The American University of Beirut (AUB) has been awarded a four-year $863,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish a new interdisciplinary program, the Scholars in HeAlth Research Program (SHARP), which will offer a new certificate and a Master of Science (MS) in health research, specifically focusing on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). The grant will also support a range of “Train-The -Trainer” initiatives and will grant scholarships to 58 SHARP students.
Spearheaded by Dr. Ghada El-Hajj Fuleihan, principal investigator and program director, SHARP is an interfaculty collaborative effort involving co-investigators Dr. Robert Habib from the Faculty of Medicine (FM), Professor Abla Sibai from Health Sciences (FHS), Professor Nahla Hwalla from Agricultural and Food Sciences (FAFS), and Professor Huda Huijer from the Hariri School of Nursing (HSON). Members of the Local Training Advisory Group (TAG) include Drs Kamal Badr, Ali Abu-Alfa, and Huda Zurayk. The external US TAG group includes Drs Gordon Williams and Ellen Seely at Harvard Medical School, Fran Cook at Harvard School of Public Health, and Mary Ellen Sheridan, retired Associate VP for Research at the University of Chicago.
“Establishing SHARP is a landmark achievement in terms of the program novelty, and its successful funding in spite of the scarcity of NIH funds available for US institutions, in general, let alone to international institutions,” stated Dr. Mohamed Sayegh, vice president for medical affairs and the Raja N. Khuri Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. “Indeed, AUB’s application competed successfully against several first-tier academic centers within the US and other international applications. The NIH granted 14 full awards of which only two were outside the US, AUB being one of them.”
Under the SHARP program, FM and FHS will administer a 12-14 credit summer certificate, open to graduates in relevant health fields, as well as a 40-credit master’s degree. Credits earned for the SHARP certificate can also be credited towards other master’s degrees at FM, FHS, FAFS, or HSON. Both SHARP certificate and SHARP master program will equip participants with the skills to conduct clinical and epidemiological research in NCDs, the leading cause of mortality in the world. NCDs include diabetes, hypertension, asthma, osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases and cancers.
In addition to seeding the SHARP program, the four-year grant will cover all expenses for “Train-The -Trainer” activities. These include courses/workshops to be attended, by a group of AUB faculty members, at Harvard University. The grant will also fully cover tuition fees and related costs for a select group of 58 post-graduate trainees or faculty members from FM, FHS, FAFS or HSON, to complete the SHARP summer certificate. From the 58 trainees, 6 scholars from FM will be covered by the grant to complete the SHARP master’s degree
SHARP provides graduates with the required foundation to pursue a career in clinical and translational research, a successful model available in several top-tier academic institutions in the US, and among the first in the region. It will help create and sustain a cadre of highly trained researchers who will conduct patient and population-oriented studies on Non-Communicable Diseases. It will also equip trainees with management and leadership skills needed to become “change agents” and lead research groups, academic departments, or other health care settings. Management and leadership courses will be offered in collaboration with faculty at the Olayan School of Business. Faculty members serving as mentors and/or teachers in SHARP include Drs Elie Akl, Asma Arabi, Thalia Arawi, Ayad Jaffa, Mona Nabulsi, and Hani Tamim from FM, Monique Chaaya, Lilian Ghandour, and Miran Salame Jaffa from FHS, Hala Darwish, Samar Noureddine and Nuhad Yazbik-Doumit from HSON, Farah Naja , Lara Nasreddine and Omar Obeid from FAFS.