Issues in Research
At Harvard, residents get five months of dedicated research time in two separate rotations: the first 10 weeks as a PGY-3 and the next 10 weeks as a PGY-4. And, as a PGY-2, residents at Harvard take a monthly evening lecture series called Issues in Research before picking their required focus research project, which is a longitudinal study. David Jung, MD, PhD, an otologist and neurotologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary who studies skull base disorders, teaches the series. He also brings in guest lecturers throughout the year who are experts in evidence-based research or patient-reported outcomes. Topics range from the ethics of research to how to choose a research question and what to consider before actually undertaking a study.
Explore This IssueSeptember 2019
“One of the big things that Dr. Jung has instituted is that part of that year is understanding how to actually write a CORE Grant,” Dr. Gray said. The Centralized Otolaryngology Research Efforts (CORE) grants program is a collaboration of foundations, societies, and industry supporters that provide support for research in the field of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery.
Learning to Write CORE Grants
Residents at Harvard use the CORE Grant application as a template and, by the end of the Issues in Research course, every resident has written one of the grants. “Whether or not they actually will apply or not is separate,” Dr. Gray said. “But they have to go through the exercise of picking a project and actually thinking about it so that they actually do all the background reading.”
By the time they start their PGY-3 rotation in research, the residents are up and running and may have even completed their Institutional Review Board applications. Most of them do submit the grants, and while some are successful, Dr. Gray said that not getting funded can also be a valuable lesson in being realistic, even among highly successful people.
“The funding landscape is so difficult right now across the country,” Dr Gray said, adding that fewer than 10% of projects get funded.
Dr. Ruckenstein said it has become apparent to him over many years of choosing and mentoring residents that it’s almost impossible to predict who will pursue an academic career. “I can give two examples of residents who came in with extraordinarily strong research training they continued to pursue and were successful in publishing during residency and would be on anybody’s short list, ” he said. “But prior to fellowship they decided to abandon research and academic aspirations and enter community practice.”
Alternately, he has seen residents come in with far less impressive academic credentials and become completely enamored of research, going on to make great discoveries in the field. “Bottom line is, it’s not the training, it’s the passion,” he said.