Sunday, May 24, 2015

Formal training in two cents.

I started doing clinical research projects as a medical students close to 10 years ago.  A few years ago, I signed up for UCLA NIH funded Clinical and Translational Science Institute Track 2 program (formerly called K30 program). CTSI is a NIH funded institutional grant awarded to UCLA and UCLA-partners (Cedar Sinai, Harbor-UCLA, Charles Drew). It basically gives UCLA a ton of money to promote internal programs (didactics and grant based) to promote and expedite translational research. Its motto is "to accelerate discoveries towards better health". One of these programs is a didactics program for medical doctors, like myself. The certificate based program consisted of a curriculum of statistics courses, clinical methods and trials, etc for the participant to complete. Serendipitously, I was able to participate in this program a few years ago. I took about 4 advanced statistics classes (including a regression course which was the most helpful component of the curriculum of me), and completed a bunch of other requirements. Compared to the pre-K30 time, I've probably co-authored twice as many papers in half the amount of time. Any investor would agree that the K30 program was definitely worth the time! In fact, I would almost go ahead and state that augmenting my clinical research skills with the K30 program has been the most important thing I've done to help me succeed in clinical research. Obviously, NIH agrees since it spends millions of dollars funding these programs! We hear about how tough it is to win NIH grants, and it's feels good to know that some of the tax payers dollars are reaching aspiring clinical-scientist, like me.

Advantages of this program  are the following:
  • participants can do their residency/fellowship concurrently (with the approval of the chair).
  • the curriculum is very high yield; 80% of the material is highly applicable even if you're not  going to be a die hard clinical scientist.
  • It's Free! (Thank you taxpayers.)
When I first started the program, one of the 2nd year participant told me to take the advance regression statistic classes and really learn the materials. I spent close to 14-16 hours on the weekends doing homework (seriously!). It was painful but in retrospect, I'm only as productive as I am because I did my time on my homework.  Basically, getting most out of the program takes a lot time but if you have the resources (and support of the higher ups), then I think you save so many more hours in the future (because you're a lot more efficient and faster!).  It's a gift that keeps on giving.  Because of this training, I'm able to help my colleagues with their project design and analysis.  :)

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