Q: Why is the CRTP program a Master of Science in Clinical Research Methods, and not a Master of Science in Public Health? Isn’t an MPH the degree most clinician researchers obtain?
A: At the conclusion of their training, scholars who successfully complete this program will receive the degree of Master of Science in Clinical Research Methods-not Master of Public Health. While historically many clinician-investigators have obtained the MPH as they sought training in research methods, the MPH is actually not designed as a research degree. It is a degree in public health, an important field which includes such activities as governmental oversight (e.g., local health departments), environmental medicine, health policy, health services administration, and international health.
We are seeking applicants whose career objectives focus on doing research (see next question). Our didactic program is designed with this in mind. This excludes several “core” MPH courses (environmental medicine, health administration, sociomedical sciences), and adds several different ones (research ethics, grant writing).
It should be noted that although few programs offered the degree M.S. in Clinical Research Methods when the CRTP began, such a degree is becoming more widely available. Indeed, virtually all NIH-funded CTSA (Clinical and Translational Science Award https://www.ctsacentral.org/ ) institutions provide a related educational program. It is already being seen as a recognized and valuable credential.
Q: To what types of careers can CRTP training lead?
A: This program prepares participants for the wide range of careers encompassed by the term “research.” This will, to be sure, include work in academic settings, but graduates will also be prepared to do clinical research in other settings, such as industry, health care systems, and government.
Q: Why are applications only sought from people who hold doctoral degrees? Will Ph.D.s receive equal consideration? What about medical students, nurses, and other health professionals?
A: We seek to enroll students with a professional identity and skills who wish to add research to their professional portfolios. Thus, our program requires either a doctoral degree or enrollment in a doctoral program. Since our focus is on clinical research, Ph.D. candidates will be more competitive if they have experience in a clinical setting or a strong background in translational science. Certainly, doctorally prepared nurses and other health professionals (e.g., dentists, pharmacists) are encouraged to apply.
Q: What is the overall time commitment for program participants?
A: We expect participants to devote at least half of their professional activities to this program. Actual classroom activities generally takes about 20% of students’ time; the rest is devoted to mentored research activities, where students’ classroom learning is applied through hands-on application to clinical investigation. “Protected time” is a necessary (though clearly not sufficient) component to career success; indeed, while we require 50% effort as a minimum commitment, most of our scholars have significantly more protected time (e.g., those on K awards from NIH must devote a minimum of 75% to these activities).
Q: It seems you’re asking a lot of the applicants’ departments. Why?
A: We are asking a lot. Participants in this program must be able to devote the time required, or they will not succeed. However, all applicants to this program, whether fellows or faculty, do not fully control how their time is spent. To ensure each participant’s probability for success is maximized, we require assurance from a responsible party that her or his time will made available (including demonstrable reductions in clinical, administrative, or teaching obligations), and that all necessary resources will be provided.
Q: How many students will be enrolled?
A: We plan to maintain a class size between 10 and 15 clinician scholars. Based on our experience to date, we believe that some of the valuable interactive teaching and learning we have accomplished may be lost if the group gets much larger. Conversely, a much smaller group could limit the breadth of experiences and outlooks among the scholars.
Q: How do I apply?
A: Applications include a CV, a personal statement, two letters of recommendation (addressing the applicant’s potential as a clinical researcher), and a statement of support from the applicant’s training director, division head, or chairman (as applicable). An official transcript from the applicant’s medical school (or other professional school) and personal interviews are required. A brief description of a proposed research project, and a statement from a proposed faculty mentor are also required.
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