Training the next generation of clinical researchers via a guided experience

Most academic medical centers are driven by a three-pronged mission:

  • Education
  • Research
  • Patient care

At the core of this mission are their medical and surgical residents. Essential to a resident’s graduate medical education is research, according to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), which says “the curriculum must advance residents’ knowledge of the basic principles of research, including how research is conducted, evaluated, explained to patients, and applied to patient care.” In fact, as part of its accreditation requirements, it states that “institutions and programs should allocate adequate educational resources to facilitate resident involvement in scholarly activities.” [1]

While at many institutions research is a non-mandatory part of the curriculum, many others are committed to sponsoring programs that encourage and facilitate residency research. For many medical students, this is their first exposure to writing a research project.

Medical librarians as mentors

Medical librarians often find themselves as the go-to resource for students and residents, helping them navigate not only the required literature searches but also the entire research process. Medical librarians might help students and residents construct an appropriate research question and develop a testable hypothesis, which then translates to the required literature search strategy. For a generation that has come of age using Google, it can be daunting to approach the “controlled vocabulary” methodology of search services in a medical library setting.

Teaching clinical research can require significant institutional resources to mentor and guide residents who are new to developing study protocols. Academic research offices may help students find mentors or precepts, but they are often understaffed to provide step-by-step guidance in navigating the protocol-writing experience. Faculty members might not have the time or the appropriate training to be effective teachers of research. Additionally, the IRB review process in resident-initiated clinical research can take longer since the novice investigators are still learning the process.

Mobile technology to facilitate the protocol-writing process

A standardized, guided process can help streamline and simplify this process. The new generation of medical students expects virtually all their professional and personal activities to be enhanced, tracked and supported by mobile apps. A mobile app can provide the technical guidance necessary for students to initiate and develop their research protocols. Faculty, as well as medical librarians, can then focus their efforts on mentoring and encouragement. Using a combination of technology and personal teaching can enhance the experience for all participants, as well as increase the overall quality of student and resident research.

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