Other Special Curricula

Research Curriculum

Pathology Resident Research Training

The Pathology Department at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center (HMC) and Penn State College of Medicine (PSCOM) has a rich research environment. The department is comprised of the Anatomic, Clinical and Experimental Divisions – all of which are actively involved in basic, translational and clinical research efforts. The department’s research efforts were funded by grants totaling $3,715,898 annually with 90 research article authorships in 2011.

The residency training program in Pathology offers the resident an opportunity to learn about and become involved in conducting research during his/her residency training. Education in research will include didactic and experiential components. Didactic education will cover basic principles of planning and conducting research, research funding, regulatory issues, and related topics. The experiential component will include a research project, selected by the resident, to be completed during his/her training years. It is essential for residents to gain an understanding of research processes during residency to better appreciate the values and limitations of published research works that will influence their practice in future years.

We offer the versatility of tailoring the nature and depth of this training to the interest of each resident in the program. The amount of time a resident devotes to performing research will depend on the interest of each pathology resident. Research can be performed on a part-time or full-time basis. Part-time projects can be pursued while the resident is rotating through a clinical service or during an elective. Alternatively, residents may use electives to conduct full-time research in the residency training program. This would allow up to 6 months of dedicated research time for a resident to perform research during their training.

Research Projects: Research projects will be constructed to evaluate a specific hypothesis or question. Experimental plans and procedures will be designed to test the hypothesis or generate answers to the question. Application of appropriate statistical methods will be expected. Statistical consultants are available in the College and can be included in the project, if desired. The research plan will be the joint responsibility of the resident and his/her faculty research mentor. The range of potential research questions is limitless, and the resident should choose a focus that suits his/her interests. Discussion of projects with one or more potential mentors is also encouraged, as faculty often have a number of projects available for resident participation. Research projects within the laboratories of Experimental Pathology faculty members are available for those who are interested in translational or basic research. Research opportunities also exist within the Anatomic and Clinical Pathology divisions and the chiefs of each division can also facilitate exploration of the research opportunities within their division. Pathology-related research projects mentored by faculty outside of the Pathology Department may also be available. Also, some research-based Quality Improvement (QI) projects will qualify to satisfy the research project requirement of the residency program. As another option, the performance of a research project can take the place of the requirement of a QI project during one training year.

All resident research projects are required to be submitted to a national meeting for presentation. If a resident cannot present at a national meeting, he/she will be required to present the research as a poster or by oral presentation at a local or regional meeting or symposium. Each year, all completed resident research projects will be reviewed by a panel of Pathology Department researchers, and the resident judged to have the best research project will be recognized at the annual Pathology Resident and Fellow Banquet.

Research mentor: Each resident who pursues a research project will work with a faculty research mentor. This mentor will typically be the PI under whom the resident will do his/her research. The mentor will meet with the resident regularly and guide the resident in planning, performing, and analyzing his/her research. The faculty mentor may also assist with identifying funding opportunities for the resident’s research (see below) and presenting research findings in local, regional and national meetings.

Grant funding: Assistance with grant applications can be obtained from the resident’s research mentor and/or members of the Pathology Residency Program Committee. Institutional as well as extramural funding opportunities exist to support residents’ research. These include the following:

Pathology Research Award grants – The Pathology Department provides funding for research projects and to facilitate the application for additional funding following pilot data generation. To obtain funding, residents must submit a research proposal to the Pathology Research Award Committee for review (email to Karen Clabaugh, and copy the Chair). Funding decisions will be made based on scientific merit, and projects can receive up to $20,000 of support. Travel costs can be included in the budget, to cover travel expenses for a resident whose abstract is accepted for presentation at a professional meeting. Grant applications must be approved by the resident’s faculty research mentor prior to submission.

HMC/PSCOM Internal Grant Programs: Throughout the year, several grant funding opportunities are available from within the medical center and the College. These opportunities are listed on the Research Development Office website (http://www.pennstatehershey.org/web/researchdevelopment/home/internal/rfa)

NIH Career Development Awards (K Grants): For residents who want to pursue an active career in research following residency, securing a NIH K grant will be advantageous. Several K Grant mechanisms may be applicable and the mentor for the resident will help the resident select the most appropriate K Grant to which the resident should apply. The mentor will also assist the resident in the development of the research plan and writing for the K Grant.

Other extramural grants: A variety of professional and non-profit organizations offer professional training and transition grants that the resident may be eligible to apply for to support research costs. The faculty mentor will guide the resident through the selection and application processes to such organizations.

Lecture and Seminar-Based Training

Principles of Research
Research principles will be presented to residents in their first year of the program. Topics covered will include how to read scientific literature, basic statistics, and scientific methods. Residents will receive training about methods and technology used in molecular pathology. Additional research-related lecture-based topics include quality improvement, informatics, and laboratory management.

Journal Club
All residents attend four to six mandatory sessions of Journal Club per year. Topic-focused research papers will be chosen by faculty leading the discussion and will be distributed prior to discussion. As a teaching tool, a 1-page report is required by residents. The report includes:

A.  What is the primary scientific question being asked?
B.  Why is the question important?
C.  How did the investigators address the question?
D.  What were the core results and conclusions?
E.  Were the conclusions justified by the actual data?
F.  What would you do next to extend the studies?

EPIC (Experimental Colloquium Idea Conference)
This is an Experimental Pathology seminar series which all residents are invited to attend. This series is designed to foster discussion of the research being performed within the department and allows researchers of all levels (faculty, residents, postdoctoral fellows, students and staff) to participate through active discussions of other’s research as well as presenting their own research ideas.


Updated:  4/2012 DBS