The Pediatric Heart Network designed a career development award to train the next generation of clinician scientists in paediatric-cardiology-related research, a historically underfunded area. We sought to identify the strengths/weaknesses of the programme and describe the scholars’ academic achievements and the network’s return on investment.
Survey questions designed to evaluate the programme were sent to applicants – 13 funded and 19 unfunded applicants – and 20 mentors and/or principal investigators. Response distributions were calculated. χ2 tests of association assessed differences in ratings of the application/selection processes among funded scholars, unfunded applicants, and mentors/principal investigators. Scholars reported post-funding academic achievements.
Survey response rates were 88% for applicants and 100% for mentor/principal investigators. Clarity and fairness of the review were rated as “clear/fair” or “very clear/very fair” by 98% of respondents, but the responses varied among funded scholars, unfunded applicants, and mentors/principal investigators (clarity χ2=10.85, p=0.03; fairness χ2=16.97, p=0.002). Nearly half of the unfunded applicants rated feedback as “not useful” (47%). “Expanding their collaborative network” and “increasing publication potential” were the highest-rated benefits for scholars. Mentors/principal investigators found the programme “very” valuable for the scholars (100%) and the network (75%). The 13 scholars were first/senior authors for 97 abstracts and 109 manuscripts, served on 22 Pediatric Heart Network committees, and were awarded $9,673,660 in subsequent extramural funding for a return of ~$10 for every scholar dollar spent.
Overall, patient satisfaction with the Scholar Award was high and scholars met many academic markers of success. Despite this, programme challenges were identified and improvement strategies were developed.