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Scholarly Activity in Residency—What Does It Mean for You?

Sally P. Weaver, PhD, MD

Although our learners are frequently pulled in every direction doing clinical work or didactics, they still have a mandate from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) requiring scholarly activity during residency training. The ACGME recognizes research as an effective way to demonstrate core competencies such as practice improvement and practice-based learning. The Family Medicine Review Committee (RC) now states that every resident must participate in “scientific inquiry.” What does this mean for us as educators? We have a broad objective without a specific set of tools. I believe we should interpret scholarly activity and scientific inquiry broadly but in such a way that our learners come away with an appreciation for the principles of research.

The Group on Teaching Research in Residency is a diverse group of educators with varying ideas, yet the impression one gets from attending meetings is that we are open to a broad interpretation of research during residency. Even those of us with experience teaching research are looking for more good ideas. Residents (and faculty for that matter) may be intimidated by the term “research.” Some institutions have changed their terminology to “scholarly activity,” “scientific inquiry,” or “intellectual curiosity” to avoid the emotive reactions related to “research.” This does not change what we are doing in the way of meeting the RC requirements, however.

Family medicine residents are involved in many, varied projects through their residencies. Dean Seehusen, MD, Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Augusta, Georgia, has tailored the FINER1 criteria for residents that I offer as a great addition to your research-in-residency curricular tool box.

F is for feasibility. In residency scholarship the study design should be simple, with low costs in time and money and an easily accessible study population. Collaboration among faculty and learners spreads around the educational experience and increases project completion rates. I is for interesting. A personally interesting project is of utmost importance for a project to make it to completion. N is for novel. Since the goal of resident research is learning the principles of scholarship, novelty is not so important. E is for ethical. In the case of resident research, patient risk must be balanced against the educational needs of the learner. R is for relevant. The most relevant part of the project is the educational experience, not the results.2

I hope that you will continue to pursue scholarly activity in new ways wherever you are. Join our STFM Group on Teaching Research in Residency to gain research skills, curricular ideas, and emotional support.

1. Hulley SB, Cummings SR, et al. Designing clinical research, an epidemiologic approach. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2001.

2. Seehusen D, Weaver SP. Resident research in family medicine: where are we now? Fam Med 2009;41(9):663-8.

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