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Emphasizing The Importance Of Research To Podiatric Residents

After recently attending the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgery (ACFAS) Annual Scientific Conference, I feel the topic of research is relevant to discuss.

I thoroughly enjoy each conference I attend and the opportunity to be immersed in an academic and research focused environment. I appreciate all of the hard work from dedicated faculty spending countless hours outside of their clinical duties to compile a 15-minute talk. I also enjoy walking around the poster presentation hall, reviewing the work residents and physicians are eager to present annually. The days following my return are often filled with attempting to decipher my notes and requesting journal articles mentioned in presentations to further my own knowledge base as well as figuring out my own research endeavor. This is my thank you to all who question, research, publish and inspire.

Residency is a time to work on your research skills on top of your many other responsibilities and honing your clinical craft during a short three to four years of training. I feel the best way to break into doing research is a twofold approach: read as much current literature you can and write a case report for either poster or manuscript submission.

As doctors, we are lifelong learners. Once you have read McGlamry’s Comprehensive Textbook of the Foot and Ankle and/or Mann’s Surgery of the Foot and Ankle, spend time each week reading the current literature. Good starting points are the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery (JFAS), and Foot and Ankle International. A bit less research oriented but still current and informative publications like Podiatry Today or Lower Extremity Review, both free, are also monthly must-reads. From here, you can find other journals or articles tailored to your podiatric interests by setting up a PubMed account for new record alerts.

Furthermore, when reviewing an article, read it in its entirety. Do not skip the methods and results, and go straight to the discussion/conclusion. If you don’t understand things like p-values, chi-square, odds ratio, student’s t-test and the other various tests and terms, pick up a book on statistics and truly understand these topics. I also recommend what I call “deep diving.” This means looking up an article cited in the initial article you read if you need further clarification or want more information by going directly to the source.

Many programs have a research requirement component for residents to complete during their training. I truly believe this is an important part of training. It is often difficult to work on something prospective or retrospective during residency, and this can be a daunting undertaking as a first attempt at “research.” The easiest way to get into research is to write a case report manuscript.

Once you come up with an idea or have an interesting case, the best advice I can give is to sit at the computer and type. Look at other articles as a template for the framework. Do a literature review to see what else authors have published regarding your topic. Use resources that make the process easier. My go-to program is Mendeley Reference Manager, a free program that organizes journal articles similar to iTunes with music and allows you to perform your citations as you work.

Once you are done, ignore the paper for a week. Then go back, read your work and start the editing process. Decide where you want to submit your manuscript and read the guidelines for submission. Find a mentor attending in your program to help guide edits. Use your co-residents as peer editors. One of my co-residents was an English major in college. This was totally unexpected but highly beneficial to the process. From there, the manuscript will evolve and take shape to a final product.

If residents can incorporate reading current literature and writing a scientific manuscript into their training experience, they will be all the better for it. After submitting a case report, many residency programs will assist with funding to attend conferences if they accept the poster. To me, this is a no-brainer. Break into research, present a poster, get your name out there/published, attend a conference, gain further education, make connections and get a mini-break from resident life.

When I began residency, research and writing were the last things on my mind. However, some of my proudest moments in my career were when JFAS printed my first article and when my posters were accepted to the ACFAS and Diabetic Limb Salvage (DLS) conferences. I want others to experience this pride and, with just a little extra work and drive, anyone can.

Dr. Hood is the Post-Graduate Fellow with the Pennsylvania Intensive Lower Extremity Fellowship in Malvern, Pa. He is a graduate of the Crozer-Keystone Health System PMSR/RRA Residency Program in Upland, Pa.

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Christopher R. Hood, Jr., DPM, AACFAS
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