Thursday, April 7, 2016

Dr. Thinker: Research

1.      What are the types of visa on which you can join research?
A.      Research Volunteer/Intern: B1 visa
-          It is an unpaid position.
-          Your visa could be B1/B2, but at the port of entry the customs officer usually stamps B2. So, make sure you ask him to stamp  B1 if you are going for this kind of research.
B.      Research Assistant: J1 visa
-          This could be paid or unpaid position.
C.      Post doc: J1 visa
-          Paid or unpaid depending on the funds.
-          They usually have a commitment for 2 years. But, sometimes you can break it after an year depending on your attending.
2.      What are the advantages of research on B1?
-          You don’t have to commit for long term like research on J1.
-          It’s usually for a maximum of 6 months at a time. It could be for lesser duration depending upon the communication between you and your attending at the time of applying.
-          It’s the best one during the interview season as you can travel for interviews without any obligations. With J1, especially when you are getting paid you are obligated to spend certain number of hours per week and so you will have to manage work hours every time you travel.
-          You can leave whenever you want if the project is over or for other reasons. But, out of courtesy and good manners do mention it to your attending beforehand.

3.      Some places which are know to give research opportunities.
-          John Hopkins – J1
-          Yale – Post doc or volunteer research
-          MGH – Post doc or volunteer research
-          MD Anderson cancer center, Houston – B1
-          NYU, New York – B1
-          MSKCC, New York – B1
-          Maimonides, New York
-          Upenn
-          Creighton, Omaha
-          University of Buffalo, New York
-          UNC, NC
-          University of Louisville – J1
Ashley Reinhart
Clinical Research Management Assistant
Division of Infectious Diseases
University of Louisville
501 E. Broadway, Suite 140B
Louisville KY, 40202
P: (502) 852-2824

4.      How to get a research position?
-          Just like I mentioned for USCE, email every hospital you can.
-          Specifically target the universities as they would be doing research for sure and hence more chances of getting one.
-          Go to any university or community hospital website, find the faculty page, look their profile for research activity, and email the attendings or the program coordinator.

5.      What to mention in the email?
-          First, remember that every attending in any hospital would be getting thousands of such emails every day.
-          So, have patience. You might have to send 1000 emails before you get one reply. If you are lucky your first email itself might be the one.
-          Don’t just send a generic email.
-          Give a one or two line intro about you, tell them that you are interested in their field (of the attending). Look their profile and mention words related to their field of research in specific. You can tell them that you want to fellowship in the subspecialty and hence this would be very helpful.
-          Mention about the usmle steps you have taken and the scores.
-          Mention any kind of research you had done in the past.
-          Don’t forget to attach your CV.

6.      Clinical vs Basic Science research. Which one to choose?
        Clinical research:
-          During the time of the residency application season.
-          When you have time constraints.
-          When you want its effect to be shown soon – eg: You need publications for this application season and you hardly have 3-4 months before sept 15th.
Or when you start it around sept and want something by the time you go interviews or by the time of ROL(rank order list) submission in Feb.
-          Not every clinical research guarantees publications in a short span. Choose the attending wisely. When you email an attending, check their profile to see how many publications they have on an average per year or in the last couple of years. If they have many, then it’s more likely that you will get a publication in a couple of months too.
                       Basic Science research:
-          If you have at least one year time before you apply for residency.
-          If your goal is to get into a very good university hospital and time is not a factor.
You can even do it at places like Yale or any other big university and match at that place after an year or two. I have seen people matching at Yale and other big places after research for an year or two. Even in fields like Surgery with scores as normal as 230s.
-          So, apply at a big place, but plan at least an year in advance.
-          Again, this doesn’t guarantee matching at that university. It depends on how well you impress your attending.
-          This doesn’t guarantee a publication in that one year, too. But, the work accounts to something.
-          This would help a lot even for fellowship.

7.      Does only 1st author abstract/publication have importance and not others?
-          1st author definitely has a great value, especially during fellowship application in that field  same as your research.
-          But, any author is good for us at this level (for residency application).
-          It gives you a very good topic to talk during your interviews.
-          So, don’t worry even if its 3rd or 4th author. Anything after 1st is the same.

8.      What are the questions that are commonly asked during an interview for a research position?
-          Why do you want to do research?
-          What are your plans in the immediate future?
-          Why do you want to do research in this particular field?
-          Are you applying for the residency match this year?
-          Do you have any experience in research? If yes, what was your role?
-          What are you expecting from this research?
-          What kind of role are you willing to play?
-          How long are you willing to commit?
-          How many hours per day/week are you willing to work?
-          How early can you start?
-          Are you in the US? What visa are you on?
-          Can you use Microsoft excel?
-          Are you expecting any pay?
-          If it’s an unpaid research – How are you going to manage living expenses? Do you have family here?

9.      I don’t have any research experience. Would they offer me a position?
-          If you are from India, then the attendings totally understand that most of us won’t have any prior research experience since there is not much importance or resources for research in India.
-           I don’t know about the research exposure in other countries. But, not having a prior research experience won’t be a hurdle in finding one.
-          Of course, having a prior research experience is a plus, but not having one is alright.
-          This is why it is very important to show that you are serious by searching for the specific field of interest of the attending doctor and then talking about that with him. Be as specific as possible.

10.  What else can I do if I can’t find any research position or how can I get publications in spare time by just sitting at home?
-          You can try for case reports during your electives or obsies.
-          Keep in good touch with the residents, fellows or the attendings you worked with. Keep asking them if you can write review articles with them or if you can draft the abstract or the paper they are working on.
-          Find someone in your friends circle, or on the fb groups or usmle forums who is interested in writing review articles. Just find any current interesting topic and write about it. It’s the simplest thing you can do. You just need to include the name of an attending or some fellow with good credentials in order to increase the chances of your article being accepted.

11.  Is research with publications compulsory to match?
-          It’s very important if want to match into a university program or a very competitive community hospital.
-          Otherwise, it isn’t compulsory to match.
12.  Does research with publications guarantee a match?
-          Research with publication only improves your chances of being matched at a university program.
-          It doesn’t guarantee overall matching at a university program or a community program.
-          It definitely adds up to your CV.
-          Matching depends on your overall profile, personality and how you did at the interview.

13.  Is research experience without publications waste?
-          It is a very common misconception that research without publications is a waste.
-          It’s not!
-          You get to spend a quality amount of time with your attending or PI. This will give him enough opportunity to write you an outstanding LOR. He can even put in a personal word for you via phone or email.
-          It will give you a wonderful topic to talk during the interviews.
-          If your interviewer belongs to the same subspecialty or has similar interests, you score many points there. Even otherwise, your interview will be more than decent.
-          At the end of the day, everything comes down to building “contacts”. You would be spending many months at one place and hence a lot of scope to make decent contacts. All you need is “one”.
-          So, if you have enough USCE already it doesn’t matter even if your research is starting in September or later (after you already applied for the match).

1.      Know specific details about your attending and his field of research before you talk to him.
2.      The person giving you a research opportunity would like you to commit for as long as possible. So, you answer should be a minimum of 6 months commitment. Anything less would lose the attending’s interest. Because, he has to train you and then if you leave soon he will have train someone else before any work could be done.
3.      Mention you would work atleast 8hrs per day and that you would be willing to work on weekends too, if needed.
4.      For paid positions, the duration of commitment could be 1 year or more and the working hours might also differ. So, just tell them you would commit for as long as they want (provided you are ok with it).

5.      Most of the initial unpaid research is data collection. It’s a very simple thing. You don’t need any experience for this. So, don’t worry.  Even if you don’t know how to use excel, it’s ok. You can learn it as you use it.

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