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Clinical v HSR v Public Health v Education

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I'd love to see this little forum become much more active, but I know that is likely nothing more than wishful thinking.


Anyway, I posted this, because I frequently get questions from PAs who are "interested" in research, but have no real idea where to start, or what to do.


I think, for starters, you need to figure out what you want to research, sounds simple right? Not so fast. There are really 4 general areas of health care research, with lots of avenues and some cross over among them.


1. Clinical research. Most PAs are probably MOST familiar with clinical research and studies of how a specific treatment, procedure, or medication impacts a patient or a group of patients. Primary funder is NIH. Difficult to get into, can be basic science research, pharmaceutical, non pharmaceutical treatment, or a study of surgical/interventional procedures. Primary methodology is the RCT, in fact, the typical clinical researcher is so devoted to the RCT methodology that they cannot open their eyes and realize that there are a number of other methodologies that are useful. Requires significant experience, and usually a PhD in a hard science (biology, chemistry, physics, immunology, etc.etc.)


2. Public Health research. We are as a profession, probably at least a little familiar with public health research, specifically the epidemiological branch. Studies how pathologies, treatments, and funding can impact whole populations, or groups of patients (IE; retroviral availability to HIV patients in Urban Los Angeles) Primary funder can be NIH, although more likely to be AHRQ or HRSA. Requires specific epidemiological training, public health. Can use a variety of methodologies, but most likely to use measures of association, prevalence, or occurence. BIG overlap with both Clinical and HSR. Usually requires a DrPH, MPH, ScD, or a PhD in public health or epidemiology.


3. Health Services Research. Some familiarity, but not much. Encompasses a range of fields, basically, everything else. Can study behavioral, economic, sociological, psychological, systems engineering, delivery system and mechanisms, workforce, etc.etc. Primary funder is AHRQ and to a lesser degree HRSA. Training variable depending on discipline you wish to pursue. Broad use of methodologies, including simulation, modeling, interventional, ethnography, etc.etc. Overlaps with both clinical and public health. Requires discipline specific education.


4. Health Education Research. Studies the training of healthcare providers. Primary funder can be any of the major agencies. Usually an EdD or PhD required.


So how do you get started? Well, first you have to figure out where your interests lie. When you start asking questions at work, write them down, see how they align with the different fields and you can start there. I can tell you that writing a paper or doing research on a topic that you are not really interested in is akin to pulling teeth. It all starts with a question.


I hope that more forum participants remember this forum is here, and that we see a little more traffic......

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  • 5 years later...

Thanks for posting this topic.

I'm very interested in doing research but being that I have a BA, instead of a BS it's been difficult to get past the bureaucracy.  I'm going to experiment with the internship route, so maybe I can break into clinical research sciences someday.  It's a little off-putting that these fields require a PhD; wish me luck getting into PA school so I'm a little bit closer.  ...looking at some frog venom I want to study more.

What research are you excited about?

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