The Pediatric Heart Network Scholar Award programme: a unique mentored award embedded within a multicentre network.
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<p><strong>BACKGROUND: </strong>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.</p>
<p><strong>METHODS: </strong>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.</p>
<p><strong>RESULTS: </strong>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.</p>
<p><strong>CONCLUSIONS: </strong>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.</p>