Research During Your First Years in Practice…Ready, Set, Go!

Matthew Beal, MD

February 27, 2020

As a young attending, it can be daunting to get all of your missions off the ground as you start a new job. Keep in mind that you have multiple things that you are responsible for, including your clinical work, your educational/administrative activities, and research production. As you get started, you need to build a portfolio of research. This is not a sprint, it’s a career-long marathon!


First and foremost, you need to establish what your expectations are for research with your chairman and your senior partners at the job you are considering. You don’t want to walk into a job where your research output desires do not match the expected output of either your senior partners or your chairman. They understand that your clinical production is going to come first and that you need to know how much time is the right amount. These are conversations that should happen prior to you beginning a job. This is the READY stage.


Once you arrive at the job, you need to see what resources you have available and where your institution or your group can help you be successful with your research endeavors. This could be through institutional degree work, outside coursework, or even courses to work on editing skills. What financial support do you have from your department to proceed? Your new job may come with resources that are already available in the form of research associates, medical students, eager residents, and even medical editors. With that in mind, you will need to tailor your research education/training to the resources you have available and, more importantly, to those you lack. This is the SET stage.


Depending upon your organizational structure, there may not be an established research meeting in place. If that’s the case, start one! Make this meeting a regular meeting either monthly or quarterly so that you can keep track of the progress of projects that you are mentoring and first authoring. Meet with your study coordinators and establish the goals for these meetings so that they are ready to go and they are not surprised by your expectations for performance. Finally, don’t overcommit yourself with so many projects that you get nothing done, or worse yet, you have multiple unfinished projects and you feel completely overwhelmed with your lack of progress. Remember as you get started, to target your projects to the appropriate medium. Whether it be a smaller meeting or a lesser known journal in order to start building your portfolio, a publication is still a publication. If a publication gets rejected by a larger journal, don’t give up on it, simply take the editors points and rework the publication and resubmit or submit it to a different journal for publication. This is the GO stage.

To recap, building a research portfolio as a young faculty member takes a long time. It is a marathon, not a sprint. As you go from the ready, to the set, and finally to the go stage, there will be obstacles. Don’t get discouraged! Simply use your resources at hand and discuss the matter with your more senior faculty members for support. Remember, resources can come from multiple different areas and require multiple different talents. Sometimes reaching out to other faculty members, other departments, or other institutions where you had prior academic ties, like your prior residency or fellowship, can be some of the most fruitful tactics as you move through your career.

So, with that in mind, get your research going with Ready…Set…GO!

DISCLOSURES: AAOS-Board or committee member, American Orthopaedic Association-Board or committee member, Medacta-IP royalties; Paid consultant; Research support, National Institutes of Health (NIAMS & NICHD), Zimmer, Stryker, Mako Surgical-Research support, Zimmer-Paid consultant

Read the AAOS Discussion Group Terms, Conditions and Disclaimers HERE

Copyright© 2020 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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