Curriculum Overview

Trainees in this program will have the opportunity to engage in several learning sessions and experiences, including foundational coursework, research and professional skill building seminars, practicums and exposures, and practical knowledge translation activities. To further the interdisciplinary experience, trainees will be paired with other trainees to work together and integrate perspectives addressing real-world medication use issues throughout the program.

The training experience will be varied depending on the trainee’s individual learning plan (developed with their mentor) as well as the program stream in which the trainee is participating. See the Program Overview for a description of the three program streams.


Annual Training Symposium

All successful applicants will be required to participate in the program's Annual Symposium, which will take place at the beginning of the program in April. At this symposium, trainees will be able to meet other trainees and mentors who are part of the program in person or virtually (depending on government regulations due to COVID-19 in the province of Ontario). This 2-day event will involve a combination of plenary sessions, small group activities, learning seminars, and skill-building workshops. To get a sense of the symposium content, please see the 2019 DSECT Annual Symposium Agenda (PDF).

One-to-One Mentorship

Trainees will have two mentors during their time with the program. The primary mentor will be their graduate program or postgraduate program supervisor. The secondary mentor will be a faculty member from the DSECT program (see list of mentors).

Foundations Course

Trainees are expected to participate in a number of interactive, problem-based webinars. The foundations course consists of several online synchronous sessions on integrative concepts in drug safety and effectiveness, such as pharmacoepidemiology, and drug policy and its impact on health and healthcare. The case studies presented in our webinars included discussion and expert opinion on ethical issues that arise across scientific disciplines as they relate to drug safety and effectiveness.

Basic Concepts Sessions

The DSECT program has a library of self-study modules covering introductory, basic concepts in drug safety and effectiveness research from the perspectives of multiple research disciplines (e.g. health policy, clinical therapeutics, biostatistics). Trainees will work with their mentors to develop an individualized learning plan and identify which self-study modules should be completed.  

Advanced Training

Webinars and self-study modules covering advanced topics related to drug safety and effectiveness research will be available for trainees in Stream 2 and some trainees in Stream 1 (based on individual learning plan). The topics will include the use of administrative data in drug safety and effectiveness research, network meta-analysis, novel methods in drug safety and effectiveness research, applying the techniques of active surveillance to drug safety and effectiveness challenges, pharmacogenomics, the life cycle of a pharmaceutical, and knowledge translation.

Research and Professional Skill Building Seminars

All trainees will participate in several professional and research skill-building seminars designed to offer practical knowledge for areas that future researchers and decision makers need for success in this area (e.g. leadership style, ethical considerations, grant writing). Some seminars are offered at the DSECT Annual Symposium, while others are offered via a web-based module format.

Practicums and Exposures

All trainees will have the option to engage in a practicum placement, however, it will be required for trainees in Stream 2. Practicum placements will involve a practical training experience in either basic research in the field (pharma, academia), or applied research in the field (academia, government). Practicums will provide an opportunity to conduct research in a new laboratory or to foster an understanding of a knowledge user organization. Sites will be local, national or international. As an example, the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) has been a practicum option for DSECT trainees. Travel stipends are available to facilitate practicum placements.

Observed Structured Knowledge Translation Experience (OSKTE)

Each trainee will be asked to complete a formative observed structured knowledge translation experience, or OSKTE. This experience consists of a planned interaction whereby trainees meet online with a live panel of actual policy makers. The trainees present research findings and policy advice that are aligned with a predetermined topical issue and then participate in a semi-structured dialogue with the panel of policy makers. The feedback session allows time for the trainee to provide a self-assessment, training program mentor feedback (some mentors will also be present as observers) and policy maker panel feedback.
Trainees will be provided with guidance to prepare for the OSKTE, including information about the topic to be presented and discussed. The presentation may include tasks such as interpreting drug safety data, providing biological rationale for a drug benefit and risk-profile, recommending research design options based on predesigned scenarios or presenting research to policy makers. Key stakeholder representatives and policy makers will be invited to be examiners.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the program staff.