award, Dr. Voils will take over as Program Director of the course, which is being restructured to a four-day in-person meeting followed by a series of nine two-hour virtual meetings involving small learning communities that are each comprised of six program fellows and two faculty mentors.

“Over the past 25 years, this course has been critical to training the next generation of scientists who will design and conduct rigorous behavioral RCTs,” Voils explained. “I’m thrilled to take over leadership of this course and to continue the legacies of Drs. Peter Kaufmann and Ken Freedland. In doing so, we’re ensuring that future behavioral interventions will contribute to the evidence base that is needed to change clinical guidelines, practices, and policies.”