Training Next Generation Mental Health Researchers

Investigator: Carol Mathews, MD
Sponsor: NIH National Institute of Mental Health

Location(s): United States


Although dramatic advances have occurred in basic neuroscience and molecular genetics, the utilization of such knowledge in understanding the pathophysiology of mental illness and mechanisms of treatment may be hindered by a dearth of physician scientists trained to apply it to key problems of mental diseases. This application is a competitive renewal of a program that seeks to increase the number and quality of basic and clinical research investigators in mental health through proactive and collaborative mentorship and targeted research support and to facilitate the development of translational research through the collaborative involvement and mentorship of prospective trainees by researchers active in basic neuroscience and clinical behavioral research. Specifically, the program provides support for involvement in psychiatric research training and activity beginning in the PGY 1 year and continuing incrementally through the PGY 4 and, if indicated, in the PGY-5/6 years. The allocation of training support to research residents is determined annually on a competitive basis. In addition to stipend support of individual trainees, the program provides internal funding to support resident research projects, professional travel, and formal course work in methodology, statistics and research ethics. Each trainee is assigned a career mentor who assists them in identifying a research mentor and provides support and advice about ongoing issues related to career development. An individualized training plan (ITP) is developed and reviewed yearly, and a research project is developed in PGY 2 and conducted in PGY 3 & 4. In conjunction with formal coursework and hands-on research experience, networking and career development opportunities are emphasized, as is the successful integration of clinical and research training. Research residents participate in ongoing research related journal clubs, including a "Virtual" Journal Club that includes research residents from other California training sites, and is co-organized by UCSD, as well as in two annual research retreats: one, a Departmental retreat in which all research trainees and faculty are invited to present a summary of their recent work, and the other, an interinstitutional Research Retreat, rotating between UCSD and UCSF. Participation in a Workshop on Responsible Conduct of Research is also required. The success of the program in facilitating independent research scientist careers will be assessed through a series of subjective and objective instruments constructed to assay changes in attitudes, knowledge, and skills of the trainees in the course of their research training, and their entry into research fellowships, and their subsequent record of publication and training grant submissions. The career development of women and minority trainees in psychiatric research is specifically emphasized.