Research training is a major component of the Infectious Diseases Fellowship training experience at BCH. Fellows have the ability to choose mentors and projects within basic science, translational, clinical, or health services research. Fellows are encouraged to pursue research and career pathways of interest to them. Fellows are encouraged and expected to apply for relevant sources of fellowship research funding, both internal and external, and many of our trainees have received various prestigious grants during fellowship. However, salary support for the research years of fellowship is guaranteed for all fellows regardless of whether grant applications are successful.
Rich opportunities exist for research in a wide range of fields relevant to infectious diseases, including:
- Microbial pathogenesis
- Host responses
- Vaccine immunology
- Health outcomes
- Epidemiology and disease surveillance
- Global health
- Quality improvement
- Antimicrobial and vaccine safety
- Economic analyses
- Antimicrobial stewardship
- Infection control and prevention
- Clinical trials
- Infections in immunocompromised hosts
Scholarship Oversight Committee
The goal of our training program is to prepare fellows for a career in academic PID that includes scientific investigation and other scholarly pursuits, and to effectively support fellows in achieving their career goals. A Scholarship Oversight Committee (SOC) is established for each fellow during the first year. The SOC monitors the fellow’s research progress over the course of their training and to ensure that their research efforts meet the guidelines for Scholarly Activity as established by the ABP. In addition, for our program, the SOC also serves as an advocacy and advisory committee for fellow as they develop their career pathway, search for a job, seek future research funding, and prepare for the transition from fellowship to a faculty position.
A well-matched and supportive research mentor is critical to a fellow’s research success. The process of developing our fellows’ research experience begins at the time their interview and continues after the Match and beyond. The incoming fellow, fellowship program director, and program faculty maintain active communication during the months before the fellowship starts to discuss research ideas, devise a tailored approach to finding a mentor who shares the fellow’s interests, and connect the fellow with potential experienced mentors who have a track record of effectively teaching and supporting fellows through their training and beyond. Fellows may identify research mentors within or outside of the division, including throughout the broader Harvard-wide research community. This approach gives our fellows tremendous opportunities to connect with experts in their area of interest and identify mentors with whom they can have the best possible research experience. Once they start the first year of fellowship, fellows continue to refine their research plans. The clinical schedule includes built-in protected time for further research planning, final mentor selection, and project development.
In addition to engaging in discussions with program leadership, incoming fellows are paired and meet with a faculty advisor from within our division who shares a similar training background and/or planned career pathway. Faculty advisors work one-on-one with the fellow to provide guidance in selecting an appropriate research mentor, support and counsel the fellow throughout training, and offer advice on long-term career plans. Fellows often maintain a relationship with their faculty advisors throughout their training. The faculty advisor does not necessarily serve as the primary research mentor for the fellow although he or she may certainly function in such a capacity.
Training in Research Methods
Fellows in our program are surrounded by an educational and research community that provides access to a variety of coursework and educational experiences in research methods. Through the Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard Catalyst (the Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center), many options for individual courses, certificate programs, and degree programs exist, and fellows are encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities. Fellows in our program have pursued Master of Public Health degrees, concomitant fellowships in patient safety and quality improvement or health services research, education in bioinformatics, and coursework in global health care delivery. The extensive menu of scientific seminars offered by the institutions in the Harvard Medical area are an additional valuable resource for acquiring up-to-date knowledge in the fellow’s area of interest.