National Research School in General Practice in Sweden – Building Bridges to Lift a Specialty

lindholm_LH_trekvartsfigurLars H Lindholm is Professor and Director at Umeå University, Sweden

 

In 2009, the Swedish Research Council (SRC) advertised funding for five research schools (SEK 15 million each, about CAD 2,5 million). One of these was in General Practice. All universities competed but Umeå University received the grant for 2010-14/15, after having formed a network with Gothenburg and Linköping universities. The other four faculties of medicine (Uppsala, Lund, Örebro and Karolinska in Stockholm) joined later. The SRC has prolonged the time of the school project but without extra funding. All seven faculties have, however, supported the research school financially for 2016-18, so the research school will continue (at least) until mid 2019. Moreover, the Country Councils - running most of the health centres in Sweden - have generously allowed the research students 20-25% reduction of their working hours (with full salary) during two or more years, when they participate in the research school.

The general aim of the Swedish research school is to develop and increase research in General Practice. The specific aim is to establish a new generation of well educated researchers in general practice with ability to collaborate with centres of excellence overseas.

The school offers research students:

  • Education which others don’t give, which includes monthly seminars on a variety of topics relevant to research in primary care over 2-3 years; advanced residential courses on research methodology, implementation of research, screening and prevention; and workshops planned after requests by the research students e.g. on advanced regression analyses
  • Help to build networks
  • Experience of international teaching with the possibility to do a three-month “pre-doc” at at a centre of excellence overseas
  • 30% of their education online via the Internet

The school also gives the students three unique opportunities:

  • Research collaborations overseas
  • Access to many senior scientists from outside the home universities. Teachers come from many centres of excellence around the world, e.g. the universities of Cambridge (UK), Oxford (UK), and Southampton (UK), National Institute of Health, NIH (USA), The Lancet (UK), The George Institute (Sydney, Australia), the Baker Institute (Melbourne, Australia), and the National Institute of Population Health (Auckland, NZ).
  • Personal tuition on writing research and getting it published in good medical journals

26 research students have so far defended their theses and 14 have made a “pre-doc” overseas, mostly in Australia, New Zealand, and USA, with another five on their way out during 2016-17. The annual assessment made by the research students have been very positive indeed and the 26 dissertations have gone very well. Several of the research students who have made “pre-docs” have been invited back to carry out a longer “post-doc” excursion.

Two of the research school’s senior teachers (Dr. Stuart Spencer, Senior Executive Editor at The Lancet, 2011 and Professor Simon Griffin, Cambridge, 2016) have been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Medicine at Umeå University. The Director of the school (that's me) was awarded the Gold Medal of Merit and Excellence in Research by Umeå University, 2013. Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet, wrote a comment about the research school after visiting the autumn meeting in 2014.

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of 8 blogs about international collaboration in strengthening primary care research, ahead of the #SAPCASM2016 conference in Dublin, Ireland

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