Letter by Small Regarding Article, “Careers in Cardiovascular Outcomes Research”
To the Editor:
As program manager of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) Service Career Development Program for the last 10 years, I read the July 7th article “Careers in Cardiovascular Outcomes Research”1 with great interest. The authors’ point that “training in outcomes research is a lifelong endeavor” and the conceptual model of the transition from trainee to independent research are, in my experience, very on the mark. Readers may be interested to know that, although Table 2 included health services research fellowships offered through the VA Office of Academic Affiliations, it omitted Career Development Awards funded by our Office of Research and Development. Larger and more comprehensive, the HSR&D Career Development Awards program is the primary source of outcomes research training at the VA and offers a 5-year opportunity beyond the Office of Academic Affiliations fellowships to make the transition to independent investigator. It is open to both clinical and nonclinical postdoctoral researchers who have the support of a VA mentor even if they are not VA employees at the time they are nominated for the award.
The strength of the mentee-mentor relationship, the research experience of the applicant and mentor, the mentoring environment, and the commitment of the applicant to veteran-related issues are emphasized during the peer review process and throughout an awardee’s tenure. Because of the broad scope of health care provided to veterans, cardiology-related research issues of interest include (but are not limited to) heart disease, hypertension, and comorbid diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, obesity, and depression. Successful applicants receive up to 5 years of mentored training at a staff salary level. Physician awardees are expected to devote 75% of their time to research. The remaining time is devoted to patient care, which provides the clinical background to facilitate the formulation of clinically relevant research questions. Nine percent of awardees have been cardiovascular disease subspecialists.
I encourage everyone interested in a career in outcomes or health services research to consider the VA HSR&D Career Development Program. Information is available on the VA website at http://www.hsrd.research.va.gov/.
R. Small has been a full-time employee of the VA Office of Research and Development, HSR&D Service, for the last 10 years.