Research During Residency

4 expert tips on conducting research as a resident physician

Brendan Murphy , Senior News Writer

AMA News Wire

4 expert tips on conducting research as a resident physician

May 14, 2024

Conducting research as a resident physician can be a rewarding endeavor, but the process for getting from ideation to completion can be a tricky one.

John S. Andrews, MD, is the AMA’s vice president for graduate medical education (GME) innovations and one of the leaders of the AMA Reimagining Residency initiative. He has worked with residents for several decades, including experience as the director of a pediatric residency program. Dr. Andrews offered his perspective on how residents can successfully pursue research during their graduate medical training.

For residents looking to showcase their research and get national exposure, the deadline for abstract submissions for the 2024 AMA Research Challenge—the largest national, multispecialty research event for medical students and residents—is July 16.

AMA Research Challenge

The AMA Research Challenge is the largest national, multi-specialty medical research conference for medical students and residents to showcase and present research. 

Dr. Andrews said good research begins with curiosity and passion.

“Some people have native curiosity about the work they are doing and find themselves during med school and residency training asking why things are done the way they are and considering improvements to the care they’re providing,” he said. “To be raising those questions in an environment where you have an opportunity to answer them can be really exciting and gratifying. The first time you critically examine some aspect of a care process and work to improve it, it’s motivating.’”

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Looking at the 2023 AMA Research Challenge for context, the only finalists from a graduate medical trainee looked at using machine learning to optimize work flow.

That project—submitted by Matthew Segar, MD, MS, a cardiology fellow at the Texas Heart Institute—was inspired by the researcher’s personal experiences.

"Throughout my training, even going from a medical student to a resident where you are involved in a primary care clinic, you see a lot of these non-clinical tasks that are required of you and it really takes away from the things that we as physicians enjoy most, and that's taking care and helping patients,” Dr. Segar said during an interview on the “AMA Making the Rounds” podcast.

“So as a fellow, I had a really amazing opportunity to work alongside very smart engineers and computer scientists to come up with a solution to try to help physicians, specifically primary care physicians, with this completion of nonclinical tasks.” 

Dive deeper:

The research you do in residency may not get published in JAMA, but there are still plenty of forums to showcase your work. In addition to the AMA Research Challenge, Dr. Andrews recommended presenting with specialty societies.

“To make brief oral presentations or poster presentations at regional or national meetings is the best way to start, because often the mentors who are helping them with the research are a part of those meetings to begin with,” Dr. Andrews said. Held virtually, the AMA Research Challenge event gives medical students, physicians and anyone else interested an opportunity to view research posters and presentations and network with other students, residents, fellows and international medical graduates interested in similar research.

Dive deeper:

Residents are busy, but if you do hope to conduct research during residency, you need to communicate that to your program director.

“All residencies offer some flexibility in the curriculum, typically around the use of elective weeks or months, and making good use of elective time to pursue a research interest is a fine idea,” Dr. Andrews said. “In consultation with their program director or other mentors within their program, residents should be looking at schedules for an upcoming year to openly state that they have an interest in doing some research and to try to build a plan.”