A new research model for pharmacy residents at the UNC Medical Center is receiving attention and commendation.

The UNC Medical Center received the Best Practice Award from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists for its implementation of a flipped residency research model — one of six projects that received the award out of over 70 submissions.

The flipped research initiative was led by a team of pharmacists from UNC Hospitals and the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. This year’s submission for award consideration was coordinated by Kamakshi Rao, Pharm.D., a clinical manager at the Medical Center and an associate professor of clinical education at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

In the traditional model, residents select and develop a project idea, then collect data and eventually complete a research project, Rao explained.

In the flipped model, residents are assigned during the summer to a protocol that has already been IRB-approved. They begin their residencies in the data-collection phase of research, then proceed into analysis and have finalized results from their projects by December.

Kamakshi Rao, Pharm.D.

During the second half of the residency year, the flipped-model residents prepare results of their first project for publication while also proposing projects for consideration to be used in the next academic year.

“By giving residents six to eight months of experience at UNC before they propose a research project, those projects are more likely to be feasible and aligned with departmental priorities,” Rao said. “From the proposals submitted, a select number are chosen to be the projects for the next year of residents, creating a consistent stream of ideas to feed the residency research requirements from year to year.”

The UNC Medical Center uses the support of its Residency Research Oversight Committee to provide timelines, guidance and feedback for all projects throughout the year.

The results

Rao said that in the five years since the UNC Medical Center implemented the program with its PGY1 residents, the publication rate of research projects have risen from 12 percent to almost 34 percent. The program was expanded to PGY2 residents in 2016, with similar results.

“We have noted that residents are more committed to pursuing publication, and are willing to revise and resubmit manuscripts well beyond residency completion,” Rao said. “Their level of comfort with different statistical tests and the process of research has significantly improved, which will hopefully translate to more graduates remaining engaged and active in research after graduation from residency.”

Rao said the success of the flipped model at the UNC Medical Center is gaining attention from other institutions, who are considering implementing similar programs.

“This is such a thrill, and particularly special because it has taken the work of so many people to conceive of, implement, grow and sustain the model into what it is today,” Rao said. “While we know there is still room to improve the process, this is strong validation that we have developed something that others look to emulate.”

The team

Along with Rao, key members of the initiative include:

  • Nicki Pinelli Reiter, Pharm.D., and Ashley Pappas, Pharm.D., M.H.A., the Residency Research Oversight Committee chairs who helped conceive of and roll out the initiative
  • Kathryn Morbitzer, Pharm.D., and Kalynn Rohde, Pharm.D., the Residency Research Oversight Committee chairs that helped expand the model to PGY2 residents
  • Emily Durr, Pharm.D., and Said Sultan, Pharm.D., the PGY1 residency program directors who helped implement the program
  • Stephen Eckel, Pharm.D., M.H.A., Denise Rhoney, Pharm.D., Scott Savage, Pharm.D., M.S., and Rowell Daniels, Pharm.D., who provided administrative support and guidance for the program
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