Summer Program for Clinical Effectiveness awardees announced by the Research Council of MassGeneral Hospital for Children.
Rachel Weston Linnemann, MD, Clinical Fellow in Pediatrics, MGHfC
‘I truly appreciate the opportunity that the MGHfC Research Council gave me to attend the Harvard School of Public Health’s Summer Program in Clinical Effectiveness. I highly recommend the program to anyone interested in pursuing a career in clinical research, whether at the senior resident, fellow, or attending level. The courses were incredibly helpful and practical, providing an overview of the key epidemiologic methods and statistical techniques that are most relevant to medical studies. The curriculum was tailored to meet the needs of physicians who want to pursue clinical research, so we were able to cover a significant amount of material, including some advanced topics, in a short period of time. The faculty members who taught in the program were excellent teachers (many have received teaching awards), and every homework exercise was well-designed to help students apply and consolidate new knowledge and skills. The capstone project for the epidemiology course involved designing and writing a research protocol. There were numerous opportunities to get feedback on my project, both in one-on-one and small group sessions. Students also choose two electives from a wide variety of courses. I chose to take a course run by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement on quality improvement, which is another interest of mine, as well as a course in health policy, which was particularly timely given the major upcoming changes in the healthcare system. Both electives were excellent and I would highly recommend them.
After finishing the program, as I plan future research projects, I feel much more comfortable with my ability to understand the different strengths and weaknesses of various study designs and statistical methods. I can now do basic statistical analyses myself, and I will be able to have more informed discussions with biostatisticians when more advanced techniques are needed. I also feel the program significantly improved my ability to thoughtfully read and critique journal articles. Overall, I feel the program gave me important knowledge and skills that will improve the quality of my grant-writing and clinical research projects in the upcoming years. The program also allowed me to jump-start my fellowship research. Along with Dr. Sam Moskowitz, I wrote a grant to improve the supportive and palliative care we provide to our cystic fibrosis patients, which was recently funded by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I look forward to applying my skills from the clinical effectiveness program to this project, as well as to my projects on severe bronchiolitis and future risk of asthma with Dr. Carlos Camargo at the Emergency Medicine Research Network.’
Peter P. Moschovis, M.D., M.P.H., Research Fellow, Pulmonary Critical Care, MGHfC
‘I'd like to thank the MGHfC Research Council for providing a scholarship to attend the HSPH Summer Program for Clinical Effectiveness. The courses I took were diverse but uniformly helpful to my research, ranging from a review of basic epidemiologic techniques to advanced data mining and decision analysis. Beyond learning abstract concepts, the program offered an opportunity to jump-start my fellowship research. As part of the core epidemiology course, I wrote a research protocol for a study of children with viral lower respiratory infections that I plan to start in the next few weeks in the inpatient wards at MGH. The teaching and expert advice I obtained through one of my electives, Analysis of Large Databases, helped me manipulate a large dataset from the World Health Organization that I had been struggling with on my own for months. Without the support from the MGHfC Research Council, I never would have enrolled in this program, and I believe that this will reap significant benefits in my career in the future.’
Rebecca C. Bell, MD, Clinical Fellow in Pediatrics, MGHfC
‘I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to participate in the Program in Clinical Effectiveness (PCE) at the Harvard School of Public Health this past summer. The program is designed for clinicians who have completed residency and are interested in developing the analytical skills necessary for clinical research. All participants take courses in Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and then two elective courses. I chose to take Decision Analysis as well as the follow-up course, Methods in Decision Making based on a project idea I had developed during residency.
Having no background in clinical research myself, I found the courses to be extremely practical and useful. The Biostatistics course includes training in SAS programming. The Epidemiology course is geared towards guiding each student through the development of an epi-based research project with scheduled meetings with mentors and other students to present project ideas. The Decision Analysis classes were very practical as well with the first course covering theory and the second course covering the use of TreeAge software with an individual project presentation at the end. By the end of the Decision Analysis courses I had a running model that I am hoping to refine over the course of my fellowship. Faculty involved in all the courses are approachable and are dedicated to mentoring students through the process of developing and implementing a research idea.
Those who would benefit most from this course are faculty or fellows about to enter their research years. The course is very much geared towards busy clinicians who have a very specific project idea in mind but need the analytical content review and mentorship that PCE provides. The program is an excellent stand-alone experience and students can expect a productive summer. In addition, those who are interested may consider pursuing a full MPH with the summer program counting towards the degree.’
Emara Nabi, MBBS, MS, Research Associate in Pediatrics, MGHfC
‘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.’
Inbar S. (Amber) Spofford, MD, Clinical Fellow in Gastroenterology and Nutrition, MGHfC
‘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.’
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