The Grantsmanship Training Workshop for Health Behavior Researchers is designed for early-career investigators with an interest in health behavior research, and it is an interactive Workshop that provides step-by-step training on how to develop a competitive grant proposal. This year’s Workshop was facilitated by eight senior-level health behavior researchers from UCONN (Drs. Kim Gans, Meg Gerrard, Rick Gibbons, Amy Gorin, Jennifer Harris, Blair Johnson, Seth Kalichman, and Lisa Sanetti), the Chief of the Basic Biobehavioral and Psychological Sciences Branch at the National Cancer Institute (Dr. Paige McDonald), and the Coordinator for Special Projects at UCONN Global Affairs (Dr. Dorothea Hast) who spoke to attendees about UCONN’s international connections and the opportunities for global research. Feedback from the Workshop was extremely positive with many attendees reporting that it was “engaging, collaborative, and exciting,” and that the insight and concrete examples provided by experts about grant writing and funding opportunities resulted in them feeling “motivated and much more prepared than two months ago” to write grants.
InCHIP Affiliate Amy Mobley, PhD, RD, an Assistant Professor of Community Nutrition in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at UCONN’s College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources, has benefited from a number of InCHIP services including the 2014 and 2016 Grantsmanship Training Workshops. In Spring 2013, Mobley was awarded an InCHIP Seed Grant for New Investigators to collect pilot data that she needed to apply for external funding for a larger project. In 2014, Mobley attended the 2014 Grantsmanship Training Workshop, was accepted into the 2014 Mentorship Program, matched with InCHIP Principal Investigator (PI) and Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Kim Gans, and was awarded one of InCHIP’s 2014 Summer Stipends to partially support grant writing throughout the summer months.
“There is an art to writing grants,” Mobley said. “You absolutely need guidance and practice. I still feel like I have so much to learn and that’s one of the reasons I came back to the 2016 Workshop. To communicate ideas to someone who may or may not be in your field, that’s a challenge and it’s really difficult.”
Mobley’s research interests are related to a discovery she made nearly ten years ago through her work on health behaviors in preschool-aged children: the majority of the literature on child feeding and physical activity behaviors targets the role of mothers in families with young children, but fathers play a role in children’s risk for obesity and that role is not well understood. Mobley’s pilot funding from the InCHIP Seed Grant allowed her to continue her investigation of this phenomenon throughout the 2013-14 academic year. Through interviews conducted with 150 fathers of preschool children in Connecticut, Mobley learned about fathers’ roles in planning meals, grocery shopping, dealing with picky eaters, and fathers’ unique concern for their child’s physical activity level. “Also,” said Mobley, “the fathers want[ed] a special program with their child. They didn’t want it to be mom and dad.”
Dr. Gans, who specializes in intervention development and has years of experience conducting research in obesity prevention, worked collaboratively with Mobley on refining her research about the role of fathers in children’s nutrition habits. Mobley and Gans then reworked an unfunded USDA grant proposal to apply together for funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The R21 feasibility study entitled “Father-Focused Nutrition and Parenting Program to Help Prevent Childhood Obesity in Preschool Age Children” was awarded in May 2016 for a 24-month project period and involves the development and evaluation of a cognitive-behavioral intervention for Connecticut fathers focused on feeding and parenting. This was Mobley’s first submission to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and she credits InCHIP for encouraging and supporting her throughout this two-year process. “I’m thankful for having these different resources and vehicles to push me to submit the application, because I was just thinking that I would keep delaying the process. I feel that they [resources and vehicles] all had a role in the success of this grant.”
Kelley Newlin-Lew, DNSc, APRN, CDE, Assistant Professor in UCONN’s School of Nursing and an InCHIP Affiliate, participated in both the 2014 Grantsmanship Training Workshop and the 2014 Mentorship Program. She praises InCHIP for providing “truly exceptional” resources and for helping her take a team science approach represented in her R34 planning grant proposal. Newlin-Lew was matched with InCHIP PI and Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences Amy Gorin, PhD, as her mentor in 2014. Newlin-Lew and Gorin both conduct research related to obesity prevention and diabetes management. Newlin-Lew worked with Gorin throughout the 2014-15 academic year to refine her grant writing skills and develop a compelling proposal. They formed a multidisciplinary team that included faculty from Computer Engineering and Pharmacy. As Newlin-Lew indicated, “I really needed someone with a similar research interest and a high level of expertise to mentor me in order to develop a highly competitive application. Amy Gorin was a perfect match for me.”
Newlin-Lew’s R34 grant, which was submitted to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), will develop and test a diabetes self-management and medication intensification intervention for federally-qualified health centers that leverages existing resources and promotes greater chronic disease management. The medication intensification component involves upgrades to the Electronic Medical Record (EMR), and the diabetes self-management component involves providing support services for patients in-between primary care visits.
When asked if she had any advice to offer early-career investigators who are considering whether to participate in future professional development programs at InCHIP, Newlin-Lew said, “While a junior investigator may have a lot of promise, to really excel, you need expert mentoring to advance your work. The resources and mentorship [at InCHIP] are so strong that it would be a disservice to one’s research program not to take advantage of them. I was working on my own in a silo in the School of Nursing. I love my work one-thousand times more now that I’m engaging with Amy and other InCHIP scholars across disciplines.”