This summer, I had the privilege of working with the Implementation Science Team at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as an undergraduate fellow. I learned about implementation science as an interdisciplinary study that involves policy, public health, economics, psychology, and sociology. Most importantly, I learned how this field bridges the gap between healthcare research and practice.
I had the opportunity to join meetings, assist on projects, and attend a foundational training course on implementation science to understand methods to study the complexities of implementing evidence-based practices in non-controlled environments. I believe this will guide my future research as a political science major, given my experience reinforced that policy work should be based on practicalities. Accounting for implementation is necessary in any field of study, as the ideal solution is not always the most feasible.
During my fellowship, senior members facilitated our discussions and provided an open learning environment. I attended an internal training course in implementation science, led by Dr. Gila Neta, which was open to all NCI fellows. The course used materials from the Training Institute for Dissemination and Implementation Research in Cancer. Those interested in implementation science were welcome to join the course, which featured ongoing dialogue and opportunities to provide feedback. I particularly enjoyed our question-and-answer sessions because they gave students opportunities to ask clarifying questions about the material that directly related to their work. Additionally, I was very thankful for our mentor’s commitment to teaching during these sessions. Dr. Neta took an active role in providing additional resources to participants to elaborate on topics discussed.
As a result, we learned the necessary tools to form questions and have academic discussions around implementation science. I often thought about how I could apply our research designs, hybrid studies, and implementation strategies to my political science courses moving forward. In doing so, I noticed how many public health issues were often overlooked within my field. Because I had not focused on the politics of health outside of the COVID-19 pandemic, my experience gave me valuable insight into the necessity of prioritizing health in political affairs.
My main research project explored the linkages between public health and climate change policy. Specifically, we reviewed the CDC’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Plans to determine how the plans accounted for climate change and/or emergency preparedness. Because the effects of climate change are rapidly intensifying, disruptions to cancer prevention and control are increasingly problematic. Thus, it is vital to account for the impacts of climate change on cancer control planning. In addition, I learned the value of using quantitative and qualitative research methods to substantiate our findings, which underscored the importance of both methods in social science research.
My experience with NCI's IS team will open many doors for me in the future. As a student, coordinated efforts with health-focused institutions are not only rigorous but undoubtedly unique for my field. As a result, this collaboration will give me new and distinct insights that can drive my research for the better, as I begin to approach graduate-level pursuits.
Julia Ross is a former fellow with the Implementation Science team in the Office of the Director in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the National Cancer Institute.
Dispatches from the Implementation Science Team, is an episodic collection of short form updates, authored by members and friends of the IS team representing a sample of the work being done and topics that our staff are considering for future projects. Topics address some of the advances in implementation science, ongoing issues that affect the conduct of research studies, reflections on fellowships and meetings, as well as new directions for activity from our research and practice communities.