Opportunities for Resident Involvement in Research at HSS

Direct involvement in scholarly and research activities can take many forms during a resident’s time at HSS:

  • Some residents informally identify mentors quite early in their training to do literature reviews or observational research.
  • Others choose to do a Scholarly Elective in PGY-IV.
  • In addition, the Resident Pathways to Research (RPTR) is a multi-year, graded, step-wise introduction to research during PGY-III and PGY-IV.  The RPTR is designed for psychiatry residents who wish to explore the possibility of developing a career interest in mental health research.  The RPTR is described in detail below.

The RPTR Steering Committee is available to help you think through your research-related interests, identify potential mentors for any of the above options, and provide guidance for residents considering the RPTR.

RPTR Steering Committee members are:

  • Mark S. Bauer, MD (Chair), Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
    • 857-364-6380 & mark.bauer@va.gov
    • Research interests: mental health services research, implementation controlled trials, practical clinical trials in mental health
  • Grace Chang, MD, MPH, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
    • 774-826-2537;  grace.chang2@va.gov
    • Research interests: addiction psychiatry, health services research, clinical research
  • Lynn DeLisi, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
    • 774-826-3155; delisi76@aol.com
    • Research interests: genetics, brain imaging, schizophrenia, effects of marijuana.
  • Jerry Fleming, MPH, Principal Associate, Harvard Medical School
    • 774-826-1696; jerry.fleming@va.gov
    • Research interests: statistical methodology (univariate and multivariate), psychiatric epidemiology (study design and analyses)
  • Margaret Niznikiewicz, PhD, Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School
  • Kevin Spencer, PhD, Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School

Feel free to contact any of us to discuss your possible research interests! 

The Resident Pathways to Research (RPTR)

Several key principles shape the RPTR, based on our decades of research and mentoring experience:

  • Successful research development requires mentoring and a specific project in which the resident takes a substantial role and leads to scholarly products.
  • For those exploring a research component to their career, extended time and mentoring are required.
  • The RPTR is a pathway within the residency. That is, research excellence is built upon solid clinical skills and is not a separate career alternative or separate track.


  • During the Research Seminar each resident completes a research self-assessment and interest survey, and has the option to meet individually with one or more members of the RPTR Steering Committee.
  • Residents interested in entering the formal RPTR are assisted in matching with a faculty mentor who will work with them over the PG-III and PG-IV years on a specific research project of mutual interest.
  • Residents match with mentors who typically are HSS faculty with psychiatric or other relevant expertise plus active research involvement ranging from non-funded pilot studies to leadership positions in internationally-recognized research centers of excellence.
  • The RPTR Steering Committee approves projects in the Spring of PGY-II.


  • During PGY-III the equivalent of a half-day per week is allotted by the residency program for developing a project for implementation in PGY-IV, completing research training and credentialing (e.g., human subjects, data protection, and research Good Clinical Practice training), and begin their project if feasible.
  • The goals for PGY-III are:
    • An approved protocol ready to implement in the PGY-IV year
    • Research presentation and/or manuscript reflecting the basis for her/his research project at Harvard Mysell Day and VA Boston Research Day
    • Some residents may at this point be ready to develop an application for fellowship funding for the PGY-IV or subsequent years.


  • Residents spend between 50-75% of their time implementing the project developed in the PGY-III year.
  • The goals for PGY-IV are:
  • Completion of a research project that s/he has a prime role in and that is overseen by the mentor
  • A research poster describing project analyses to date presented on the work at Mysell Day and VA Boston Research Day, or other regional or national meeting
  • A manuscript, preferably first-authored, describing project analyses submitted to a peer-reviewed journal
  • Those residents wishing to pursue a career with a major focus on research have the option to develop an application for fellowship or career development award funding for subsequent years.

RPTR Resident Projects & Mentors:

* Finalist, Best Resident Poster, Harvard Psychiatry Research Day
** Harvard Medical School Livingston Fellowship Awardee
*** Harvard Medical School Kaplen Fellowship Awardee

RPTR Entry Year


Project Title



An Nguyen, MD*

Olfactory Bulb and Its Role in Schizophrenia

Martha Shenton, PhD


Jihad Nadar, MD

Treating Schizophrenic Smokers: Effects on Craving, Cues, and Withdrawal

Gary B. Kaplan, MD


Maria Castro-LaCouture, MD

Neurobiological Predictors of Response to Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD in Women with and without Co-Morbid Major Depression

Ann Rasmusson, MD


Nectara Ticlea, MD**

Cognitive Processing Therapy for Veterans with PTSD and Comorbid Substance Dependence (with Dr. Laura Bajor)

Ann Rasmusson, MD


Laura Bajor, DO**

Cognitive Processing Therapy for Veterans and PTSD and Comorbid Substance Dependence (with Dr. Nectara Ticlea)

Ann Rasmusson, MD


Manjola Ujkaj, MD, PhD*, **, ***

Effects of Electro-Convulsive Therapy on Hippocampal Neurometabolites: A Pilot Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Study in Patients with Treatment-Resistant Depression

Martha Shenton, PhD


Juan Galvez-Buccollini, MD*

Cannabis Use and Schizophrenia: Effects on Age of Onset

Lynn Delisi, MD


Othman Mohammad, MD

Event-Related Potential Study of a High Risk for Schizophrenia Population

Lynn DeLisi, MD & Margaret Niznikiewicz, PhD


Fawad Taj, MD

Amygdala Volumes of Antipsychotic-Naive Schizotypal Personlity Disorder

Chandlee Dickey, MD & Martha Shenton, PhD


Rowena Cabigon Mercado, MD, MPH

Impact of Childhood Abuse on Physical and Mental Health and Health Care Utilization Among Female Veterans

Kate Iverson, PhD & Shannon Wiltsey-Stiman, PhD


Simona Sava, MD, PhD

Cortical Thickness Changes in Marijuana Smokers

Marisa Silveri, PhD & Chandlee Dickey, MD


Anothai Soonsawat, MD.

Using Interventions at Encoding to Reduce False Memory in Alzheimer’s Patients

Andrew Budson, MD


Aengus OConghaile

Imaging PTSD with and without Psychosis

Lynn DeLisi, M.D

Relevant ACGME Milestones for Resident Pathways to Research (PBLI1 & PBLI3):

(source: ACGME/ABPN Psychiatry Milestone Project, November, 2013 edition)

PBLI1 Critical evaluation of research and clinical evidence
Threads: A: Self-assessment and self-improvement; B: Evidence in the clinical work flow

Has not Achieved Level 1

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

Level 5

1.1/A Uses feedback from teachers, colleagues, and patients to assess own level of knowledge and expertise

2.1/A Regularly seeks and incorporates feedback to improve performance

3.1/A Demonstrates a balanced and accurate self-assessment of competence, using clinical outcomes to identify areas for continued improvement

4.1/A Demonstrates improvement in clinical practice based on continual self-assessment and evidence-based information

5.1/A, B Sustains practice of self-assessment and keeping up with relevant changes in medicine, and makes informed, evidence-based clinical decisions

1.2/A Recognizes limits of one’s knowledge and skills and seeks supervision

2.2/A Identifies self-directed learning goals and periodically reviews them with supervisory guidance

3.2/B Selects an appropriate, evidence-based information tool1 to meet self-identified learning goals

4.2/A Identifies and meets self-directed learning goals with little external guidance

5.2/B Teaches others techniques to efficiently incorporate evidence gathering into clinical workflow

1.3/B Describes and ranks levels of clinical evidence1

2.3/B Formulates a searchable question from

3.3/B Critically appraises different types of research, including randomized controlled trials (RCTs), systematic reviews, meta-analyses, and practice

4.3/A, B Demonstrates use of a system or process for keeping up with relevant changes in medicine2

5.3/B Independently teaches appraisal of clinical evidence

4.4/B Independently searches for and discriminates evidence relevant to clinical practice problems

(Expect performance at Level 5: “The resident has advanced beyond performance targets set for residency and is demonstrating “aspirational”


goals which might describe the performance of someone who has been in practice for several years. It is expected that only a few exceptional residents will reach this level.”)
1 Examples include: practice guidelines; PubMed Clinical Queries; Cochrane, DARE, or other evidence-based reviews; Up-to-Date, etc.
2 Examples include: a performance-in-practice (PIP) module as included in the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) Maintenance of Certification (MOC) process; or regular and structured readings of specific evidence sources.


PBLI3 Teaching
Threads: A: Development as a teacher; B: Observable teaching skills

Has not Achieved Level 1

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

Level 5

1.1/A Recognizes role of physician as teacher

2.1/A Assumes a role in the clinical teaching of early learners

3.1/A Participates in activities designed to develop and improve teaching skills

4.1/A Gives formal didactic presentation to groups (e.g., grand rounds, case conference, journal club)

5.1/A Educates broader professional community and/or public (e.g., presents at regional or national meeting)

2.2/B Communicates goals and objectives for instruction of early learners

3.2/B Organizes content and methods for individual instruction for early learners

4.2/B Effectively uses feedback on teaching to improve teaching methods and approaches

5.2/B Organizes and develops curriculum materials

2.3/B Evaluates and provides feedback to early learners

(Expect performance at Level 5: “The resident has advanced beyond performance targets set for residency and is demonstrating “aspirational” goals which might describe the performance of someone who has been in practice for several years. It is expected that only a few exceptional residents will reach this level.”)