The MGHfC Research Council holds an annual competition to identify two individuals (residents/fellows/junior faculty) who will benefit from receiving funding to participate in the Summer Course for Clinical Effectiveness, taught by faculty of the Harvard School of Public Health. We will be announcing this year's competition very shortly. The awardees for this program for 2009-2010 were Amber Spofford and Emara Nabi. Here are their impressions regarding the program.
Clinical Effectiveness Course Awardees (Reactions)
The Program in Clinical Effectiveness combined biostatistics, clinical epidemiology and elective courses into a 6-week curriculum that was packed with practical, valuable and essential concepts for any clinical investigator. The biostatistics course covered core concepts such as power, effect size and sample size calculations, correlations as well as t-tests, wilcoxon, chi-square tests and ANOVA. Knowing and understanding these concepts will not only help me critically analyze medical literature, but it will also allow me to carry out and interpret data from my own research projects. In addition, this course introduced me to SAS. This was the first time I had encountered a computer statistical analysis program. I had several written and computer assignments where I had to create and apply an analysis plan to an existing database. I found these exercises to be extremely useful because they further strengthened my understanding of the topics covered in lecture. Even if I don't use SAS in the future, it was beneficial to get an appreciation of how it works. With this knowledge, I am better prepared to enter and organize data in a way that will allow for an efficient analysis.
The clinical epidemiology course covered various types of clinical trials and gave an overview of measures of association, bias, confounding and effect modification. This class, which was taught by world experts on these topics, provided me with a solid background in foundations of clinical research. In addition, this course was instrumental in helping me refine my fellow research project. I met individually with two faculty members to receive feedback on my proposal. I also had an oral presentation session and 2 group discussions to present my research project. Each of these sessions were lead by a different faculty member and consisted of a different peer group. This allowed me to receive feedback from numerous people with various areas of expertise. For my final project in this course, I wrote a grant proposal based on the feedback that I received from the faculty and my peers. I found these sessions to be very helpful in the development of my research proposal. In addition, it provided me with the opportunity to learn and apply the skills necessary to effectively plan and execute a well-designed project.
I believe that the best time to complete this course is during fellowship training. This is the time that we begin to hone our research skills by developing an individual research project. Ideally, this course should be taken at the end of the first year of fellowship. This will allow for ample time to complete the project and take additional courses at the HSPH before becoming a junior faculty member. I believe that every fellow who intends on having a career in academic medicine should have the opportunity to participate in the Program in Clinical Effectiveness and take additional classes towards Master's degree. Fellowship training should incorporate education in research methods so that graduating fellows are prepared for a career as a clinical investigator. This program is a well-organized, effective and concise way of accomplishing this.
I found the clinical effectiveness program to be a tremendous learning experience. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in such a unique course. I am confident that the strong foundation for conducting clinical research I have acquired this summer will not only serve me during the remainder of my fellowship training, but also will help launch my career as a physician scientist in the field of pediatric therapeutic endoscopy.
The summer program in clinical effectiveness was a wonderful opportunity for me to gain the research skills that I needed to complement my clinical background and research related work experience. It equipped me with the necessary skills to write grants and papers in the future. Before attending the program, I had a basic idea about epidemiological concepts, but this program gave me an in-depth knowledge of the important aspects of study designs, grant and manuscript writing that will go a long way to help me develop my research career. Earlier, I could barely understand the meaning of p-value but this program gave me the necessary basic skills to understand data and do preliminary analysis myself. Earlier, when I read a research paper, I would just look at the abstract and then the discussion but now, I also read the methods section carefully because I understand it better.
The program offered a wide range of good elective courses to suit an individual's preference. These electives helped me learn more skills and knowledge in the areas that I was particularly interested in. From the electives, I learned an important skill of using large databases as a source of data and I found this a very helpful skill to have. Overall, I think that this was a great program which had the perfect blend of core research skills that a new investigator needs.
I feel that this program is best suited for a person who has made a decision that they have a research interest and want to pursue their career in it. I feel that this program is a great "stepping stone" for a new researcher at any stage of their training. For early starters, I think it would be best suited for a 2nd or 3rd year resident who has keen interest in research since this program will give them a wider understanding of the research world and help them have a focus and an edge when they finish residency/start their fellowship. As a second option: this program is also great for the 1st year fellows as it would be helpful to them to gain better research skills to develop their research ideas further.