Objectives: Clinical and administrative responsibilities limit time for faculty to pursue scholarly activities. Scholarly work is, for most, difficult to accomplish in isolation. Yet organized opportunities for faculty interaction toward this goal are often lacking. To support one another in scholarly pursuits, three faculty members met in small groups every four to six weeks for about an hour. These “short stops” within hectic clinical and teaching schedules were brief, at intervals long enough to accomplish individual work, feasible in most faculty schedules, and based on the expectation that participants would prepare for the sessions and ask for specific input from the other participants.
Description: Involvement as a fellow in the Ambulatory Pediatrics Association's Faculty Development Scholars Program illustrated the benefit of peer support and encouragement in embarking upon and making a commitment to clinical and educational research. In an effort to create such an environment, the author invited two pediatrics faculty members involved in student and resident education to meet every four to six weeks for about an hour with several goals in mind: (1) to define research questions based on clinical and educational work, (2) to brainstorm solutions for research barriers, (3) to interpret already-collected data, (4) to help each other meet deadlines, (5) to read and edit each other's work, and (6) to provide encouragement to fit this work into short stretches of time in busy schedules. Participants came to meetings prepared to present specific aspects of their work and to ask for specific input. Each meeting ended with the participants' setting personal goals for the next meeting. Frequent communication by e-mail and phone between meetings maintained the momentum. This continuity optimized the benefit of the short meetings.
Discussion: Within a year of implementing “short stops,” there was an increase in new projects, submissions of abstracts to national meetings, presentations at national meetings, and submissions to journals. Although it cannot be shown that this was a direct result of “short stops,” the three participants believe they are related. It appears that this format is optimal to promote active participation, sustain interest, and make use of mutual expectations to keep work on target. An unanticipated, but probably related, change was an increase in mentoring of residents' research projects by the program participants. As a result of our belief that the “short stops” method was successful in our small group, we went on to apply it in our 12-member division of general pediatrics. Twice-monthly breakfast or lunchtime meetings led by the author and another faculty member allow interested division members to attend depending on availability. Although this new process is in its early stages, half of the division members have already attended meetings. Just two months after starting the new group, each faculty participant has made a commitment to a next step toward a completed scholarly project.
Peer-reviewed Collection of Reports on Innovative Approaches to Medical Education