Q&A: Getting started in research
How can I get off on the right foot with respect to conducting research early in my career?
I believe that establishing a clinical practice should be the top priority of clinical pharmacists completing their training and starting their first position. That said, I have observed that individuals who do not get an early start in research and other scholarly activities have difficulty incorporating these activities into their schedule at later time points. I commend you for “thinking ahead” with this question and have some suggestions to help you navigate your first independent steps in research:
Join a winning team: Find out who is doing successful research that you are passionate about (grants, publications, etc.). Set up a meeting with that individual and discuss how you can get involved.
Get a research mentor: Find someone you admire who is successfully doing research (you will need his or her CV), and set up a meeting to discuss establishing a mentoring relationship.
Start writing every day: I recommend reviewing the literature in an area in which you WOULD LIKE to become known and submitting your ideas in this area for publication. Make sure it is something that HAS NOT recently been reviewed by others. If you have never written a review, collaborate with someone who has published reviews in the journals you read!
Keep a running list of potential research ideas on an index card in your white coat pocket: These ideas should be garnered from questions that come up in your practice. When you can, perform an extensive literature search on the questions to see whether they have already been addressed. If there are doubts regarding how to answer your clinical questions or conflicting reports in the literature, it may be a good idea to pursue these areas of research.
Attend scientific meetings and seminars both inside and outside your area, virtually and in person, when you can: Finding out what other people are doing can be inspiring and can generate new ideas!
Look for opportunities to improve your skills: Many professional organizations offer training programs in research and scholarship (ACCP Foundation MeRIT Program and ACCP Academy Research and Scholarship Certificate Program). Sign up! Keep learning!
If you do these six things in the first year of your new position, you will definitely be off on the right foot in research!
Susan C. Fagan, Pharm.D., FCCP, BCPS
Distinguished Research Professor
University of Georgia College of Pharmacy
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