Background: There is a growing consensus that an improved research environment is needed for family medicine to continue to evolve. At the same time, there is relatively little discussion about practical ways to implement such an environment. Many believe that our efforts in this area lag far behind our accomplishments in education, training, and the practice of family medicine.
Program description: This manuscript discusses one community-based academic department's experience in formulating and implementing a research program. By slowly involving faculty in research and by instructing and encouraging residents, a research environment can be incorporated into a residency program's routine. The approach described in this manuscript is evolutionary and relies on committing resources to research while slowly involving faculty and residents in the process.
Program evaluation: Measures of research output (funding, publishing in refereed journals, and presenting at professional conferences) suggest that the program has achieved some momentum in the area of research. Although relatively modest by the standards of some university-based programs, the program's achievements demonstrate that a community-based, university-affiliated program can initiate a viable research effort.
Conclusions: Our experience has taught us that implementing a research program is a relatively lengthy process comprised of multiple components. First, individual projects typically consist of a process of funding, presenting, and publishing. Sharing research results with colleagues locally and at professional meetings is an especially important socialization component of research and scholarship. Second, it is important to use refereed and nonrefereed journals as outlets for scholarship, since the process of writing is itself important, especially for family physicians who lack formal research training. Finally, funding proposals and publications almost always require revision and resubmission, a process which contributes to creating and further refining the skills needed by successful researchers.