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Despite substantial advances in the epidemiology and prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD), these disorders are estimated to become the leading cause of mortality worldwide by the year 2020. Unfortunately, workforce estimates have found a trend toward a shrinking supply of young investigators specializing in this field. It is vital to maintain the momentum of recent gains in our understanding of CVD by training talented physicians and researchers in the rigorous methodology for conducting epidemiologic research. To this end, the University of California San Diego (UCSD), Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, Division of Preventive Medicine has a research intensive interdisciplinary training program for trainees dedicated to careers in academic cardiovascular epidemiology and prevention. This program is designed for pre- and post-doctoral fellows who have a stated commitment to a research career focusing on the epidemiology and prevention of CVD and behavioral medicine.

The goal of the program is to produce medical and epidemiologic scientists who can conduct empiric, interdisciplinary research aimed at preventing cardiovascular diseases from a population-based perspective. The training will consist of several components including didactic coursework and seminars aimed at providing the trainee with the requisite skills for developing into an independent researcher. Additionally, a central component of the program is an independent research project. Within this context, the fellow will be provided extensive and pertinent mentoring by two senior faculty members who will provide coordinated instruction. A program of directed study and data analysis and a core seminar series, required of each trainee, enhance the research training, as do selected opportunities for other course work, patient care, and teaching. Postdoctoral trainees are encouraged to publish three to six articles during their training period (average two years). We have also implemented the use of an Individual Development Plan (IDP), which outlines career goals within the context of organizational objectives. It is a developmental "action" plan to move employees from where they are to where they would like to be or need to be. It provides systematic steps to improve performance and build on strengths related to one's current job, and to meet one's career goals. The goals of an IDP are developed by the employee with input from the supervisor. The IDP links the individual's career interests and needs to organizational priorities.

The program is conducted under the auspices of the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine and includes collaboration with a number of other departments at the University, as well as possibilities for partnership with consultants outside of UCSD. Research being conducted at UCSD spans a broad range and includes studies of subclinical cardiovascular disease, women’s health, hypertension, genetics, peripheral artery disease, venous disease, socio-cultural determinants of CVD, the influence of the built environment on health, obesity prevention and weight loss, cigarette smoking, the inter-relationship of diet and exercise, lipid disorders, obesity, and nutrition intervention studies. A particular focus exists on health disparities for ethnic groups. At the conclusion of the training period, it is anticipated that the fellow will be competitive for extramural funding opportunities.