New Ways of Knowing and Researching: Integrating Complexity into a Translational Health Sciences Program

  • Paige L. McDonald
  • Gaetano R. Lotrecchiano


The PhD in Translational Health Sciences (THS) at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences (GW SMHS) seeks to educate the next generation of health scientists to address complex health issues through an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach which promotes systematic uptake of research findings for greater social impact. This paper explores our application of a complex adaptive systems approach to creating a model and conceptual framework to guide our efforts toward expanding and extending traditional research practices, to encouraging doctoral students to cull their interests with more system-wide intentionality, and to fulfill the promise of greater social impact from dissertation research that integrates a translational, cross-disciplinary emphasis.


  1. 1.
    Lotrecchiano GR, McDonald PL, Corcoran M, Harwood K, Ekmekci O. Learning theory, operative model and challenges in developing a framework for collaborative, translational and implementable doctoral research. In: 9th annual international conference of education, research and innovation, Seville, November, 2016. ISI Conference Proceedings Citation Index.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Hesse-Biber S. Doing interdisciplinary mixed methods health care research: working the boundaries, tensions, and synergistic potential of team-based research. Qual Health Res. 2016;26(5):649–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Drolet BC, Lorenzi NM. Translational research: understanding the continuum from bench to bedside. Transl Res. 2011;157(1):1–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    PhD in translational health sciences handbook. The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. 2017.
  5. 5.
    Schulman L. Signature pedagogies in the professions. Daedalus. 2005;134(3):52–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cannon-Bowers J, Salas E, Converse S. Shared mental models in expert team decision making. In: Castellan N, editor. Current issues in individual and group decision making. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum; 1993. p. 221–46.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ross LF, Loup A, Nelson RM, Botkin JR, Kost R, Smith GR, et al. The challenges of collaboration for academic and community partners in a research partnership: points to consider. J Empir Res Hum Res Ethics. 2010;5(1):19–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Kuhn TS. The structure of scientific revolutions. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 1970.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Habermas J. Theory and practice. Boston, MA: Beacon Press; 1973.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Sturmberg J, Martin C. Handbook of systems and complexity in health. New York: Springer; 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Broom A, Willis, E. Competing paradigms and health research. In: Saks M, Allsop J, editors. Researching health: qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods. London: Sage; 2007.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Sloan J, Cella D, Frost M, Guyatt G, Sprangers M, Symonds, T. Assessing clinical significance in measuring oncology patient quality of life: introduction to the symposium, content overview, and definition of terms. Mayo Clin Proc. 2002;77(4):367–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Guyatt D, Osoba A, Wu K, Wyrwich KW, Norman G. Methods to explain the clinical significance of health status measures. Mayo Clin. Proc. 2002;77(4):371–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Smith R. Measuring the social impact of research. BMJ [Br Med J]. 2001;323323(7312):528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Bocking S. Nature’s experts: science, politics, and the environment. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press; 2004.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Lincoln YS, Guba EG. Naturalistic inquiry. Newbury Park, CA: Sage; 1985.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Brewer M. Research design and issues of validity. In: Reis H, Judd C, editors. Handbook of research methods in social and personality psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2000.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Mitchell M, Jolley J. Research design explained. New York: Harcourt; 2001.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Whittemore R, Chase S, Mandle C. Validity in qualitative research. Qual Health Res. 2001;11(4):522–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Hall K, Feng A, Moser R, Stokols D, Taylor B. Moving the science of team science forward: Collaboration and creativity. Am J Community Psychol. 2008;35(2 Suppl):S243–49.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Stokols D, Misra S, Moser R, Hall K, Taylor B. The ecology of team science understanding contextual influences on transdisciplinary collaboration. Am J Prev Med. 2008;35(2 Suppl):S96–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Falk-Krzesinski H, Contractor N, Fiore S, Hall K, Kane C, Keyton J, et al. Mapping a research agenda for the science of team science. Res Eval. 2011;20(2):145–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Salazar M, Lant T, Fiore S, Salas E. Facilitating innovation in diverse science teams through integrative capacity. Small Group Res. 2012;43(5):527–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Salas E, Shuffler M, Thayer A, Bedwell W, Lazzarra E. Understanding and improving teamwork in organizations: a scientifically based practical guide. Hum Resour Manag. 2015;54(4):599–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Hess D. Medical modernization, scientific research fields and the epistemic politics of health social movements. Sociol Health Illn. 2004;26(6):695–709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Norman C. Teaching systems thinking and complexity theory in health sciences. J Eval Clin Pract. 2013;19(6):1087–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Hawe P. Lessons from complex interventions to improve health. Annu Rev Public Health. 2015;36:307–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Tsasis P, Evans J, Owen S. Reframing the challenges to integrated care: a complex-adaptive systems perspective. Int J Integr Care. 2012;12:e190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical Research and LeadershipGeorge Washington University School of Medicine and Health SciencesWashington, DCUSA

Personalised recommendations