Clinician-Scientist Training Program

About our Clinician-Scientist Training Program

Our program will have two tracks. One is a 7-year research residency track, which combines 5 year clinical training in otolaryngology – head and neck surgery with 2 years of research training. The second is a 2-year post-residency track, which will be used to provide a research experience for those individuals that desire an extended research experience after residency training. Both tracks are post-doctoral fellowships for otolaryngology residents, with the main difference being that the first track has the research block in the middle of residency training and the second track has the research block after residency has been completed.  Both tracks provide guidance on how to balance research and clinical responsibilities in order to prepare the trainees to become independent physician-scientists.

Many of the trainees will not only work with the program faculty, but also with additional Stanford faculty from other departments within and outside the School of Medicine. This offers the opportunity for a diverse training experience that permits trainees to access the excellent research opportunities that exists throughout the Stanford University faculty. A distinctive feature of this training program is the emphasis on providing mentorship throughout their entire combined clinical-research training period.

Our program also contains a structured didactic program, multiple journal clubs, a weekly seminar series, and a monthly visiting basic science lectureship series. In addition, there are a wide range of additional training opportunities at Stanford specifically designed for post-doctoral fellows, such as training in the responsible conduct of research, statistical analysis, how to write a scientific paper, grantsmanship, negotiating for your first position, and a wide range of classes available for auditing, etc. Thus, trainees in this program will have a unique opportunity to build a career as clinician-scientists in a strongly-supportive environment that is exuberantly pushing the boundaries of research and clinical training in otolaryngology.


Goals of our Training Program

We believe that a two-year research block is a critical, minimum period necessary to have the best chance at success with this career pathway. While every trainee is different and brings with different strengths and weaknesses, we base this assertion upon the significant experience of the program faculty in training graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. An ideal approach is to combine clinical and research training to prepare future clinician-scientists, because a clinician-scientist must do both.

The core experience is two years of dedicated research time in an active laboratory. We realize that training a clinician to think like a research scientist is not something that can be achieved simply with a “research block”. While most of the research experience must be held during the two-year period, our program will encourage continued participation in laboratory research meetings and basic science seminars after the trainee resumes clinical duties. In our experience, this is essential to sustain the individual’s commitment to research through the clinical years. Our goal is to prepare 1) the resident trainees to first enter a clinical fellowship (that includes basic science training) and subsequently take an academic position with dedicated research time, and 2) the post-residency trainees to either complete a clinical fellowship (either at Stanford or elsewhere) or directly move into an academic position with dedicated research time. Further research training would likely take place via the K08 or K23 mentored clinician-scientist award mechanisms.

Mentorship

Trainees in this program may choose their primary research mentors from the program faculty: Stefan Heller, Anthony Ricci, John Oghalai, Alan Cheng, Mirna Mustapha, and Nicolas Grillet.

Every member of our program faculty has multiple research collaborations. Trainees in this program may choose to be involved in these collaborations. Indeed, many of the best and most exciting projects require collaborators with significant differences in expertise, but which can be used synergistically to advance the field in a leap-frog step. Many of the trainees will be working closely with collaborators in addition to their Primary Research Mentor. In some cases, the collaborator may even be considered a co-mentor. This is beneficial because of the additional opportunities for learning it offers.

In addition to their primary research mentor, each trainee will select a secondary clinician-scientist mentor who is different than his/her primary research mentor. This person must be NIH-funded and run an independent lab, but not need be a member of the program faculty. Thus, this list of individuals within our department currently includes John Oghalai, Alan Cheng, John Sunwoo, and Eben Rosenthal. The goal of this secondary mentor is to provide individualized guidance for a successful career as a clinician-scientist in academic otolaryngology. An annual meeting between the trainee and the secondary mentor should take place, but of course more discussions can be held as needed.

Program Administration

John S. Oghalai

John S. Oghalai, MD, serves as Program Director for the training program. He is responsible for leadership, coordination, and supervision of the research training program. He oversees all aspects of the program, including the selection of candidates, the coordination of faculty participants, and the arrangement of appropriate interdepartmental contacts for individual trainees. He works with the Program Faculty and the rest of the program administration to ensure trainee progress and the timely selection of new trainees.

Dr. Oghalai grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His area of sub-specialization was bioengineering and Dan Geisler was his undergraduate advisor. At Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Oghalai underwent residency training in otolaryngology – head and neck surgery (1994-2001). He then went to UCSF for clinical fellowship training in Neurotology (2001-2003).  In 2010, he joined the Department of Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery at Stanford University. His overall goals are to better understand the fundamental changes in the inner ear that underlie progressive hearing loss and to develop novel techniques to treat this problem before it leads to deafness. As a clinician-scientist, his ultimate goal is to improve human health not only by caring for his patients expertly, but also by advancing our scientific knowledge base so that all physicians can treat disease more effectively. He is currently funded by three R01s from NIDCD. One of these grants, the clinical trial in pediatric cochlear implant recipients, is in a planned two-year no-cost extension because the start of the trial was delayed by the move to Stanford. The other two grants are new, and are focused on understanding basic mechanisms underlying cochlear mechanics. All grants are multi-institutional and require significant coordination of effort which Dr. Oghalai leads. Finally, as the Director of the Stanford Children’s Hearing Center, he is responsible for organizing the clinical care provided by a multi-disciplinary team. This involves leading a large clinical group of faculty and staff at all levels of expertise from pediatric otology, pediatric audiology, speech language pathology, social work, and psychology.  


Alan G. Cheng

Alan G. Cheng, MD, serves as Program Co-director. He will be working alongside Dr. Oghalai in all aspects of the training program.

Dr. Cheng attended medical school at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. While he has been exposed to biomedical research both as an undergraduate student at Johns Hopkins and during medical school, it was during the last year of medical school when he became interested in inner ear research while working with Thomas Van De Water. While this research experience was limited, it instigated a long-lasting interest in hair cell biology in Dr. Cheng and motivated him to pursue a T32-supported 7-year residency training at University of Washington. At University of Washington, being immersed in research training and under the tutelage of Ed Rubel provided Dr. Cheng with ample opportunities to learn basic and advanced research techniques, experimental design and data analysis. He learnt to prepare grants and received an individual F32 training grant from NIDCD and also the Shiley resident research (the best scored) grant from the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation. After the completion of residency, Dr. Cheng pursued a clinical fellowship in pediatric otolaryngology at Children’s Hospital Boston at Harvard Medical School (2006-7). Because of Dr. Cheng’s interests and record, he was recruited jointly by the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and Robert Jackler from Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery to help build a research program and practice as a pediatric otolaryngologist. Under the mentorship of Stefan Heller and Roel Nusse and support from departmental startups and seed grants from the American Otological Society and American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, he gained expertise in molecular biology, mouse genetics, and auditory physiology. He received his K08 in 2010 from NIDCD which has now been transitioned to a R01 also from NIDCD. Over the years, Dr. Cheng’s research program has received additional extramural funding from other agencies including California Institute of Regenerative Medicine and Department of Defense. These in combination with the R01 from NIDCD allow Dr. Cheng to investigate mechanisms of hair cell development and regeneration, with the long-term goal of reversing sensorineural hearing loss in patients.


Wei Du

Wei Du serves as the Program Coordinator. She works alongside Dr. Oghalai and Dr. Cheng in all administrative aspects of the training program.

Wei earned her Masters Degree in Educational Administration at the State University of New York. She has an extensive history in multiple academic administrative support role platforms.


Details of our Training Experience

  • Research training will take place within the laboratories of program faculty or their collaborators.
  • Both written and oral proposals will be prepared.
  • Research can start once Individial Research Committee (IRC) approves the proposal.
  • Select a Primary Research Mentor, any co-mentors, the research project, and the members of their IRC within the first year of residency training.
  • The trainee will submit written progress reports followed by oral presentations to their IRC every 6 months during their two-year research block.
  • All trainees will take written notes to document the feedback they received, and then append his/her progress report by responding to the critique in a point-by-point manner.
  • One year after the research block ends, the trainee will submit a written Final Report and present an oral version of this to his/her IRC.