JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
The ability of military clinicians to conduct medical research is often limited by competing demands and a lack of mentorship opportunities. The 59th Medical Wing’s Chief Scientist’s Office, or 59 MDW/ST, is working to remove these barriers and improve the realm of health care with the Clinician Scientist Investigator Opportunity Network or “CSION.”
The Clinician Scientist Investigator Opportunity Network is a two-year additional-duty research fellowship that teaches clinicians how to conduct ‘requirements-driven’ research within the Department of Defense.
To be eligible for the program, applicants have to have completed residency graduate medical or dental education training, not be currently enrolled as a graduate medical or dental education trainee, and have their department leadership’s approval to focus 25% of their duty hours on CSION participation. The total commitment is approximately 900 hours of duty time dedicated to research over the span of two years.
Between January 2019 and December 2022, 12 CSION fellows graduated from the program. With the support of their mentors, the fellows initiated 204 research protocols, created 489 publications and presentations, and secured 33 research grants. All graduates of the program have remained active in clinical research and multiple graduates are currently assigned to research positions.
The 59 MDW/ST’s vision is “to grow medical leaders.” The CSION program helps realize that vision by improving the quality of military medical research and health care.
The program is co-sponsored by 59 MDW/ST and the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium dean and includes partnerships with the United States Army Institute of Surgical Research and the Naval Medical Research Unit-San Antonio – each a valuable source of program mentors.
The CSION program also offers a unique pathway to research funding. Through a Technology Transfer Agreement, 59 MDW/ST partnered with the nonprofit organization Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. to create a seedling proposal program. This funds two research projects through a competitive selection process open only to current CSION fellows.
This year, the seedling proposal program awarded project funding to U.S. Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Emilio Fentanes at Brooke Army Medical Center’s cardiology department and U.S. Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Nicholas Villalobos, a 59th MDW member at Brooke Army Medical Center’s internal medicine department. Both fellows are conducting research that seeks to improve the health care of service members.
The CSION program was formally launched in 2019 and is open to all clinical specialties, including dentists, physicians, psychologist, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants serving in the Army, Air Force, or Navy.