Tips for Applying for the Don Pedersen Research Grant

Grant funding is essential in advancing knowledge, skills, and professional development. In some institutions, it is even becoming an expectation for faculty promotion and tenure. Grants can provide protected time, human resources, and networking opportunities necessary to advance one’s career agenda. Research and scholarship make us better teachers and better clinicians. The benefits go beyond the individual; our departmental and University reputations primarily measure faculty scholarly productivity. Yet, outside clinical and basic science research, finding grant money is a daunting task. There are very few organizations that fund education and health services research. These fields are traditionally viable for PA educators, where they can easily become leaders. We are very fortunate that PAEA offers the Don Pedersen Research Grants Program, a unique opportunity to encourage research about PA education and PA workforce issues.  

Established in 1997, the Don Pedersen Research Grants program has fostered PA faculty development in educational and workforce research areas. In 2011-2012, our team was fortunate to be funded for a national cross-section study on the Impact of Patient-Centered Medical Homes on Primary Care Clerkship Experiences. This was a considerable boost to our careers. We were able to broaden our research skills and increase our scholarly productivity. Our research network also expanded. As a result, we obtained three high-impact publications in peer-reviewed journals and several poster and national presentations. One of our manuscripts was published in a prestigious Family Medicine journal, thus increasing PA exposure to other health professions. The Don Pedersen Research Grants program has been crucial for our subsequent promotions at our various employments and increasing our recognition as leaders in the field. We owe our sincere gratitude to PAEA and to Don Pedersen’s family that endowed this program. Based on the study findings, there have been significant national policy implications. The study also culminated in receiving the AAPA’s 2015 Research Publishing Award and the 2017 PAEA Research Achievement Award.  

I have learned that the biggest mistake one can make is failing to start. Go for it. Do not get scared by the process.  You have nothing to lose. As Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” The feedback from the grant reviewers is precious that even if you do not win the first time, you will use this feedback to improve the application for future submissions.  The initial steps are to read thoroughly and understand the grant guidelines (priority areas, requirements, process, timeline, etc.). Then match the grant priority areas with your passionate research questions. Passion is important. Do not just pick a topic because there is money attached to it. Passion is the benzene that will propel you to the finish line.  Assemble a dream team and identify a mentor.  Be sure to utilize your institutional resources, such as the librarian, office of sponsored projects, and experienced grant writers. 

Start early and start small. Seek feedback both on the technical aspects of the grant and about the writing style. Clarity of purpose is essential to grant reviewers. Do not be over-ambitious and propose an impossible project within the proposed grant period with the budgeted resources. Conduct a thorough literature review and identify the gap. What do we know about the topic? What is not yet known? Then clarify your research question and develop a testable hypothesis. I often use the PICO framework (Population, Intervention, Control, and Outcomes) in framing my research questions. I have also found it helpful to start my grant applications with a logic model. This allows me to focus my ideas on the key inputs and outputs for the grant.  I highly recommend that you bring your statistician on board during the early phases of the application. If your application involves survey research, be aware of the survey fatigue in your study population and the challenges of low response rates. One of my bad habits is that when I get a good idea and am determined to turn it into results, I listen less to opposing voices. They will always find a thousand reasons to tell you why “research is not cool, that PAs were created to be clinicians, and therefore they should never be scholars.” Yes, you can be a PA clinician, educator, and scholar. Our experience has been very positive; grant writing can be fun and infectious. We have made life-long connections through these experiences. Go get it and enhance our understanding of PA education and workforce issues.  

PAEA is currently accepting applications for the 2021-2022 Don Pedersen Research Grants Program. Applications must be submitted through the PAEA Research online application platform no later than 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, October 31, 2021. Learn more about the program, eligibility, and formatting requirements in the submission guidelines. If you would like advice or mentorship on your proposal before submission, contact us at or 703-651-8540.