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Perspective: ACCP MeRIT Program

Updated: 16 hours ago

By Andrew Bzowyckyj, PharmD, BCPS, CDCES

Everyone has their own reasons for enrolling in the ACCP Mentored Research Investigator Training (MeRIT) program, a two-year initiative focused on developing your research and scholarship skills. For me, I was approximately five years into my first academic position and looking to continue my professional growth. I was at a point where I had put a significant amount of time and energy into establishing my clinical practice site and subsequently refining it to maximize student learning and clinical impact, but continued to have difficulty leveraging it for impactful scholarship. Cue the MeRIT program!


The program is designed such that early-career researchers identify a local mentor to assist them with a scholarly project, in addition to getting assigned to a national mentor identified by the ACCP Research Institute. The program kicks off in the summer with a weeklong seminar (research primer) in a type of “boot camp” style. Participants arrive with 2-3 ideas that they would like to develop into their research project over the duration of the program. In addition to didactic sessions on various research & scholarship topics, there are scheduled times where mentors and participants meet in small groups to further develop their project ideas (or in the case of many individuals in my cohort, create an entirely new project from scratch!).


Admittedly, it can be a very frustrating process to go through, and a growth mindset approach is critical for truly silencing your inner saboteur. The camaraderie I experienced from the mentors and other participants as we engaged in very difficult conversations helped all of us grow, and walk away after one week with manageable and impactful project ideas that would have taken several months to fully develop (if not longer).


If you’re considering participating in the MeRIT program, please consider some of the following tips:


1. Strategy is key – I walked into this program with very specific goals for myself, and I believe that is where I derived the most benefit from this program. My first goal was to recruit a local physician mentor who was well connected and already engaged in significant scholarship within my health system. We had already been working together in the clinic and had several common research interests, but this program helped formalize our relationship by giving us a structured experience to complete together. My second goal was to learn an entirely new methodology through this project. I had previously completed several projects using qualitative methods, so I was really hoping to use more quantitative methods to broaden my research skills.


2. Invest the time – this is a 2-year commitment, and it should go without saying that this is something to take seriously. Like most professional experiences, participation in this program can serve as an interview for future opportunities. By sending regular updates to the rest of my team, meeting interim deadlines, and dedicating the time to keep the project on track, I was trying to demonstrate for my mentors that I am the type of person they would want to work again with in the future. If you don’t have the time to truly commit to this program, you may consider delaying until you’re able to commit the time in order to reap the most benefit.


3. If you don’t know what you’re selling, nobody’s buying it – this was probably one of the most important takeaways for me. In the world of peer-reviewed articles and limited grant funding, there are only so many projects that can be featured. Therefore, an important skill to develop is to defend why your project is “important”. This was very difficult for me to grapple with since this always came across as a type of bragging to me, and who would ever care about a project that I was researching? However, if that’s the lens you are starting with (i.e. my project isn’t valuable), nobody is going to jump on your bandwagon – including your study participants, potential funders, editors, and peer reviewers. Knowing the “why” of your research project and being able to communicate that effectively and efficiently is critical for your project’s success.


I was very excited to have the final results of my project accepted as a podium presentation at the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists Annual Meeting and subsequently published in the peer-reviewed journal The Diabetes Educator. As a result of this work (that I originally thought had “no value”), I was recruited to assist the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists in a much larger research project evaluating the impact of diabetes self-management & education (DSME) on economic & health utilization outcomes, which we hope to submit for publication soon.


The MeRIT program requires a significant amount of hard work, introspection, and grit, but the initial investment of your time, money, and energy, has the potential to pay off substantially if you approach the program with right mindset. I am thankful for the Ambulatory Care PRN for their support of member participation in the MeRIT program. Each year, they support travel for 1-2 members to attend this worthwhile program, so definitely consider participating in the MeRIT program and applying for a scholarship through the PRN!

 

Andrew Bzowyckyj, PharmD, BCPS, CDCES

Associate Professor

Pacific University Oregon School of Pharmacy

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