Research: It’s within your reach

GETTING STARTED IN A PHARMACY RESIDENCY

I would like to talk about research. Many student pharmacists cringe when research is mentioned and will tell me they have no interest in pursuing a project. It can often feel out of reach for a variety of reasons. You may connect the term research with the work you did in organic chemistry lab or huge drug trials you read about during therapeutics. While these are indeed research, they are not the only opportunities that await. 


I want to help you rethink research projects, highlight why you should participate in one, and identify what your end points should be. 


Reasons to participate 


If you are seeking a residency after graduation, know research is a required component of all accredited residency programs. Participating in a project as a student allows you to gain some necessary skills (e.g., submitting an IRB, collecting and analyzing data, conducting a literature review, and publicizing the information). Additionally, it might help you get noticed during an application review and affords you something interesting to talk about during an interview. It also can help you obtain a great letter of recommendation from your project mentor(s). 


Research defined 


Research projects require an IRB, have data that is analyzed, and employ a systematic approach to answer a specific hypothesis. If these criteria are met, you can include the project under a research heading on your CV. This is a very broad and overarching definition and can include any number of projects from various areas. 


For example, students can participate in projects related to drug discovery, development and evaluation of advanced pharmacy practice models, chronic disease management, health economics, literacy and outcomes, medication safety and adherence, MTM services, pharmacoepidemiology, pharmacy education, pharmacogenomics, pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics, and many others.


Getting started 


Getting started is the easy part, but often the largest hurdle. All you need to do is ask. Did you know all pharmacy faculty members must participate in research as part of a job requirement and are always interested in having more people assist in these projects (more hands makes for lighter work)? They also truly enjoy mentoring students. 


Additionally, many of your IPPE/APPE preceptors also participate in research projects. The best way to get started is to e-mail faculty or preceptors expressing your interest in completing a project. You can e-mail with an area of interest or with a project idea of your own. Either way, reach out and express interest. 


Targeted endpoints 


Here are some ways to display the fruits of your labor.


  1. An abstract and poster presentation at a professional meeting. Presenting a poster requires you to first write an abstract that is reviewed and approved for presentation. Once accepted, you and your mentor(s) will develop a poster that is either physically or virtually displayed at a professional meeting. One author from the poster must stand by or be online, depending on the session type, and ready to answer questions. Many professional organizations have poster presentations and a growing number seek student projects, specifically. Many students target presenting a poster at the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting because they will be attending the meeting for the residency showcase. This is not the only place to present. Work with your project mentor(s) to identify the best meeting for your research and be aware of abstract requirements and deadlines to ensure your abstract is accepted. 

  2. A peer-reviewed publication. Publications are a great goal. Be aware: they take time. Depending on when you start your project, you could be working on the publication during your residency/after graduation. 


If you have presented your project as a poster, work with your mentor(s) to find a way to publish your results. Be persistent in your pursuit of a publication and don’t get discouraged if it’s not accepted the first time.


As always, I remain excited for you all and hope this peaks your interest in participating in a research project. I know the rewards are worth the time you invest. For ways to document research projects, please look at the chapter on CVs in Getting Started in a Pharmacy Residency.


06B_Monica-Miller---Getting-Started.pngMonica L. Miller, PharmD, MS, is a Clinical Associate Professor at the Purdue University College of Pharmacy, an Internal Medicine Clinical Specialist at the Eskenazi Health’s Department of Pharmacy Services, and the author of Getting Started in a Pharmacy Residency, available for purchase at a special APhA member price on www.pharmacist.com.