The research rotation extends from PGY 2.5-4.5 and can include a variety of different approaches that will advance the scholarly/academic interests of the resident. In planning the activities to be pursued during this period, the residents consult closely with Dr. Charles Greer during PGY 1-2.5 who will help to direct them to appropriate resources, advise on the development of grant proposals and provide approval for the final project. Also, during PGY 1 or 2 the resident usually attends the RUNN course at the MBL in Woods Hole for a national update on research issues in neurosurgery. Prior to beginning the research rotation the residents may also attend the annual Yale Neuroscience Retreat where they have the opportunity to meet and talk with many of Yale’s resident neuroscientists over the course of a long weekend. This experience is also pivotal in helping them to refine their research interests. Residents will also meet with Dr. Greer, and additional faculty he may designate, at 6 month intervals during the research rotation to help evaluate progress and address any obstacles the resident may encounter.
At the completion of the formal research rotation there is also a 6 month elective period (PGY 4.5 – 5.0) that the resident may use to complete a project, finish manuscripts or transition back to full-time clinical training.
During the full 24 month research rotation the resident engages in full-time research, or its scholarly equivalent, similar to that being performed by a postdoctoral fellow. The resident pursues an individually tailored research or academic program, under the guidance of the faculty head/mentor. The goal of this time is, naturally, to address a series of well defined hypotheses culminating in the publication of a paper or in the acquisition of new academic skills or scholarly achievements that will advance and complement the clinical career of the resident. However, a more subtle objective is instilling in the residents the fundamental skills of experimental design and hypothesis testing that can be utilized as they pursue independent academic careers at the completion of their residency program.
Because the pursuit of scholarly activity usually requires grant support, residents are expected to pursue several mechanisms that can support their research/scholarly efforts. These may include, but are not limited to, grant applications to NSF, NIH, NNAS, or other focused foundations.
During this period the residents may also choose to pursue teaching opportunities in any of several courses that are required for medical students during their first two years of training. These may include, but are not limited to, Structure and Function of the Nervous System, Gross Anatomy, Histology, and Cell Biology.
The research facilities in the Department of Neurosurgery are extensive. There are eight Ph.D. members of the faculty that are conducting basic science programs as well as the basic science and clinical science laboratories directed by members of the clinical faculty. Collectively, neurosurgery presently occupies approximately 7,000 square feet of wetlab laboratory space. Among the group use facilities are electron microscopes, confocal microscopes, infrared microscopes, tissue culture facilities and laboratories fully equipped for molecular biology and electrophysiological analyses of in vitro, slice and whole animal preparations. In addition, a recently developed collaborative program includes the availability of a fully equipped MRI functional imaging laboratory. Each of the laboratories is independently funded through extramural resources that include NIH, NSF and a variety of special interest foundations.
In addition to the basic science faculty, the Department of Neurosurgery is further enriched by 6-8 Ph.D.s conducting postdoctoral studies, 2-4 Ph.D. candidates conducting thesis research and annually, 3-4 medical students conducting thesis research. In addition, a technical staff of 6 provides specialized assistance in a number of tasks ranging from small animal surgery to molecular biology.
It is also important to emphasize that the neuroscience community at Yale in extensive and that the Department of Neurosurgery and our training programs are full participants in all aspects of that community. In the past, residents have performed research with members of the Department of Neurobiology as well as in the Department of Biology. These collaborative programs with other departments and faculty have been driven by the special interests of the resident. The ability to interact outside the boundaries of the Department of Neurosurgery emphasizes the highly interactive and exceptionally rich atmosphere in which our residents are being trained.