Five Questions with Pascal Geldsetzer MD, PhD: KL2 Mentored Career Development Program Awardee

Pascal Geldsetzer MD, PhD

Pascal Geldsetzer is an Assistant Professor of Medicine and a 2020 recipient of Spectrum’s KL2 Mentored Career Development Program. He shares insights and advice about his experience below:

1. Describe your current research and its impact?

Geldsetzer: My research is part of the KL2 award focuses on applying analytical methods that are new to the clinical research space to electronic health record data. My focus here is on methods to estimate the causal effect of various clinical interventions on patients’ health outcomes.

What motivated me to embark on this research is that clinical trials have many limitations. They are, of course, good at getting at the causal effect of an intervention among the study participants, but it is often unclear to what degree the study findings apply to patients seen in real-life healthcare settings. They are also often too small or have too many exclusion criteria to be able to determine in detail how risks and benefits of an intervention vary across patient subgroups. Estimating causal effects reliably in electronic health record data could overcome these limitations, and would of course be much cheaper and less time-consuming.

We‘ve made good headway on this project and will soon submit several manuscripts that I feel do not only answer important clinical research questions, but also demonstrate the value of some of these analytical techniques to clinical research.

2. What inspired you to apply for KL2 Mentored Career Development Program (KL2 Scholars Program)?

Geldsetzer: I was totally new to Stanford then and wanted to take my research into new directions. What motivated me to apply was the chance to build a network with researchers I would be unlikely to run into otherwise, get feedback and new ideas from different viewpoints, the mentorship aspects of the program for my research and career progression, and just the training you receive on how things work at Stanford and in academia more generally.

3. What has been the most rewarding and challenging about your KL2 Scholars experience?

Geldsetzer: I found the interdisciplinary nature of the program both rewarding and at the same time quite challenging. I think there is real value to being exposed to ideas and approaches from a variety of research areas, learning how to communicate with researchers outside your direct research community, and getting feedback and ideas from people who may think about the questions in your research domain in very different ways.

All of these aspects are also very challenging. It’s much easier to chat with folk about your research who immediately understand why you are doing what you’re doing, use the same terminology, and don’t question the basic assumptions that “your” research community has adopted. It’s also much more of an intellectual challenge to try to fully understand and think of valuable feedback for a research project that’s in an area you are quite unfamiliar with.

4. Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years and what role do you think the KL2 Scholars Program will play in your career advancement?

Geldsetzer: I really hope that in five years’ time I will be able to point to various pieces within my research program that have made a difference to patient care, public health, or the way clinical research is done. And I hope that I will be in a good spot for a successful tenure review by then. I guess it still remains to be seen but I do feel that the feedback on my research, new research ideas, network of incredibly talented junior faculty, and advice and resources on career progression in academia that I have gotten through the KL2 program will help me achieve these goals.

5. What is your advice for junior faculty considering applying for the program?

Geldsetzer: I would totally do it. There is nothing to be lost and a ton to be gained! I’m more than happy to chat to anyone who is considering applying.

KL2 Mentored Career Development Program

The KL2 Mentored Career Development Program (KL2 Scholars Program) at Stanford University is a two-year research program funded by Stanford Clinical Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS), a component of the National Institutes of Health. The program offers flexible learning models to engage scholars in team science, individual development plans, advanced research training, and career guidance to those committed to pursuing a career in clinical and translational research.

“The KL2 program is an absolutely invaluable opportunity to build bridges to the amazing faculty here at Stanford across the translational spectrum, and gain mentorship and coaching. On top of that it is really so fun for all concerned!” said Steven Asch, MD, MPH, the program director, Associate Dean and Professor of Medicine.

For questions, contact KL2 Program Manager Ellen Orasa at