MS in Clinical Investigation Offers Formal Clinical and Translational Science Research Training to Residents, Fellows, and Junior Faculty
The Master of Science in Clinical Investigation (MSCI) Program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has grown from five to more than 60 students since its inception in 1999. This part-time master’s degree program, sponsored by the Center for Education and Career Development (CECD) and housed in the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute, admits 20-30 students per year who, on average, take two to three years to complete their studies.
Students in the program are primarily fellows in clinical programs (65-70 percent) and junior faculty members (25-30 percent) from the departments of medicine, surgery, and pediatrics, although there is representation from nearly all clinical departments and programs at the medical school. A handful of students are in Northwestern residency programs, Feinberg’s Integrated Graduate Program in the Life Sciences, and Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s pharmacy program. Some even come from industry or other Chicago area institutions.
“The caliber of the students in the MSCI program is excellent, which reflects the quality of Northwestern’s training programs and junior faculty,” says Lewis J. Smith, MD, professor of medicine at Feinberg, associate vice president for research at Northwestern, and director of the program.
Smith adds that the MSCI Program provides these students with a rigorous education in the quantitative and ethically sound methods that are necessary for the design, implementation, analysis, and publication of clinical research studies — important lessons for individuals who hope to become clinical and translational researchers in places like academic medical centers and associated research sites. The MSCI program also offers students new opportunities for networking with trainees and faculty from outside their own school, department, or division.
In their path to earning an MSCI degree, students take required courses in epidemiology, biostatistics, ethics, and medical writing. Electives in subjects like clinical trials, drug development, bioinformatics, medical informatics, molecular epidemiology, and cardiovascular disease epidemiology further enhance students’ competency in clinical and translational research. Students also complete a research project in which they are expected to work with research mentors to apply the knowledge that they’ve gained, while developing their own research skills.
Rahul K. Khare, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine, is a student in the MSCI Program. He chose to pursue MSCI certification in 2006 as part of his postdoctoral fellowship in Feinberg’s Institute of Healthcare Studies. Now in his final quarter, Khare says the program’s tailored research curriculum has provided him with the educational experience he was hoping to receive. Through the program, he has been given opportunities to perform comparative and cost-effectiveness research, as well as research related to patient safety. The graduate program has also helped Khare to attain research grants and find mentors on both the Chicago and Evanston campuses.
“With the support of professors like Dr. Phil Fontanarosa, I have already been first-author on four published papers,” says Khare, who is looking forward to a career focused on health services research.
Khare’s talents as a researcher were recently recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality. He was awarded a Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award (K08) — a five-year, National Institutes of Health-funded research grant that supports clinicians in their pursuit to become well-trained, laboratory-based researchers.
“The MSCI Program has already opened so many doors for me,” says Khare.