Conference Coverage

Think research is just for MD-PhDs? Think again



– You don’t have to hold an advanced research degree or secure National Institutes of Health funding in order to contribute to neurology research in a meaningful way.

Wyatt P. Bensken, a research collaborator with the NINDS who is also a PhD student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland Doug Brunk/MDedge News

Wyatt P. Bensken

That’s a key finding from an analysis of 244 neurology residency program graduates.

“Science as a whole is trying to get better,” lead study author Wyatt P. Bensken said in an interview at the annual meeting of the American Neurological Association. “If your goal is to be a clinician, that doesn’t mean you can’t contribute to research. If your goal is to see patients for 80% of your time, that doesn’t mean that other 20% – which is research – disqualifies you from being a physician-scientist.”

In an effort to better understand the current status of the physician-scientist workforce in the neurology field, Mr. Bensken and his colleagues identified neurology residency graduates from the top National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke–funded institutions for 2003, 2004, and 2005 via program websites. Data points collected for each individual included complete NIH and other government funding history, number of post-residency publications by year, and the Hirsch-index, or h-index, which measures an individual’s research publication impact. The researchers conducted data analysis via visualization and ANOVA testing.

Mr. Bensken, a research collaborator with the NINDS who is also a PhD student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, reported that 186 of the 244 neurology residency program graduates had demonstrated interest in research based on their publication activity findings. Specifically, 26 had obtained an R01 grant, 31 were non–R01-funded, and 129 were nonfunded. Of the 26 individuals who had obtained an R01, 15 (58%) were MD-PhDs, from a total of 50 MD‐PhDs in the cohort. In addition, 43 individuals had a K‐series award, with 18 going on to receive R01 funding.

Of those with non‐R01 funding or no funding, a number of individuals performed as well as R01‐funded individuals with respect to post‐residency publication rate and impact factor. However, the publication rate and impact factor were highest in the R01-funded group (6.4 and 28.6, respectively), followed by those in the non‐R01 group (3.0 and 15.9), and those in the nonfunded group (1.2 and 8.0). Further, the publications‐per‐research hour for the three groups revealed varied productivity levels. Specifically, those in the R01-funded group with 80% protected research time produced 3.2 publications per 1,000 research hours, while those in the non–R01-funded group with 40% protected research time produced 3.0 publications per 1,000 research hours. Meanwhile, those without R01 funding overall (those with non-RO1 funding and those without funding) performed at a higher per-hour rate, when estimating 10% or 15% protected time (4.9 and 3.3 publications per 1,000 research hours, respectively).

“I think this reinforces the notion that there are far more neurologists out there who aren’t trained as MD-PhDs, who aren’t receiving R01s, but who are making meaningful contributions,” Mr. Bensken said. “Our ultimate goal is to maximize the potential of everybody in this environment to contribute. If everyone was able to contribute what they could, I think research would be far more successful and far more impactful than it is now.”

The study was funded by the NINDS. Mr. Bensken reported having no financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Bensken WP et al. Ann Neurol. 2018;84[S22]:S72-3, Abstract S176.

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