FORT WORTH, Texas, Jan. 5, 2021 — The current pandemic has increased public interest in scientific discovery and highlighted the importance of clearly communicating research findings. To meet this need, the American Heart Association and TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine now offer a series of interactive learning modules to help science and medical researchers communicate their work in a way non-scientists can better understand implications of often complex language and technical concepts.
“With the growing call for transparency in medical and scientific research, the American Heart Association is committed to helping researchers effectively explain their findings to a broad audience including consumers, policymakers and funding supporters,“ said Mary Ann Bauman, M.D., chairman of the American Heart Association Research Communications Task Force. “These translation skills are equally useful for basic, clinical and population researchers, no matter their expertise level or their field of study.”
The communication modules, called The Heart of Communicating Science, aim to help anyone in a highly specialized occupation explain their research or work to any audience. Speaking and writing courses in the modules include peer examples, practice drills and structured processes that can be carried forward to use in presentations, meetings, articles, blogs and conversations.
To develop the series, the American Heart Association reached out to The Compassionate Practice® team at TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine.
The Compassionate Practice® is an interdisciplinary curriculum designed to help physicians build skills in awareness, listening, inquiry and engagement to foster exceptional connections with patients, their teams and their communities. The team uses journalism, public health, drama, non-verbal communication and narrative medicine techniques to train doctors to build authentic connections and communicate with empathy and clarity.
The Compassionate Practice™️ was founded in 2017 by Evonne Kaplan-Liss, M.D., MPH, a visiting Professor and Val Lantz-Gefroh, MFA, a visiting Associate Professor at the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine.
Dr. Kaplan-Liss had previously been the Assistant Dean for Narrative Reflection and Patient Communication at the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine before joining the University of California at San Diego Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion.
“Clear and compassionate communication is one of the foundational pillars of our medical school’s mission,” said Evonne Kaplan-Liss, M.D., MPH, now the Director of The Center for Compassionate Communication at the University of California at San Diego Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion. “Working with the American Heart Association to offer these lessons to help researchers better connect with public audiences is a natural extension of our work.”
The Heart of Communicating Science introduces three core skills: speaking plainly about one’s work, writing a lay summary and developing a news release.
“You have to begin to think of communication as a conversation,” said Val Lantz-Gefroh, MFA, Director of Communication Curriculum for The Center for Compassionate Communication at the University of California at San Diego Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion. “The processes introduced will help investigators articulate why their research matters and think more deeply about language that will impact and engage their audience. The modules will also help them improve their writing and help them become more effective when it comes to proactively promoting their work.”
In September, more than two dozen scientists and researchers were invited to pilot test the series. Participants provided feedback on the modules’ structure and content, interactivity, tasks and navigation and design. In a survey after the pilot, those who took part agreed they would recommend these modules to a colleague.
“To me, the most useful part was that it made me think about why this research is so important to me,” said pilot participant Keisa Mathis, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Physiology & Anatomy in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. “It made me remember why I care.”
“This process is intended to help empower scientists and researchers to communicate more clearly, vividly and more effectively,” Lantz-Gefroh said. “Now more than ever, communicating with the public isn’t just a good idea. It’s an imperative.”
“Funding research is a cornerstone of the American Heart Association’s lifesaving mission. The Association has funded more than $4.6 billion in cardiovascular research since 1949, making it the single largest non-government supporter of heart and brain health research in the U.S.” Bauman said. “We want to ensure those researchers are equipped to effectively communicate their findings, because bringing science to life is key to translating it into medical advances and treatment guidelines that can help everyone life healthier, longer.”
The Heart of Communicating Science can be purchased through the American Heart Association’s website.
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public's health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.
About the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine
The TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine, Fort Worth’s M.D. school, opened with a class of 60 students in July 2019. TCU and UNTHSC joined together in July 2015 to form this new allopathic medical school. The School of Medicine’s focus on communication, a first-of-its-kind curriculum and the development of Empathetic ScholarsTM uniquely positions the organization to radically transform medical education, improving care for future generations. To make this new school possible, the greater North Texas community stepped up to help, providing philanthropic support. The school’s current Founding Donors include Alcon, Amon G. Carter Foundation, Baylor Scott & White, the Burnett Foundation, Cook Children’s, Texas Health Resources, Mr. H. Paul Dorman, Mr. Arnold and Mrs. Harriette Gachman, Dr. John and Mrs. Priscilla Geesbreght, Sid W. Richardson Foundation, Rebecca and Jon Brumley, The Morris Foundation, Martha Sue Parr Trust, Tartaglino Richards Family Foundation, and Thomas M., Helen McKee & John P. Ryan Foundation and an anonymous donor.
For Media Inquiries:
AHA Contact: Cathy Lewis, 214-706-1324; firstname.lastname@example.org
TCU/UNTHSC School of Medicine Contact: Prescotte Stokes III, 817-735-7932; email@example.com