Taking the Plunge: Lessons from ACEP’s EMBRS Workshop

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Interested in pursuing a fellowship that will require research? Better yet, interested in a career in emergency medicine research? ACEP’s Emergency Medicine Basic Research Skills (EMBRS) workshop may be the right fit for you. The 10-day, 2-part event is held at ACEP headquarters and starts with a week of lectures in November, followed by a recap with research presentations in April. While the program is not for the faint of heart, it is a fantastic way to get your feet wet with an eye on achieving your goals.

After completing the EMBRS sessions myself, I identified several key takeaways.

  1. Mentors are the lifesavers of the research world.

       If you do not have a good mentor, you will not get far. Choose carefully and look for specific qualities that will complement your own. Determine the person’s ability to commit time to a new researcher, and what resources they have readily available. Furthermore, review what they have done so far in their career. Have they been successful in the way you would like to be? Do they hold a certain position within an institution or have an admirable reputation among the community within which you wish to work?

  1. Take the time to really think through your research project.

       Start broad. Most institutions stress using the PICO format (Population, Intervention, Control, and Outcome) for the bones of your project. From there, try to visualize how the study will look. How will you recruit your population? Will it be prospective or retrospective? What limitations can you address up front and which ones are you just going to have to accept? Developing your project appropriately up front will save you a ton of time down the road.

  1. Statistics, statistics, statistics.

       Understanding the basics of statistics is fundamental for anyone considering research in any field. While we can and may hire a statistician to help with our analyses of projects, understanding the basic way to evaluate data and the concepts behind selecting certain tests is fundamental to appropriately conveying research outcomes.

  1. There’s always money available for research.

The funding does not begin and end with the National Institutes for Health (NIH). You should be aware of your own institutional resources, as well as those put forth by organizations that focus on your specific research topic (think EMF, ACEP, EMRA, SAEM). A focused list of available funding will be posted on the EMRA Research Committee’s homepage in the coming months (emra.org/committees-divisions/research-committee). With regard to grants, funding is possible but not easy. Grants should be methodical. Read what the funding agency requires, and use their words verbatim to describe what you will do with their money. This strategy will make your application seem extremely relevant while at the same time making scoring easier for the evaluator, which may win points along the way.

  1. A career in research is hard.

       It is time-consuming, both from a conceptual standpoint and also with regard to the obstacles one has to navigate to ensure compliance with local and governmental institutions’ requirements. It is not always gratifying. Projects do not always work. Obtaining informed consent is close to impossible at times. HOWEVER, when a project does work, when you find a significant (not necessarily statistically significant) outcome, when you contribute to the advancement of science and play a role in improving the lives of the patients you care for every day, then you will realize the true potential and exhilaration of a career in research. This sensation is something you will never forget.

My time spent at EMBRS was educational and, more important, inspirational. For those interested in academics, it is an excellent investment in your future research-oriented self and career as an emergency medicine provider. I am so glad I took the plunge.

Cara Bergamo, MD

Cara Bergamo, MD

EMRA Research Division Co-Chair, Denver Health, Denver, CO; @CaraBergamo
Cara Bergamo, MD

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