April 13, 2023

Fellowship Spotlight: National Clinician Scholars with Dr. Faiz

In this new video series, ACEP's Young Physicians Section explores the diverse world of emergency medicine fellowships. This episode features Jessica Faiz, MD, a National Clinician Scholars Program Fellow. Watch the video for a quick overview of her role, and keep reading for more details about her fellowship experience.

YPS:  Tell us a little bit about the fellowship, and walk us through your day-to-day. What does that look like for you?

Dr. Faiz: My fellowship is the National Clinician Scholars Program Fellowship, which is the former Robert Wood Johnson Clinician Scholars Fellowship. It was rebranded because now it actually combines a cohort of both physicians and nurse scholars, so PhD-trained nurses… It is a research-focused fellowship, but also really integrates a little bit of policy and advocacy, if that is your interest as well. In terms of the day-to-day—it is a two-year fellowship, and the first year a lot of the time is spent on earning a master's degree. At my site, which is at UCLA, we earn the Master's in Health Policy and Management.

There are six specific different sites of this fellowship. There's one at Yale, Penn, Duke, Michigan, UCLA, and UCSF. So you have the opportunity to pursue this at various sites in the country. The first year you are doing coursework with the master’s which is really nice. You, in addition to your cohorts of fellows, get to meet other PhD students and other master’s students.

Outside of classes, you are formulating what you want to make your research project… I think one of the best parts is the freedom of being able to think about what problems you want to solve and what things you want to research. The first year, it's a good mix of the structure of the master's program along with some program events, and then the flexibility of doing your own research and forming your own ideas. The second year of the fellowship, which I'm in now, is after you finish the master's degree. Now it is a mix of my clinical work, which also is incorporated the first year as well as seeing through some of my projects.


YPS: What's unique about your fellowship?

Dr. Faiz: I think that the multidisciplinary nature of the fellowship is really unique, especially in emergency medicine. You know, there are some clinical fellowships, there are other specialty fellowships, but this one in research is multidisciplinary. So my I have a cohort of seven other scholars who have also finished residency training as well as others in doctoral training. And they are internists, pediatricians, family medicine doctors and surgeons. It’s really a mix as well, with some PhD-prepared nurses in our fellowship. Learning from [the others] and from their perspectives has been really enlightening.


YPS: Why were you interested in this particular fellowship?

Dr. Faiz: The work that I did in residency was really surrounding increasing physician workforce diversity and supporting specifically underrepresented trainees and helping them thrive in their residency programs. And I also did some research looking at health disparities and how we can combat racism as it manifests in the emergency department. I started to get a little bit of the sense of research and obviously did a lot of programming within the residency program, but I realized that if I wanted to tackle big issues and make large-scale change, I really needed kind of that training and research and policy as well as the, the mentorship network to do so. That is what really brought me to National Clinician Scholars Program, which I learned about through another emergency medicine research mentor of mine.


YPS: What has surprised you about it?

Dr. Faiz: I think that something that really surprised me was how much the flexibility of being able to just have the time to think about the problems that you want to look at – how valuable that is. I think that we don't realize, like in residency, how we don't even have a second to take a step back. I think we are dealing with a lot of downstream effects of some of the real, real problems in our healthcare system. We have that frontline perspective for sure. But I think that one thing that I have just valued so much is still working clinically, but less so that, and focusing a lot more on thinking about those issues. And it does take time to like form those mentorship connections, really think through what a robust research project will be and how you can address those problems. So in addition to having a little bit of flexibility for myself and spending time with my friends and family, it's just time that you need to figure out what you want to spend a lot of time researching.


YPS: What's your favorite part about it, and what's your least favorite part?

Dr. Faiz: My favorite part I would say is the cohort aspect. I was looking into a lot of different social emergency medicine fellowships. I really think that having a cohort of seven other people who are kind of side-by-side with me doing the master's classes and really interested in solving the same problems is as me. So it is amazing much I have learned from them and how inspiring they are… I've learned so much from them, probably even more so than other, more senior mentors.

I am from the east coast and I moved to LA to do the fellowship and, you know, my family's not out here anything. So that was really key in having, you know, a group of people that I could spend time with and could support me. And we've all become very close, so there's no doubt that my co-fellows are like the shining light of this whole experience. And I'm really, really lucky to have formed those relationships through the fellowship.

YPS: How do you hope to incorporate the lessons that you've learned in this fellowship into your career plan? And then is this something that you con would consider a long term?

Dr. Faiz: Yeah, absolutely. I think that the fellowship, more so than anything, has provided me with an incredible network—a network of researchers, people working in health policy, people working in like different managerial positions and specifically in equity. Having a good community in that sphere I think is also very important. So there is no doubt that I do want to continue this work moving forward.

I think especially in emergency medicine and the challenges that we're facing—I definitely want to use the skills that I've gained to be a leader and start to change what some of the day-to-day and big picture things looks like. I’m very excited to say that I am going to be continuing on the research path next year, I accepted a research faculty position out here at UCLA. I have the opportunity to have multiple clinical environments between the VA out here as well as the UCLA sites. I think it's the first step in a future of being able to make change at the organizational and institutional level to promote equity in our emergency departments.


YPS: Do you have any advice for others who may be interested in a research fellowship?

Dr. Faiz: I think that, especially in emergency medicine, sometimes research isn't the most common path that people take for many reasons. In emergency medicine, we’re all about instant gratification and research obviously takes a little bit of time, a little bit of patience which I'm also very guilty of not having sometimes. I think that one important thing is in residency, getting a little taste of what [research is] like. Mentors know that you're very busy. You might not have the time to spearhead a whole project, but even if it's just writing an abstract or being part of a research team, just gaining a little bit of exposure and seeing if it's something that you're interested in, I think is, is very important... I do think that dipping your toes a little bit into the research realm is helpful because obviously, you know, it is a commitment. I think choosing to do fellowship versus taking a job is a commitment and we all have varying needs. Being sure that that's something that you're interested in is important.

If we're talking about the NCSP specifically, I think we really want people who are looking forward to asking big questions and solving big problems.  I think that you can gain research skills in many ways, but if you are really looking for a place that you can really be inspired to work to solve some of these bigger healthcare issues, think about NCSP and don't be afraid to ask big questions, I would say.


[ Feedback → ]