Q: What do you like best about your career as a hospitalist?
Dr. Auerbach: I really like acute care medicine, but didn’t want to subspecialize—otherwise I’d be wearing lead in a cath lab now. I also like the questions and processes in the hospital a bit more than the clinic setting.
Q: Who are your mentors and how did you find them?
Dr. Auerbach: I’ve had a remarkable set of mentors from fellowship [Mary Beth Hamel, Roger Davis, Russ Phillips] through my early career [Lee Goldman, Bob Wachter, Ralph Gonzales]. Now that I am early-mid career, I’m trying to pass their teaching on.
Q: Any advice for hospitalists interested in research but daunted by the prospect of starting their own studies?
Dr. Auerbach: If you want to do a scholarly/academic project to round out your personal/career satisfaction, I think the daunting nature of research can be overcome with the right questions and right support—and by defining what these are well before you actually dive into a dataset or implementation project. You also have to decide how much satisfaction you will get from the project in the end compared to the incremental nights/weekends you will spend to plan and execute your project—not to mention publish.
If you are thinking of research as a career, be aware of what makes you happy. If you like to write, enjoy the process of hypothesis generating/testing, and take rejection well you may be happy as a researcher. There are still plenty of nights/weekends to be spent, though.
Making a switch from full-time clinical or administrative work to research means making a very big commitment to going back to get the skills as part of a fellowship.
Q: Do researchers interested in quality improvement questions still have to run their work past the IRB?
Dr. Auerbach: Unfortunately this is now an area of uncertainty for people—unnecessarily so. Until recent events, IRBs have not required approval for QI projects that seek to enhance care according to an evidence-based standard, especially if that standard is endorsed by the institution. If you plan to publish your findings—particularly if you talk to or touch patients, or collect personal health information—I think it is nearly always wise to at least call your local IRB to ask for how you can or should conduct the study. This is best done before you start the project, obviously.
If you want to publish your results using deidentified data after the project is done, our IRB would say that is exempt from review [e.g., no need for approval]. But I think even this case would be worth a phone call to ensure your IRB feels similarly.
Whether or not you get IRB approval, be very aware of how and where you store data. TH