Background: It is estimated that over 46 million individuals have atrial fibrillation (AF) worldwide, and the incidence and prevalence of AF are increasing globally. There is an urgent need to accelerate the academic development of scientists possessing the skills to conduct innovative, collaborative AF research.
Methods: We designed and implemented a virtual AF Strategically Focused Research Network Cross-Center Fellowship program to enhance the competencies of early-stage AF basic, clinical, and population health researchers through experiential education and mentorship. The pedagogical model involves significant cross-center collaboration to produce a curriculum focused on enhancing AF scientific competencies, fostering career/professional development, and cultivating grant writing skills. Outcomes for success involve clear expectations for fellows to produce manuscripts, presentations, and-for those at the appropriate career stage-grant applications. We evaluated the effectiveness of the fellowship model via mixed methods formative and summative surveys.
Results: In 2 years of the fellowship, fellows generally achieved the productivity metrics sought by our pedagogical model, with outcomes for the 12 fellows including 50 AF-related manuscripts, 7 publications, 28 presentations, and 3 grant awards applications. Participant evaluations reported that the fellowship effectively met its educational objectives. All fellows reported medium to high satisfaction with the overall fellowship, webinar content and facilitation, staff communication and support, and program organization.
Conclusions: The fellowship model represents an innovative educational strategy by providing a virtual AF training and mentoring curriculum for early-career basic, clinical, and population health scientists working across multiple institutions, which is particularly valuable in the pandemic era.
Keywords: American Heart Association; atrial fibrillation; curriculum; incidence; mentoring.