June 2004 Bulletin

Grant-writing workshop helps young researchers

By Gene R. Wurth

Competition for grants, especially the prestigious grants sponsored by the National Institutes for Health (NIH), is tough. Writing a winning grant proposal requires specific skills that aren’t taught in medical school. So, five years ago, the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS), the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF) and the AAOS developed a grant-writing workshop to give young researchers a head start.

At the fifth annual Grant-Writing Workshop, held April 3-4 in Tampa, Fla., young researchers had an opportunity to enhance their grant-writing skills with a hands-on program. The goal of the workshop is to increase the probability that these young researchers will receive NIH funding to support projects initially funded by the OREF.

The program is very effective. Since the concept was introduced in 2000, 30 percent of participants have received funding from NIH.


Adele L. Boskey, PhD, an orthopaedic researcher at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, instructs workshop participants on how to respond to the “pink sheet.”

The workshop was developed by Richard A. Brand, MD, a member of the OREF Board of Trustees, former ORS president and program chair of the Grant Writing Workshop.

This year’s workshop was attended by nearly 40 people, including participants, invited observers and faculty. Faculty members have themselves achieved NIH funding and have served on various NIH review panels.

Why a workshop?

“The need for this workshop arose when we learned how remarkably few orthopaedic surgeons obtained NIH grants, and that the amount of NIH funding for orthopaedic surgeons had decreased despite increases in available money,” said Dr. Brand. “We hope that eventually 50 to100 orthopaedic surgeons will be principal investigators on such grants.”

The program is designed specifically for OREF grant recipients. OREF, ORS and AAOS share the cost of the workshop, so that the fee for participants can be waived.

Preparation begins long before the actual meeting. Current OREF grant recipients prepare NIH-type grant proposals, which are assigned to and read by faculty reviewers prior to the workshop. During the meeting, reviewers critique the grants during a mock study section. The reviewers then spend one-on-one time with participants, advising them on how to improve their proposals. This is often the genesis of some long-term mentoring relationships.

Observers, who include OREF research grant recipients, AAOS Clinician Scientist Development Program participants and AAOS Clinician Scientist Traveling Fellows, also attend the program.

NIH feedback

The workshop is split into three half-day sessions. During the first session, lecturers review the elements of the grant proposal and their effective presentation. On the second day, a mock study section—comparable to an NIH-style study section—takes place. Written reviews of both faculty and attendees are discussed. On the final day, attendees work with assigned mentors to enhance their proposals

This year’s workshop featured two representatives from the NIH: James S. Panagis, MD, MPH, orthopaedics program director for the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, and Daniel F. McDonald, PhD, scientific review administrator and chief of the Musculoskeletal, Oral, and Skin Sciences Institutional Review Group division of the NIH Center for Scientific Review. Dr. Panagis gave an overview of available funding from the NIH. Dr. McDonald lectured on the NIH review procedures.

By the end of the course, each attendee was well prepared to submit a more competitive proposal to NIH. Hopefully, that will translate to more NIH grants for orthopaedic surgeon researchers.

Gene R. Wurth is president and chief executive officer of the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation. He can be reached at Wurth@oref.org


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