Share this article on:

The Ethics of Conducting Graduate Medical Education Research on Residents

Keune, Jason D. MD, MBA; Brunsvold, Melissa E. MD, FACS; Hohmann, Elizabeth MD; Korndorffer, James R. Jr MD, FACS; Weinstein, Debra F. MD; Smink, Douglas S. MD, MPH, FACS

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182854bef

The field of graduate medical education (GME) research is attracting increased attention and broader participation. The authors review the special ethical and methodological considerations pertaining to medical education research. Because residents are at once a convenient and captive study population, a risk of coercion exists, making the provision of consent important. The role of the institutional review board (IRB) is often difficult to discern because GME activities can have multiple simultaneous purposes, educational activities may go forward with or without a research component, and the subjects of educational research studies are not patients. The authors provide a road map for researchers with regard to research oversight by the IRB and also address issues related to research quality. The matters of whether educational research studies should have educational value for the study subject and whether to use individual information obtained when residents participate as research subjects are explored.

Dr. Keune is chief resident in general surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri.

Dr. Brunsvold is assistant professor, Division of Critical Care/Acute Care Surgery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Dr. Hohmann is associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, and director, Institutional Review Board, Partners HealthCare System, Boston, Massachusetts.

Dr. Korndorffer is professor of clinical surgery, Tulane University School of Medicine, director, Tulane Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery, and associate residency program director, Tulane Department of Surgery, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Dr. Weinstein is vice president for graduate medical education, Partners Healthcare System, and assistant professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

Dr. Smink is assistant professor of surgery, Harvard Medical School, associate medical director, STRATUS Center for Medical Simulation, and program director, General Surgery Residency Program, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Keune, Washington University School of Medicine, Department of Surgery, 660 S. Euclid Ave., Campus Box 8109, St. Louis, MO 63110; e-mail:

© 2013 Association of American Medical Colleges