By Jason Hill
RRNeT network coordinator
The Research Residency Network of Texas, or RRNeT, is a collaboration of 10 Texas family medicine residency programs across the state, representing 100 family physician faculty and 300 family medicine residents who see approximately 300,000 outpatient visits per year. The program is comprised of physicians and researchers who meet bi-monthly to discuss research projects. RRNET is united by a single goal: to generate medical research that meets the needs of our diverse patient population. RRNeT’s patients are comprised of Latinos (55 percent), African Americans (12 percent), Caucasians (27 percent), and Asians (4 percent).
To begin a study, physicians discuss reoccurring medical issues and concerns arising in their day-to-day clinical work. “What patient issues are most puzzling or worrisome?” A consensus answer to this question often determines the research agenda for the upcoming year. Each year, one or two large research studies are implemented. Research topics to date have included alternative medicine use, medication compliance, teen preventive care, cost-efficient care, low back pain, and obesity. After selecting a research topic, RRNeT members derive specific research aims to shed light on underlying causes, further describe the topic, and test linkages between the causes and associated health outcomes. Then study design, sampling, procedures, and data collection processes are determined. At this point, RRNeT members acquire permission to conduct the study with their respective institutional review boards.
RRNeT members also work to involve medical students in the research process. At UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, medical students can apply through the medical dean’s office for a stipend to conduct research over the summer. At the university, students participate in two days of training on general research methods and study procedures. Students then move to their assigned clinical site and begin field work. They recruit and consent patients, collect information, and enter data into a centralized database. After four weeks, students return to the university to receive additional research training, assimilate statistical results, and create research posters. Each poster addresses a sub-aim of the larger research project. Following poster design, students present their work at local, regional, and national conferences.
Physician faculty are involved in every aspect of the research process from research question development and training of medical student research assistants to study implementation and dissemination of results. This process has provided RRNeT with a mechanism for developing studies and identifying causes to patient medical issues in real time. Physician faculty and medical students have made contributions in the form of abstracts, peer-reviewed journal articles, and professional presentations. Multiple research awards have been distributed among physician faculty and students.
To learn more about RRNeT, go to http://iims.uthscsa.edu/RRNeT/home.