The Investigator Awards Program Celebrates 23 Years of Excellence

Jan 5, 2018

The University of Toronto Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM) is celebrating the anniversary of one of its longest-running awards program, the Investigator Awards Program.

As the largest of its kind in Canada, the Investigator Awards Program seeks to increase research capacity and improve research productivity in DFCM by protecting time for faculty to become involved in research activities.

The amount of protected time for research varies from 10 to 80 per cent for current award recipients, with the DFCM providing funding for up to 40% with matching funds typically coming from faculty members’ clinical sites. The DFCM Research Program provides infrastructure support to the DFCM Investigator Award recipients and other DFCM faculty members who are involved or interested in research. Generating ideasMore recently, all new DFCM Investigator Award recipients must demonstrate that their research aligns with UTOPIAN

Currently, there are 30 DFCM Investigator Awards: 15 Clinician Scientists, six Clinician Investigators, four New Investigators, and two Graduate Studies awards. There are also three vacancies: one Clinician Scientist/Clinician Investigator/Research Scientist position, one New Investigator and one Graduate Studies Award. 

“These awards are designed to build research capacity within the DFCM and are awarded, through a rigorous peer-review process to select the strongest applicants,” says Dr. Eva Grunfeld, the Vice-Chair, Research, “It is an example of DFCM’s commitment to innovation and academic and clinical excellence. These awards recognize academic leaders who are breaking new ground on issues relevant to primary care.”

The program’s history dates back to 1995 when it was first established under the name “The Research Scholar Program.” By 2000, 14 DFCM faculty members held awards as “Research Scholars.” Following an external review in 2010, the program went through an overhaul. It was renamed “The DFCM Investigator Awards Program” and the Research Scholars were reclassified as Clinician Scientists or Clinician Investigators depending on the amount of protected time for research. A ‘New Investigator’ award was also created. The external review also produced new sets of performance evaluation criteria. In 2012, the “Graduate Studies Award” was added for faculty who were completing graduate research degrees including masters or doctorates.

The number of awards is based on the availability of funds and quality and quantity of applicants. Renewal is based on the award duration, continued eligibility of the applicant, matched salary support from external sources, and successful annual reviews which includes assessment of research productivity and contributions to the DFCM such as research mentorship. DFCM Investigator Award recipients undergo these yearly reviews with the Vice-Chair, Research and the Associate Director of the Research Program.  External reviews are held approximately every five years.

More recently, all new DFCM Investigator Award recipients must demonstrate that their research aligns with the University of Toronto Practice-Based Research Network (UTOPIAN). UTOPIAN is a network which brings together DFCM researchers, primary care clinicians and practices from all its academic sites to answer important healthcare questions and translate findings into practice.

“The potential of contributing to the science that underpins clinical practice in primary care is an excellent incentive for all researchers. As one of Canada’s top research institutions, the University of Toronto provides an excellent environment to support research activities,” says Dr. Grunfeld, “These awards help researchers by ensuring they have protected time to conduct research despite many other clinical and academic responsibilities.”

For full details about the program, applications and the review process, candidates are encouraged to visit the following link.


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