The Right Mentorship
Dr. Fang says working with an experienced mentor is a vital ingredient to launching a research career. One key factor in selecting a fellowship program, according to Dr. Leykum, is the institution’s or group’s track record in developing junior faculty. To gain an understanding of how the partnership would work on a practical level, the candidate should ask specific questions of prospective mentors, such as:
- How well do research interests and methodological expertise match?
- How often would we meet?
- Who would be involved in the mentorship team?
- What would each person contribute?
In hospital medicine, it could be challenging to find a mentor within one’s own division. Dr. Fang points out that there are a variety of other ways to obtain career, academic, and research mentorship: For example, SHM’s Research Committee has a fledgling mentoring program, and the Society of General Internal Medicine offers both one-on-one and longitudinal year-long mentoring. “You can also look to other specialty divisions that are complementary,” she suggests. If you’re interested in antimicrobial stewardship, for example, your institution’s division of infectious disease might be a logical choice for your mentorship and collaboration search.
Balance Clinical, Research Time
Although securing protected research time concerns trainees as well as academic faculty (see “Protect, Make the Most of Your Time,”), deleting clinical time from the equation is not the answer.
“I find, from being a researcher,” says Dr. Arora, “that sometimes you need a break from research. And clinical work can provide that break. Whatever you do, you need a balance.”
Dr. Leykum says she learned, about five years ago, that 10 weeks of clinical rotation was too little. By choice, she elects to put in more clinical time. Why? “Being in that [clinical] environment helps you hone your questions, especially if they concern how to better deliver care,” she says. “In addition, you interact with specialists and learn about the new research that they are implementing.”
The cross-feed between clinical and research pursuits can be particularly rich, Dr. Fang says. In addition to her other posts at UCSF, she is medical director of the anticoagulation clinic.
“I find a lot of my research ideas flow very naturally out of the situations I see as a hospitalist,” she says. “You often see something that you want to improve and design a project to try and achieve those aims.”
Gretchen Henkel is a freelance writer in southern California.
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