If the applicant is a fellow with a year or more to spend on the project, they may bring a specific research topic with them. “In that case, we assess if we have the physical and financial resources that the research approach demands,” she says. “If not, we work together to identify sources of funding and help them with the application process.”
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Another important consideration: Does the applicant, especially the rheumatology fellow, have sufficient time to devote to the research project? “Often, we will help them finish the project after they have left our rotation,” Dr. Pachman says. “This [approach] enables them to retain first or second authorship, and still participate in the manuscript preparation process.”
Leading a Team
The person leading a research team should have imagination, empathy, fairness, patience and rigor. Dr. Pachman says, “Leaders share the excitement of a successful experiment and the disappointment when something does not work as expected.”
Two constant challenges of leading a team include maintaining funding and securing protected time for research.
“With the current increased stresses on National Institutes of Health funding as a reliable source, we must tap other organizations,” she says. Additionally, as hospital funding becomes less secure, physician researchers must often cover the salary related to their time spent in research through increased delivery of service (i.e., patient care) either at clinics or on the wards. Other modalities must cover the increasing cost of supplies and modern equipment. An advantage of translational research is that the clinical investigator can sometimes go back to their patient base and encourage philanthropy.
Leading a translational research team differs from other types of research teams. In translational research, the question being explored always looms in the background. Rather than simply asking, “Does A affect the behavior of B?” researchers ask: “How will this work to improve the patient experience or outcome?”
“A better outcome for the child [or patient] that is derived from the new knowledge gained is very satisfying for everyone concerned,” Dr. Pachman concludes.
Karen Appold is a medical writer in Pennsylvania.