Innovations in faculty development: study of a research assistance unit designed to assist clinician-educators with research

South Med J. 2011 Sep;104(9):647-50. doi: 10.1097/SMJ.0b013e3182294e82.


Objectives: At a mid-sized community medical school, research was not traditionally strong. Faculty members cited lack of infrastructure support as a significant research barrier. In response, the regional dean developed and funded a research assistance unit (RAU) in 2006 to provide administrative and statistical support to junior faculty beginning their research programs. This study examined the efficacy of the RAU from 2006-2008.

Methods: The authors reviewed RAU records for number and types of projects; time from initial contact to IRB approval; type and hours of assistance; number of abstracts and publications resulting from RAU-sponsored projects; number and rank of faculty, student, and resident researchers; and cost of RAU operations. A satisfaction survey was given to faculty members who completed projects.

Results: The RAU provided assistance with 68 projects involving a total of 36 faculty members, 34 residents, and 21 medical students, resulting in 12 published abstracts and/or manuscripts. RAU administrative assistance averaged 7 hours per project. Statistical assistance was provided for 21 projects and averaged 13 hours. Participation in clinical research by faculty rose from 8% to 32%, by residents from 24% to 31%, and by medical students from 22% to 43%. Of surveyed faculty, 92% rated their experience with the RAU as satisfactory or very satisfactory. Cost averaged $128,000 yearly.

Conclusions: The creation of a staff support unit resulted in an increase in research by faculty, residents, and students.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / education*
  • Education, Medical / trends*
  • Faculty, Medical / standards*
  • Humans
  • Mentors*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Schools, Medical / organization & administration*
  • United States