2017 STAR Program Symposium with Dr.Tamer Sallam, MD, PhD

2017 STAR Program Symposium with Dr.Tamer Sallam, MD, PhD

What is the mission of the STAR Program at UCLA?

The mission is to train physician-scientists for careers in academic medicine. The STAR (Specialty Training and Advanced Research) Program is designed for physicians interested in an investigative career, allowing coordination of their clinical specialty training with an advanced research program leading to a graduate degree, such as a PhD in basic science or health services.

Who can apply to the STAR Program?

Applicants to UCLA clinical fellowships and certain UCLA residencies may apply to the STAR Program. Support from the applicant’s home department or division is required. Trainees are eligible to be in the STAR Program during clinical fellowship or residency at UCLA.

The primary distinction is that the STAR Program combines research training with the later stages of clinical training, such as residency or specialty or subspecialty fellowship. This timing facilitates the transition from fellowship to faculty position. Physicians who already have a doctoral degree enter the Postdoctoral Track. A STAR fellow has the freedom to select a mentor from faculty in the basic science departments at the medical school, in the life sciences college at UCLA or at Caltech. For a PhD in health services/outcomes research the fellow may select mentors with faculty appointments at the School of Public Health or the Pardee RAND Graduate School. 

The program is structured to integrate clinical training with courses and research training. The clinical fellowship director, the STAR Program Director, and the research mentor in the graduate department work together to coordinate and facilitate the trainee's schedule. STAR Awardees receive salary support and benefits from their clinical department commensurate with clinical training (PGY) level, as well as graduate school tuition throughout the clinical and graduate research years.

Most applicants apply in conjunction with the clinical fellowship application so their fellowship interview day may include interviews with research faculty. The purpose of the interviews is to understand an applicant's career objectives and to discuss how the environment at UCLA and STAR Program supports a pathway to an academic and investigative career.

In the first year of fellowship, activities are usually 100% clinical. The remaining years are divided, 25% for clinical activities and 75% for research and pursuit of an advanced research degree (MS or PhD). This may vary slightly among specialties.

The duration varies depending on clinical requirements, the type of advanced degree, prior research experience, and graduate department requirements. STAR awardees in the PhD tracks often advance to faculty positions as Clinical Instructors while completing their thesis requirements.

In general, STAR fellows must declare their intention to pursue a specific degree in their first year of STAR fellowship. Graduates of the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) and other MD-PhD programs are not expected to pursue an additional research degree.

Changing degrees or educational programs requires approval from the STAR Directors and the new graduate program. Fellows contemplating a change should meet with the STAR Directors as early as possible.

This is required only for the MSCR track. For the other tracks, STAR fellows may choose mentors during their first year. Awardees are encouraged to become familiar with mentors and the research opportunities they offer as early as possible.

No. Past STAR fellows have received mentorship from faculty in other UCLA divisions and in other UCLA Schools (such as Public Health, Public Policy, Management, and Engineering) as well as from outside institutions, including the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Pardee-RAND Graduate School (RAND Corporation).

Additional funding is not required. The trainee’s home department/division covers the costs for graduate school tuition and salary, while the research mentor is expected to cover laboratory expenses.

Applicants from medicine specialties usually submit applications at the time of their clinical subspecialty fellowship application. Many of the divisions in medicine have a place on the ERAS fellowship application to select consideration for the STAR Program. Interviews for the clinical fellowship and STAR are then coordinated for the same interview date. In the surgical specialties, applicants apply at the time of their residency applications or during the first 2 years of the residency training.

The opportunity for fellows who are currently in the clinical fellowship to apply and interview for the STAR Program is available if supported by the Division and/or Department. 

Candidates planning a career in the subspecialties of Medicine or Pediatrics generally apply to the STAR Program in conjunction with their specialty clinical fellowship application. In the surgical specialties (i.e. Surgery, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Ophthalmology), in Pathology, and in Dermatology, applications are typically submitted at the time of residency application. Selection criteria include academic achievement, research experience, and clinical performance. Whenever possible, interviews for the STAR program and the clinical fellowship or residency are coordinated.