To the Editor:
A routinely encountered problem in community-based hospitals is the lack of resources, time, and infrastructure for academic scholarship, including the often-onerous grant application process. It is of limited effectiveness to impose the research grant process of larger academic institutions because the creation of more academic scholarship must be based on what could feasibly work in community education centers.
In 2006, Muhammad Yunus,1 an economist, won the Nobel Prize for his development of the concept of microfinance, where small loans are provided to people of limited financial resources. We believe that this novel idea—that small amounts of financing can result in substantive positive change—can be transferred beyond developing nations to academic development. Based on our own successful experience with this concept at North York General Hospital's Mental Health Department, we offer the following guidelines:
* Find a source to fund the microgrants. Perhaps the hospital's charitable foundation or other appropriate foundations or donors.
* Offer microgrants that are small (perhaps $1,000–$3,000 each) but large enough to support interested hospital staff to hire a writer to assist in preparing scholarly manuscripts, thus stimulating academic productivity.
* Create a simple application process that outlines the proposed scholarly activity, to be approved by the community hospital clinical chief or an equivalent authority.
* Try to find a capable, dedicated writer and motivated staff for whom scholarly accomplishment is the reward (i.e., the staff will not receive financial compensation). In our experience, these two conditions were vital for a high degree of scholarly activity to occur.
We hope other hospitals will be interested in exploring the feasibility of the microgrants option for their institutions. We welcome readers to contact us for more information about our successful experience.
Thomas Ungar, MD, MEd, CCFP, FRCPC, DABPN
Chief of psychiatry, Mental Health Department,
North York General Hospital, Faculty of Medicine,
University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;
Madalyn Marcus, MA
PhD candidate, Department of Psychology, York
University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
1. Yunus M. Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty. New York, NY: Public Affairs; 2003.