EB: What have you been charged to address as the newly appointed Chair of the GIM Fellows Task Force?
NM: SGIM’s President (Martha Gerrity, MD, MPH) asked me to lead a task force that is charged with developing plans to address the highest priority recommendation that emerged from the Research Committee’s recent surveys of current and former GIM research fellows and fellowship directors. The recommendation calls for SGIM to develop a community around GIM research that spans career stages and supports a GIM research pipeline with activities at meetings and between meetings.
EB: What were the specific aims of the Research Committee’s surveys of current and former GIM research fellows and fellowship program directors?
NM: In 2021, the Research Committee formed a GIM Research Fellows Survey Subcommittee that included Lauren Block, MD, MPH; Kristina Cordasco, MD, MPH; Deborah Gomez Kwolek, MD; Karin Nelson, MD, MSHS; Michael Paasche-Orlow, MD, MPH (co-chair); Kira Ryskina, MD, MSHP; Mara Schonberg, MD, MPH; Bimla Schwartz, MD; Himali Weerahandi, MD, MPH; Donna Windish, MD, MPH; Erika Baker (SGIM staff); and myself as co-chair. The subcommittee designed a pair of surveys to address growing concerns about the future of the academic GIM research workforce. The surveys were designed to answer four specific questions:
- How can we improve the experience of research fellows in SGIM during their fellowship?
- How are the career paths of research fellows similar or different from what they intended at the time of their research fellowship?
- How can SGIM help its members maintain long-term investigator careers in academic GIM?
- How can SGIM help research fellowship directors?
EB: What were the most important or surprising findings from the survey?
NM: We learned a lot about factors influencing the motivation to pursue a research fellowship and how people viewed the training and experience during their fellowships. We also learned about their career plans and outcomes after fellowship training. We were disturbed to learn that many people experienced discrimination during their fellowship training and many reported symptoms of burnout at a very early stage in their careers. We also heard from fellowship directors that they would be very interested in having more fellowship-related resources provided by SGIM.
EB: What did the Research Committee recommend based on the survey results?
NM: The committee included 10 recommendations in its report to SGIM’s Council, including the one that Council identified as the top priority for the task force. The other nine recommendations were:
- SGIM’s expansion of resources to support clinician-investigators should include meeting-related activities such as support of fellows to attend meetings, networking opportunities during the meetings, and outreach to fellowship programs not currently active in SGIM;
- SGIM should create a national strategic marketing plan for the GIM research pathway and research fellowships across career levels (i.e., medical students, residents, fellows, and faculty);
- SGIM should conduct additional investigation into experiences of discrimination among its members at different levels of training and develop a strategy to address this;
- SGIM should focus on assisting fellowship programs with recruitment of fellows, including those who are underrepresented in medicine;
- SGIM should perform a closer evaluation of non-meeting SGIM resources to determine which resources should be improved or removed;
- SGIM should consider how it can address burnout among its members;
- SGIM should develop career development resources for fellowship program directors;
- SGIM should consider hosting a website for fellowship program directors with helpful resources for fellows and program directors; and
- SGIM should advocate to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and other funders to gain more resources for research fellowships.
I should note that Council also asked the Research Committee to focus attention this coming year on expanding resources to support clinician-investigators, including meeting-related activities. In addition, Council confirmed that it expects the Health Policy Committee to give high priority to advocating for HRSA and other agencies to provide more support for fellowship training of general internists. I hope some of the other recommendations can be addressed in future years or in the course of the work that will be done by the GIM Fellows Task Force and the Research Committee.