♦Part of the Assistant Professor Playbook Series
I hear this a lot from physicians, including surgeons – “I want to do research, but don’t get time to think of a topic” or “I am very busy as a program/clerkship/fellowship director, so I don’t get time to sit down and think of a clinical question.” If you belong to this group or similar, then you are not alone. My humble response to this, however, is start with a low hanging fruit. Try to see what you are doing every day and get a scholarly project out of it, in other words make your everyday chore a research project. How? Here are some thoughts:
1. Take a moment to evaluate: Assess if things you are doing everyday can be done a bit more systematically to collect data so you can share your experiences and lessons learned with your peers, colleagues, and even administrators. I will share my experience as an example. A couple of years ago, when all residency interviews went virtual for the first time in the history of medicine, all programs had to improve their visibility. This may not have affected larger academic programs, but smaller programs and/or hybrid programs like ours, had to go an extra mile to do this. We had to create social media presence and use technological advancements to provide our applicants a more real-life in-person experience. We did all of this, like many other programs probably did, but using a methodological approach, and we collected data during this process. The results were shared with our peers through a following article in the Journal of Surgical Education. I believe that we often respond to the needs of medical students, residents, and/or patients. If we take a moment to look back and assess the impact of any change that was brought, then it could lead to a significant scholarship as well in the area of your passion, be it surgical education or patient care.
2. Listen and Observe: Many times, we hear complaints about things, but few follow up or try to find reasons or solutions. By listening to others or observing, we can identify interesting problems. For example, several years ago, some of our residents and faculty observed that we had a number of trauma patients who didn’t need the level of care being transferred to our level 1 trauma center from other hospitals. We developed a team, met to discuss the issue and then got access to state-level data. The after effect is the following article in the JAMA Surgery looking at system level factors for overtriage in trauma. By listening to others, we identified a problem, studied it and then turned it into a scholarship which we can now be shared with our peers! 😊
These are some basic steps to get your scholarly activities going. If you continue this process, then I am sure you will identify your passion and develop your research program. It is possible that finding a potential research project may not be a daunting task for some but seeing it through publication can be. My two cents: develop your support system that has good friends, collaborators, and helpers, who can help brainstorm some ideas with you, help convert your ideas into an executable project, and finally help you see it through publication. Afterall, it takes a village to develop a research culture in any program. The article below discusses some of our experiences and outcomes:
To see Dr. Parikh’s short video on this topic visit the *Assistant Professor Playbook , a series of short videos designed to provide effective strategies towards a successful career in academic surgery. Other videos include Preparing for Promotion, Finding Funding Sources, Setting up a Translational Research Program, Succeeding in Surgical Societies, with more to come!
*Must be a member of the AAS to access