Michael C. Fiore, MD, MPH
Professor of Medicine
Founding Director, Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Co-principal Investigator of the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center (TTURC). University of Wisconsin, Madison.
The Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention (CTRI) was founded in 1992 when research on the treatment of tobacco dependence was in its infancy. By 1999, it was clear that progress in elucidating the complex causes of tobacco use, dependence and relapse—and the attributes of effective interventions—required transdisciplinary research and the involvement of practitioners.
That year, when the center received a TTURC grant from National Institutes of Health and a Partners grant from RWJF, it had become a leading center for tobacco research, clinical trials and community outreach.
The center's TTURC award supported transdisciplinary research on the causes of smoking relapse and the ability to prevent it.
At the time of the TTURC award, Fiore saw the principal challenges as:
- Conducting the complicated, transdisciplinary research needed to understand the determinants of tobacco use and cessation.
- Translating and communicating the results of that research in such a way as to advance the field, change the behaviors of providers and smokers, and inform policy.
The challenge was creating and funding the infrastructure to support that kind of research. The value of the RWJF grant was that it allowed the center to develop and sustain such an infrastructure, including:
- A strong biostatistical analytical capacity.
- Large data bases.
- The capacity to enroll subjects in research trials.
- Research on the behavior of health systems and providers.
- A sophisticated administration.
Similarly, the RWJF grant helped the center communicate the results of CTRI research to other researchers, practitioners, payers, policy-makers and smokers. While the center had a sophisticated outreach program to Wisconsin smokers, it lacked the capacity to communicate to a broader set of audiences at the national level. The RWJF grant not only increased the salience and value of actively communicating research results to these broader audiences, but provided the resources required to hire staff and support the necessary infrastructure to do so.
RWJF funding also raised awareness among center faculty and staff of the huge impact of influencing policy, and provided the resources necessary to recruit staff with policy experience. As a result, the center complemented its considerable track record of research with a new emphasis on getting treatments into the hands of smokers, influencing providers, getting facts to policy-makers, and convincing payers that reimbursing smoking cessation services won't break the bank.
Overall, in the words of Fiore, the RWJF grant was "incredibly helpful in taking CTRI [the center] to the next level of effectiveness and impact. The RWJ investment in the program fundamentally changed what the program could do. We now build into every grant application we submit support for sustaining the transdisciplinary research, communications and policy efforts and infrastructures initiated under the RWJF grant."