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CTSC legacy of education

SHORTLY AFTER emergency medicine physician Aaron Bair began his academic career, he recognized that something important was missing. His medical education did not sufficiently prepare him to pursue research. The same insight struck pediatrician Ulfat Shaikh and veterinary radiation oncologist Michael Kent.

"When I was a junior faculty member in the Clinical X series, it became readily apparent that little of what I had been exposed to up until that time prepared me for a


Ufat Shaikh, M.D., M.P.H., with
pediatric patient and the child's Parent
career in research," said Bair, an associate professor of emergency medicine and medical director of the Center for Health and Technology and the Center for Virtual Care. "There was no dedicated time in either medical school or residency to appreciate the research environment or develop skills in grant writing and grant funding mechanisms."

In 2004, Bair learned of the newly established K30 program – which evolved into the CTSC Mentored Clinical Research Training Program (MCRTP). He enrolled, completing the course of study with the inaugural class in 2006. "The MCRTP curriculum turned out to be particularly relevant in my circumstance because my mentor went on to be my department chair, and we have had multiple opportunities for collaboration. The mentor-mentee relationship has evolved and continued in ways that have been very useful in the development of my career," said Bair, who embraced the MCRTP after realizing that a master of public health degree would not help him achieve his goals. "The MCRTP allowed me to customize a training program with a specific set of skills. Through the program, I could focus on developing my electives and research project, without having to spend a lot of time on a core curriculum that wasn’t as relevant to my particular goals."

Bair applauds the flexibility of the MCRTP curriculum in adapting to the training needs of participants. "The MCRTP is a fantastic program. It certainly opened doors for me, and has helped inform my career path."

Ulfat Shaikh, an associate professor of pediatrics and director of health care quality, is the principal investigator on a multi-campus project funded with a grant from the UC Center for Health Quality and Innovation. She attributes her involvement in that and other research projects to training she received in the two-year MCRTP program beginning in 2005. While working exclusively in patient care at another institution, she had observed wide variations in standards of care that she thought deserved exploration. She tried conducting a study independently, but became frustrated.

"I had reached the limits of what I could do on my own without training to make more high-impact changes," Shaikh said. She joined UC Davis because it offered protected time to conduct research, but she was initially uncertain on how to proceed.

"Because I was interested in evaluating patient-care delivery and clinician practice patterns, my UC Davis department chair encouraged me to submit an application to MCRTP," Shaikh said. She enrolled with three main learning goals: how to conduct a rigorous study, how to prepare journal articles, and how to write competitive grant applications. She said the knowledge that she gained in MCRTP helped her receive a K12 training award and a K08 career development grant – both of which ultimately contributed to her success as a researcher.

"Through the MCRTP, I received training in grant writing and how to develop an effective scientific theme and involve collaborators from diverse backgrounds," she said. "My MCRTP advisers and mentors helped me write these grants, working very closely with me to strengthen them and make them more competitive. One of my mentors in the CTSC was one of my collaborators on the UC Health Quality Improvement Network grant." Funded in 2011, Shaikh is principal investigator on this project and is developing an infrastructure aimed at improving patient care transitions during hospital discharge.

Michael Kent, an associate professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Surgical and Radiological Sciences, enrolled in the MCRTP’s inaugural session to strengthen his research skills and broaden his clinical research training. "Back in 2004, the concept of translational medicine was new, and I was intrigued by the program and the idea of team science with an interdisciplinary focus. Being a veterinarian, I saw it as an opportunity to learn how to promote the concept of One Health, and promote human health as well," said Kent, who co-directs the Comparative Cancer Center and is the associate director of the Center for Companion Animal Health.

MCRTP not only advanced Kent’s knowledge but also helped him establish important and enduring relationships with other researchers in veterinary and human medicine. "My MCRTP involvement led to collaborations throughout the past 10 years with faculty members from various departments outside my own," Kent said. The MCRTP curriculum also broadened his understanding of how to structure a formal mentorship, which led him to take on this role in his department, through which he helps guide the careers of new faculty members.

The interdisciplinary research training that Bair, Kent, Shaikh and other scholars received through the MCRTP is a fundamental component of the CTSC’s mission to build research teams of the future.