Special thanks to those who provided administrative and analysis expertise: Tiera Vaughns, Brita Alley, Jenny Kemp, Alesia El Ali and Alison Shapiro. Thank you to all faculty and staff who spent time engaging in this process.
A new Department of Medicine (DOM) Vice Chair (VC) for Research team was appointed on October 1, 2022. The team is comprised of Janine Higgins, PhD (VC for Research), Fernando Holguin, MD (Associate VC for Research), and Mary Weiser-Evans, PhD (Associate VC for Research). The VC for Research team is responsible for overseeing all DOM research activity with the goal of making the Department a national leader and model for research in the nation within five years. To achieve this transformational goal, we embarked on an extensive listening tour to:
Overall, respondents are positive and enthusiastic about the science that happens here, their interactions with colleagues, and the collaborative nature of those on this campus. Qualitative analysis revealed five major themes, each with several more detailed subthemes (Table 1), ranked by frequency of comments:
Table 1. Research listening tour themes and sub-themes, arranged highest to lowest by frequency of comments pertaining to each topic.
|1. Infrastructure||Biostatistics and bioinformatics support is lacking||“Need biostatisticians who are available and willing to be on grants, I have been subbing that work out to other institutions"; “Need more people that can do analytics and study design”; “The campus is falling way behind with bioinformatics data analysis – this is a major barrier”|
|No way to navigate campus resources; CTRC, CIDA, Cores, etc.||“No centralized hub listing all research resources available. We have to hunt and ask around until we find what we need”|
|Difficult to recruit/retain staff and postdocs and hiring/onboarding processes are convoluted||"We are significantly underpaid especially with the historic inflation making it hard to be a PRA and live in Denver"; “There is a lack of PhDs to fill T32 slots. The pressure point becomes the salary of a T32 postdoc who is vastly underpaid”|
|Inadequate grant preparation/administration support||"When submitting grants there is frustration when working with faculty who are not providing enough time for staff to [process grants internally with OGC]"|
|Access to data and COMPASS to conduct EHR-based research||“Ridiculously slow to get Compass data, it takes up to a year”; “Time to get Compass projects going prohibits its use”|
|Lack of biorepository/centralized sample availability||“For samples collected clinically, we need a pipeline to enter a request for tissues and be ready to contact and distribute”
“I have no problem getting samples if asked but no one is asking”
|OnCore is a major hinderance to study efficiency||“Oncore is tough and requires much more effort from my research team to work with (and still doesn’t work well)”|
|Limited or no availability of wet lab and clinical space for research||“Need space for clinical research to see patients and making that flexible and reusable”; “Challenging when people need go to multiple locations to complete a visit and spend 15-20 min transferring each time”|
|2. Funding||PI salary insecurity||"The need to cover 100% of my salary through grants puts an immense amount of pressure on me and makes it difficult to have reasonable bandwidth to conduct funded research”; ”It is a challenge is to cover salary 100% and be productive”; “Salary support is a measure of good faith for things that we do for free (e.g. teaching classes and dissertation activities)”’ “I don’t feel like you have the time to train up to do better when focused on funding all the time”|
|MD imbalance of clinical and research time||"As an MD scientist, the clinical load is more than it ever has been which detracts from research time"; “Clinical responsibilities since COVID have increased and seem to not be going down and there is no time available for research and there has not been any work on helping faculty with this”|
|RIFP needs to be revamped and incentive funds need to be provided||“RIFP has structural inequities and is convoluted, if you even qualify”; “RIFP Division cost share limits who could be supported creating disparities“; “It is hard to keep people when they leave for other institutions that provide 60% salary”|
|No indirect cost recovery (ICR)||"The reality is that research is changing - the model that has worked for years is clearly not sustainable with changes in costs for research and staff”|
|Campus resources too expensive and slow turnaround times||“Junior investigators who do not have grants can’t use cores because they are too expensive”
“When we use campus shared resources it takes forever to get our data and it is harder and harder to schedule visits at the CTRC”
|Start-up funds are lacking or insufficient||“How can I do the same research when the price increases drastically without more resources?”|
|K to R transition with no gap funding||"KTR transition is very stressful – we need better programs to reduce the stress and provide better job security; there are no logical fall backs for PhD faculty”|
|Hospital funding contributions to research seem low||“There is a need across all divisions to help clinical faculty move into research when they don’t have a funded project, this is a space that could use hospital support”|
|3. Connectedness & Communication||Siloed PIs, lab, and Divisions with limited collaboration between PIs across divisions||"When PhDs and MDs can collaborate together the caliber of health-related research is multiplicative"
"We have a collaborative culture, but are inhibited by indirects and who owns the grant because of issue of who gets credit”
“Clinical research folks and PhDs are all located differently and there is no one way to connect everyone to find collaborators”’
“How can we integrate health services/ outcomes research into other projects?”
|Lack of transparency for how campus and clinical dollars flow||"There is a need to improve transparency surrounding funds flow on campus, and where indirects go”|
|Unclear communication about promotion||“Career advancement paths are not clear and promotion expectations are not consistent or not conveyed consistently”|
|Communicating research success, WIP, across divisions||“We don’t do a good job at celebrating achievements. Can we get more advertising in newspaper, twitter, podcasts?”|
|Email inundation||“Email inboxes are overwhelming. How do we prioritize which email to read? So much ends up in clutter making it hard to know what’s important and what’s not”|
|4. Career Development||Peer and DOM external mentorship needed||“Difficult to find mentorship with active projects”
“I need content mentors, but they are mostly outside my division”
|K to R pre-review is great but need a similar program for alternative funders (VA, DoD, etc.)||“PreK review is for NIH grants but we need the same pre-review help for applications to other agencies”|
|No upward career paths for PRAs||“We need professional development opportunities to help keep lifetime PRAs on campus”|
|Hard to engage MD Fellows in research||"From the hospital medicine training pipeline, research seemed scary and I had no idea what it would be like”|
|5. Morale & Value||Research, especially basic sciences, are not valued||“Post docs and fellows do not feel integrated in DOM”
“Efforts are focused on clinical fellows and very structured while post docs do not feel welcome or catered for”
|PRAs do not feel valued; low salary, lack of promotions, little recognition for work||“As you grow, your work load increases but your pay does not go up and you end up doing all the missing parts because the grant cannot afford to buy more support”; "I had loyalty to my PIs and wanted to help them through this tough time, BUT I also got zero recognition from leadership for all the extra time and effort I was doing”|
|Research is not valued by the hospital||“Everything is about RVUs, nothing else matters. Research isn’t important. I am in academics because I want to practice medicine, teach the next generation of physicians, and make contributions to the science that will help patients. I can’t do that here. It is only about RVUs. I can work less hours elsewhere and make more money, which is what I’m exploring.”|
|Work-life-balance is difficult; hybrid work is preferred||“The fabric of community feels apart post COVID”|
|QI and small projects need to be a recognized/supported research area||“QI, done well, is publishable and valuable”; “We need to train people to do comprehensive QI that is research”|
|Clinics are not invested/interested in research||“There is no embedded research at UCHealth but, with partnership they would be able to do a lot of implementation”|
|Feeling that PhD scientists are second-class citizens – only contribution is grant funding||"PhDs are referred to as non-Physicians; this sends the wrong messages about the value of certain groups. No one should ever be referred to as a “non” something”.
We and our research were labeled as “non-essential” during the pandemic
Many division- and role-specific comments and suggestions were raised during the listening tour that are not included in this report unless they aligned with the themes and subthemes identified. These comments are duly noted and will be addressed following
implementation of the Research Strategic Plan.
In listening to and documenting many of the barriers that DOM faculty and staff face, many respondents provided suggestions for improvement. These will be considered as the Research Strategic Plan is being developed. Suggestions include:
Seven questions were used as prompts for discussion during the Listening Tour and listed in the online feedback portal. It was not required to answer any specific question/s or even discuss the topics contained within these questions. All comments were encouraged and welcomed and these questions were used as prompts only when conversation was not spontaneous.
Listening Tour Questions