Protecting an endangered species: training physicians to conduct clinical research

Acad Med. 2009 Apr;84(4):439-45. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31819a7cb1.


Purpose: The Program in Clinical Effectiveness (PCE) at Harvard School of Public Health is a postgraduate program emphasizing clinical research. The authors sought to evaluate the research careers of physician graduates and to determine correlates of National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant funding.

Method: In 2006, all 1,489 graduates from 1986-2005 were sent a 48-item survey that collected information on demographics, program experience, chosen career path, grant awards, and research pursued postprogram. Reported NIH grants were verified on the NIH Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects Web site. Cox proportional hazard regression was used to determine participant and program features associated with NIH grant funding.

Results: Overall, 994 of the 1,365 located graduates (73%) responded to the survey. Graduates pursued research in the following areas: 437 respondents (44%) pursued clinical trials, 537 (54%) pursued epidemiology, and 408 (41%) pursued health services research. A total of 156 respondents (24%) were principal investigators on an NIH grant. Correlates of receiving NIH grant funding included age less than 40 years at time of program enrollment (hazard ratio [HR] 1.87, CI 1.03, 3.41), generalist status (HR 1.57, CI 1.14, 2.16), and publishing research begun as course projects (HR 1.65, CI 1.19, 2.31). Gender, academic status at enrollment, ethnicity, tuition sponsorship, and earning an advanced degree were not associated with receipt of NIH grant funding.

Conclusions: Physicians who enrolled in the PCE at an early age and generalist physicians were particularly successful in establishing careers as clinician-investigators. Programs such as the PCE can help to sustain the workforce of physician-investigators.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Biomedical Research / education*
  • Biomedical Research / statistics & numerical data
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Education, Medical, Graduate*
  • Epidemiology
  • Female
  • Financing, Government
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Male
  • Mentors
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)
  • Physicians, Family
  • Program Evaluation
  • Publishing
  • Research Support as Topic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States