Mentorship and Passion for Topic Key to Don Pedersen Research Grant Success

As a new assistant professor (clinical) at Wayne State University in 2018, I faced challenges when it came to integrating research into my responsibilities. Recognizing that I was not alone in this predicament led me to my research project, “Barriers to Research: A National Survey of PA Faculty.” As I developed this project, I read a Networker article about the Don Pedersen Research Grant. I realized that the grant presented a remarkable challenge and opportunity despite my limited prior experience in research.  

Throughout the process of applying for and completing the Don Pedersen Grant, I have encountered numerous lessons. A few central themes stand out: 

Choose a topic that genuinely engages you

 My project spanned nearly three years, encompassing the stages of inception, grant submission, data collection, abstract presentation, manuscript submission, and revisions. As a first-time leader on such a big project, I encountered numerous challenges. Tasks such as IRB submission, survey development, and statistical analysis were entirely new to me, and other faculty demands continued to compete for my time. Sometimes it was tempting to feel discouraged and let the project stagnate for a few months. However, my genuine interest in the subject motivated me and navigating these obstacles became a fulfilling and rewarding challenge. 

Find mentors

I sought early guidance from the PAEA Research Team, and they connected me with a senior researcher who shared my interest in faculty development. Alexandria Garino Ph.D., PA-C, associate dean for PA education and assistant professor, at the Yale Physician Associate Program, offered invaluable advice and encouragement whenever I hit an obstacle or became discouraged. Her mentorship proved to be a turning point, especially after some of my past mentoring relationships had faltered due to misaligned interests. During the entire process, Dr. Garino played a vital role as my mentor, and our collaboration has resulted in several ongoing projects and has been instrumental in promoting my career. 

I also discovered that the reviewers of my project were willing to provide valuable advice. I initially felt intimidated and self-conscious about reaching out to esteemed PA researchers. However, these research “greats” displayed genuine interest and eagerness to assist a young researcher like me. Their support and enthusiasm further pushed me forward with this project. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other researchers and mentors. 

Develop a well-crafted research question

The research question will serve as the foundation for your entire project and requires you to conduct a comprehensive literature review to ensure it contributes meaningfully to the existing body of knowledge. Strive for a balance between broadness and specificity in your question and ensure it can be answered effectively with your methodology. Throughout the methodology development process, constantly remind yourself to refer to your research question, as it acts as a guiding compass.  

Hire a statistician

Statistical analysis can be an obstacle for many young researchers; therefore, a significant portion of my Pedersen budget was for a statistician. Early engagement with a statistician can inform your methodology. Ensuring that data is collected correctly and in a manner conducive to analysis is essential because it is difficult to rectify after it is completed. Dr. Robert Welch from the Wayne State University School of Medicine provided valuable guidance and continues to mentor me in statistical analysis. While I doubt that I will ever become an expert statistician, my understanding has significantly improved because of my project. 

Applying for and being awarded the Don Pedersen Research Grant has greatly impacted my professional career and development. I would encourage any new researcher to give it a shot! 

PAEA is accepting research proposals for the Don Pedersen Research Grant until 11:59 pm ET on September 30, 2024. You may view a user guide for the application platform here. Learn more about the program, evaluation criteria, and formatting requirements in the submission guidelines. If you have any questions or are seeking mentorship, please contact PAEA Research at or call 703-651-8540.