The Virtual CTSA Visiting Scholar Program to Support Early-Stage Clinical and Translational Researchers: Implementation and Outcomes

In addition to restrictions on conducting research, COVID-19–related travel bans and scientific meeting cancellations have negatively affected scholars in the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) Mentored Career Development Award (KL2) program. In response, a national virtual visiting scholar program was developed to provide opportunity for KL2 scholars to be virtual visiting professors at another CTSA hub, meet faculty and scholars, and expand networks and build collaborations. This article describes the design and short-term outcomes of the virtual CTSA Visiting Scholar Program. In 2020, a working group designed core program elements and developed an application and selection process. Anonymized surveys were sent to scholars post-visit and to scholars and program directors 6 months post-visits to evaluate their experience and solicit suggestions for improvements. Between November 2020 and May 2021, 56 KL2 scholars and 27 hubs participated. Forty-five (80.4%) of participating scholars responded to the initial survey. Nearly all scholars (44, 97.7%) agreed their experience was valuable. All respondents indicated they would recommend the program to other KL2 scholars. For the 6-month survey, the response rate was 87.5% (49/56). Within 6 months of their visit, 36 (73.5%) respondents had contacted at least one person at the host hub and for 17 (34.7%) respondents, new collaborations with the host hub ensued. Twenty-five of 27 (92.6%) host hubs responded to the survey. Most (21, 84.0%) agreed that hearing visiting scholar talks was valuable to their own scholars and 23 (92%) indicated likelihood of their hub participating in future round of the program. The virtual Visiting Scholar Program provided KL2 scholars an opportunity to virtually visit another CTSA hub, present their research, and meet with faculty and other scholars to expand their networks. Although geared to KL2 scholars, this model is potentially generalizable to other nationally coordinated career development programs.

Bredella, Miriam A. MD; Rubio, Doris M. PhD; Attia, Jacqueline MPH; Kelly, Thomas H. PhD; McIntosh, Scott PhD; Meagher, Emma A. MD; Pusek, Susan DRSc; Rubio, Mercedes PhD; Tsevat, Joel MD, MPH; Umans, Jason G. MD, PhD
Linked Authors
Professor of Radiology, Harvard Medical School; Vice Chair, Department of Radiology, MGH
Health Project Coordinator
Director of Training, Education and Mentoring
Survey Research Team Lead
Director, Education Programs
Program Director
Tsevat, MD, MPH
Professor of Medicine; Director, KL2 Program; and Director, ReACH Center - UT Health San Antonio and Professor of Population Health, Dell Medical School, UT Austin