The Physician Scientist Training Program within the MGH/McLean Psychiatry Residency Training Program provides an individualized and mentored research training experience. Pictured above are the program members in 2013.


Physician Scientist Training Program (PSTP)

The purpose of the Physician Scientist Training Program in Psychiatry (PSTP; formerly known as that Research Concentration Program) is to prepare residents for careers as investigators in academic psychiatry by facilitating greater exposure to research activities and training during residency. Up to four individual trainees will be selected annually, two to three at the PGY-1 level and up to two from current MGH/McLean residents. The pillars of the research concentration program are mentorship, committee oversight, and a research curriculum tailored to each resident’s research focus and stage of training. Any current or matched residents in the MGH/McLean Adult Psychiatry program are invited to apply for the PST program.

Mentored Research Experience

Individual Research Career Mentors Starting with recruitment, each resident in the program is matched with a proven Research Career Mentor who share their research interests. PSTP faculty help each resident identify well suited mentors based on many factors, including (a) the mentor’s track record of prior post-doctoral level supervision, (b) available resources in the mentor’s lab (e.g., research assistant time, project funding, other post-docs in the lab, etc.), and (c) the potential for the mentoring relationship to propel the resident onto a trajectory toward independence as a psychiatric scientist. A key ongoing function of the program committee is to review mentors’ demonstrated commitment to the program based on these criteria. Research Career Mentors are intended to provide additional, unbiased guidance to residents as they navigate the available opportunities and potential pitfalls of finding the best fit for mentor/lab and selecting a project that is both feasible during residency and would maximize their options for obtaining extramural funding following residency (e.g. K award and other research fellowships). Individual Scientific Mentors By the third year of residency (PGY-3), each PSTP resident is expected to have chosen and established a relationship with a primary Scientific Mentor. The Scientific Mentor is a MGH/McLean Research Faculty member (click here for a list of research faculty members) who will be help the resident craft and complete a meaningful research project. While a resident may select their Career Mentor to become their Scientific Mentor they are not intended to become a resident’s Scientific Mentor. If such a relationship develops, a new Career Mentor will be assigned to the resident to provide them with the same unbiased career guidance. Senior Mentors Upon matching into the PSTP, residents will be matched to one of the four senior faculty advisors, who will be their overarching senior mentor throughout their time in the program, based on common interests. The senior mentor will help guide the resident through the milestones of the program, assist in balancing the demands of clinical residency with the successful outcomes of their science, and strategize for the engagement of other mentors to help the resident map out and meet his/her individual research goals.

Annual Resident Progress Review

Each resident in the PSTP will have annual meetings with PSTP faculty to review their progress and discuss their plans for the following academic year, typically held in the spring. At these meetings, residents present their work to discuss progress, setbacks, plans, and anticipated obstacles, receiving feedback from PSTP faculty. Typical benchmarks include:  

Individualized Research Curriculum

Each resident in the program is expected to develop a didactic curriculum tailored to their research focus and stage of training. Specifically, residents will formulate and submit a research plan each spring (at the start of internship, during PGY-1, PGY-2, and PGY-3) for their work over the following academic year. The program committee will review these research plans taking the resident’s status in the residency, their expected clinical work load, stage of research training, and current connections to the research community, and provide feedback about the residents planned progress. Residents should actively review available course offerings through the medical school, Harvard Catalyst program, as well as individual workshops, journal clubs, and other educational opportunities in their field of study. The research concentration program office maintains a list of selected course offerings, seminars, and lab meetings in order to support residents in developing their curricula.

Protection for Focused Research Activities

Every resident pursuing research during residency encounters a set of challenges unique to the nature of their work and stage of training.  The PSTP is designed to flexibly address each resident’s challenges and opportunities in a proactive, pragmatic way.  Due to a desire to spend PGY-1 and PGY-2 fully immersed in clinical training, or if a planned project is not yet mature enough to require dedicated time, some residents defer their research time into the PGY-3 or PGY-4 years, once a lab and project have been selected and more focused, meaningful time is possible. PSTP residents who meet approved research benchmarks and maintain good standing within the clinical training program will have the opportunity to spend significant additional time pursuing research activities during the PGY-1, PGY-2 and PGY-3 years for research training, didactics, and mentored research experiences.  Decisions about protected research time are made annually each Spring on the basis of the resident’s research plan for the following academic year.  All residents graduating from the program meet ACGME requirements for Board Certification in Psychiatry within a coordinated, resource-rich, supportive environment.

Funding Support

Residents who are granted additional protected time for research activities have a portion of their salary covered by the R25 grant, proportionate to the amount of time protected. This privilege comes with some professional responsibilities (e.g., grant reporting, etc.) that are required to maintain good standing and remain eligible for future salary support. Limited additional funds are available through the residency’s R25 grant for PSTP residents to be used toward sanctioned research activities or to meet approved training benchmarks.  To optimize use of program funds, requests for research funding support will be approved only if (1) they demonstrably help the resident meet current training goals and (2) are not more appropriately covered by other sources of funding, including the participating department or the mentor. Eligible activities include attending meetings where the resident is presenting work (or would demonstrably bring the resident closer to a research training goal); attending courses or workshops that are not available through less costly equivalents (e.g., from other lab members, readings, online material, auditing, etc.); purchasing some lab supplies; paying for a portion of a Research Assistant’s salary; poster printing, etc. The PSTP staff is available and eager to help residents find financial solutions to issues that arise during their research, including finding alternatives to direct support from the R25. Numerous post-residency research fellowships are available to bridge residents to extramural funding (career development awards and independent support), including…  

Collaboration and Community

In addition to the mentorship provided by program leaders and the individual research mentors, residents are supported by dedicated training directors, including graduates of the PSTP. Residents meet for monthly dinners with program directors to share the progress of their work with each other and discuss experiences within the PSTP. The residency PSTP is assisted by program and research coordinator staff to ensure residents receive the research support they need in a variety of capacities.

During PGY-1

  • During medical internship, up to 4 weeks of elective time can be used for research.
  • The resident will meet with the PSTP directors (Drs. Ross and Fenster) and their assigned senior mentor and Research Career Mentor in support of finding a scientific mentor(s) and choosing a research setting that best complements and advances their research interests.
  • By the end of PGY-1, the resident should establish a research mentor to work with during the residency.  The mentor is expected to help the resident select an appropriate project, remain focused on a limited feasible set of goals, and navigate the ever-present temptations to participate in low-yield activities (e.g., workshops or meetings without clear training value, publications in non-peer-reviewed journals or books, etc.).

During PGY-2

  • Six weeks are available for focused research time in lieu of the Community Rotation. At this stage residents can demonstrably take advantage of this time to further their specific research goals.
  • During these four weeks, residents granted protected research time spend nearly four days per week working with their chosen mentor and research group. By the end of PGY-2, the resident should establish a research project within their chosen lab. Many residents choose to participate in one existing project (as a collaborator and potential co-author on any resulting manuscript), while laying the groundwork for their own primary work (as PI and first-author on any resulting reports) which can flourish in PGY-3 and PGY-4.
  • Wednesday Didactics (4 hrs/wk), half-day outpatient Clinic (5 hrs/wk), and call duties (variable) remain core professional requirements for all members of the PGY-2 class. PSTP residents are expected to fulfill these requirements during research blocks.

During PGY-3

  • During PGY-3, all residents (PSTP and otherwise) are expected to spend 1 day per week (10 hrs) pursuing academic or research interests during the eight months of the year not on the MGH Consult Liaison Rotation.  How they spend this time is typically left up to residents, in consultation with their Research Career Mentor, Scientific Mentor, Training Mentor, the Residency Director, and other supervisors.
  • An additional 1 day per week (10 hrs) is available for protected research time for PSTP residents who can demonstrably utilize this time to further their specific research goals.  Decisions about additional research time are made each Spring.
  • During these eight months, residents granted protected research time typically spend two days per week (20 hrs) working with their chosen mentor and research group.  Wednesday Didactics (4 hrs/wk), Outpatient Clinic (2.5 days/wk) , and call duties (variable) remain core professional requirements for all members of the PGY-3 class, and are still required of PSTP residents during research blocks.

During PGY-4

  • Up to 35 hours per week is available to spend in research activity.
  • Funding opportunities for PGY-5 and beyond are readily available within and beyond the Harvard Psychiatry Research Grants Programs and will be pursued under the guidance of residents’ Research Career and Scientific Mentors.
I continue be amazed and extremely grateful for the extraordinary opportunities in the MGH/Mclean Program. I was initially drawn to the incredibly dynamic and stimulating yet supportive community of residents and faculty, which now feels like family. Leslie Tarver, Class of 2018