We’re very fortunate to have basic research in all the domains of our specialty, and therefore we don’t like to push residents into any particular area but rather let them choose based on their own interests. —Michael J. Ruckenstein, MD, MSc
Explore This IssueSeptember 2019
Exposure to Research Opportunities
Early in their first year of training, Penn exposes residents to a wide array of research opportunities, said Dr. Ruckenstein. “We want them, over the next year or two, to evaluate these different opportunities and see how they mix with their own interests,” he added. “We’re very fortunate to have basic research in all the domains of our specialty, and therefore we don’t like to push residents into any particular area but rather let them choose based on their own interests.”
Some residents at Penn start interacting with researchers during their second year and others during their third. They’re required to submit a research proposal to a research committee during their third year for approval of their research plan, which is a six-month period during their fourth year. While Penn has a number of residents who have already attained academic degrees in research, Dr. Ruckenstein said that some of them come in “fairly research naïve” and are “bitten by the bug.”
Dr. Ruckenstein believes that if residents aspire to emerge as independent researchers, they need to have undergone research training prior to residency or be able to supplement that training post residency. “I don’t think six months is sufficient to be an independent researcher, but rather a collaborator with-full time researchers,” he said.
Most programs are pretty transparent about how much they value research. —Cristina Cabrera-Muffly, MD
Using Med School Research as a Vehicle into Residency
As matching into otolaryngology has become increasingly competitive, medical students now use research as a way to distinguish themselves. A 2017 study coauthored by Dr. Cabrera-Muffly and published in the Laryngoscope found multiple factors associated with successfully matching into an otolaryngology residency—publications among them (Laryngoscope. 2017;127:1052–1057). Her research showed that, on multivariate analysis, indicators of academic achievement such as awards and publications, as well as Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society status, were significantly associated with the odds of matching into otolaryngology.
The study also found that the criteria that grant a medical student admission to an otolaryngology residency are not necessarily correlated with resident success in that program. “We urge selection committees to begin identifying applicant selection methods that reflect the values we want to cultivate in our future colleagues,” the study said.
If a residency program values publications during residency, however, a 2017 Canadian study found that residents who publish at least one paper before residency are nearly six times as likely to publish during residency than those who did not publish before residency (J Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017;46:34).
Stacey T. Gray, MD, program director of the Harvard Otolaryngology Residency Program and director of the Sinus Center at Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston, sees a fair amount of medical students coming into residency having already conducted research. And she is continually impressed by how many resident researchers she sees at national meetings and conferences. “You get the sense that it’s something that, I think because of the requirements for having a research rotation, is embedded in the majority of programs at this point.”
From an applicant standpoint, Dr. Cabrera-Muffly said she thinks most applicants can get a pretty good idea of how research heavy an institution is during their interview. “Most programs are pretty transparent about how much they value research,” she said.