Research Program Description

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Research training consists of both formal didactic instruction in research methods at the Boston University School of Public Health, Fellowship research seminars and the performance of supervised research projects.


    The Masters Programs in the School of Public Health at the Boston University School of Public Health provide a didactic framework for research training. Fellows matriculate to earn a Masters of Science (MS) degree in either Epidemiology or Health Services and Systems Research. Basic biostatistics and epidemiological methods are taught in an intensive summer course so that first year fellows learn these skills early in their training. Thereafter, fellows take more advanced methods courses in either Epidemiology or Health Services. These may include advanced statistical and epidemiologic methods courses and other research methods courses that meet their needs and interests, such as survey research, observational research designs, clinical trials, decision analysis, cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis, the assessment of health status, quality of care, economic analyses, service utilization and the use of computer systems in research. The courses are conducted in the late afternoon or evening, permitting time during the day to engage in other aspects of training.
    This course is a weekly meeting with GIM Section faculty where fellows critically review a published article, using published JAMA guidelines. Through this training, fellows learn to sharpen their methodological skills and their ability to read the medical literature critically through the evaluation of diverse research methodologies and subjects.
    Each department conducts Research-In-Progress meetings where fellows and faculty present various stages of their research projects for critical review. This is an opportunity to present your own research-in-progress or critically review the presentations by faculty, staff and fellows (either at the conceptual, design, data collection, or analysis phase) to a diverse group of researchers for the purpose of discussing specific problems and questions.
    This research-in-progress is an opportunity for each fellow to present their own research, in any phase, to their peers. Two fellows present at each meeting. The seminar is designed to help nurture the fellow’s research during each of its phases. It complements the departmental Research-In-Progress Seminar, described above.
    The monthly Academic Seminars cover selected topics that relate to the fellows’ future academic career including grant writing, writing an abstract, presenting an abstract, presenting a poster, writing a manuscript, attending a national conference, networking, resume writing, and academic primary care careers.
    Twice yearly the Fellowship invites scholars with national stature in an area of primary care research to be visiting professors. These individuals meet with fellows, give Grand Rounds, attend research in progress meetings in which fellows present their research and give career advice to fellows. Past Visiting Professors have included Dr. Nicole Lurie, former Undersecretary of Health and Human Services under President Clinton and Drs. Allan Dietrich of Dartmouth Medical School and John Hickner of Michigan State and the American Association of Family Practice, both of whom are national experts on use of Practice Based Research Networks, Dr. Andrew Bindman from the University of California in San Francisco and Dr. Larry Green, director of the Graham Center in Washington, DC.


    This bimonthly seminar is supported by a Boston University Medical Campus grant from NIH to establish a Clinical Research Training (CREST) program to improve clinical research training for fellows in all disciplines, including medical specialties, surgery, dentistry, etc. The seminar is a forum for clinician-investigators to discuss methodology used in clinical research through didactic seminars and examples from their own research and experience.


An essential part of the research training is supervised research experience. Fellows are expected to perform at least one supervised hypothesis-driven research project with the goal of presenting the work at professional meetings and publishing their results in a peer-reviewed publication. At the beginning of the Fellowship, fellows meet with faculty, in order to define research projects and select one or more faculty as research supervisors. A Faculty Roster helps the fellow identify individuals who have similar research interests, ongoing research projects and available databases and other resources. Fellows select projects based on their interests and career goals, tempered by considerations of educational value and feasibility. Resource faculty in biostatistics, epidemiology, decision analysis, health services research, health economics, computer science, and ethnographic methods collaborate and consult with fellows in their research.

There are active research programs which are ideal settings for fellows to conduct research under supervision in all of the participating institutions, including Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health, Boston Medical Center, Veterans Administration Medical Center, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and the Boston Public Health commission. Each of these sites offers fellows special opportunities for conducting research to match their interests. For instance, within the General Internal Medicine Section there is.

Fellows also gain research experience at four other special research units at Boston University: the Department of Medicine’s Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology Section, the Framingham Heart Study, the Sloan Epidemiology Unit and the Veterans Administration Normative Aging Project. In addition, since BUSPH is located at the medical center campus, there are ample opportunities for fellows to work with SPH faculty.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Boston Public Health Commission also conduct community-oriented health services research, often in collaboration with Boston University faculty.

At the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial VA Hospital (the Bedford VA), there is a large Health Services Research and Development Field Program and a Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center. GIM faculty have major roles in these programs and supervise fellows in research projects. In addition, the Boston VAMC has developed innovative programs for ambulatory care which provide excellent settings to investigate health services delivery and medical education issues.

In conducting research, the fellow will have to carry out tasks often performed by a research assistant in a funded project: data collection, data abstraction from clinical records, data coding, computer data entry and file manipulation, and computer programming for statistical analysis. We believe it is important for fellows to perform, under supervision, research assistant tasks so that they are aware of the steps required to perform research. In the long run this experience should enable them to better design future studies and better supervise them. Nonetheless, the faculty can and will provide their staff to assist the fellow, primarily by helping him/her learn how to perform these research tasks. They may help in the design of data collection forms, in the manipulation of data files, in determining which statistical tests to use, and in running computer-based statistical routines. In all instances, a full-time faculty member from the General Internal Medicine Section or Family Medicine Department oversees the research experience of the fellows.