Press Release

Department of Surgery receives NIH training grant for young researchers

July 23, 2021
Bowdish Hong collage
Michael Bowdish

The Department of Surgery has received a grant to join the National Institutes of Health’s Stimulating Access to Research in Residency (StARR) program, an innovative push to recruit and develop talented young researchers. The Keck School of Medicine’s StARR initiative, led by Michael Bowdish, MD, MS, and Young-Kwon Hong, PhD, will draw promising resident investigators from the General Surgery, Integrated Vascular Surgery, and Integrated Cardiothoracic Surgery residency programs and offer them accelerated access to performing meaningful research.

The 24-month program will allow the Department of Surgery to train and mentor exceptional resident investigators, helping them to hone their research skills and allowing them to conduct high-impact research early in their careers. Participants will be able to pursue one of two tracks: Basic and Translational Research or Health Outcomes, Community Engagement, and Dissemination and Implementation Research.

Young-Kwon Hong

The program will recruit three resident investigators each year with the goal of enhancing their research skills, mentoring them through the process of grant applications and other methods of gaining research support, and building a foundation for research careers. Drs. Bowdish and Hong hope that this access to close mentorship and the chance to do scientifically relevant work will help foster a new generation of physician-scientists with a focus on cardiovascular or pulmonary research. The program marks an exciting opportunity to produce future academic leaders whose research will further USC’s mission in continually improving patient care and outcomes.

The NIH launched the StARR program in 2017 to encourage more residents to pursue careers as physician-scientists or clinician-investigators. The standards for participating in the program are rigorous and highly competitive; only robust research programs with a track record of providing attentive mentorship are accepted. The Department of Surgery is just the sixteenth program in the nation to be accepted, in a gratifying recognition of the Department’s leadership and excellence in research.

This acceptance into the StARR program is a significant step forward for Department Chair Vaughn A. Starnes, MD’s overall vision of the Department of Surgery as a training ground for surgeons who are scientists as well as outstanding clinicians. Bringing this kind of federal training grant to the Keck School of Medicine is a key aspect of the Department’s long-term goal of continuing to attract and nurture top talents.

The new program has an immediate practical benefit as well: The physician-scientist workforce has been in decline recently, even as the past year has shown the world how crucial such researchers can be for public health. The USC-StARR program should expand Keck Medicine of USC’s position as a research powerhouse.