SUO 2019: Setting Up for Success in (Mostly Clinical) Research as a Young Urologic Oncologist

Washington, DC ( While direct patient care, ranging from consultation to counseling and surgical intervention, is foremost for the vast majority of urologists and urologic oncologists, we may arguably benefit more patients and have a greater influence through clinical research by advancing the state of knowledge used to inform the care of patients well beyond our direct clinical research. Previous work from the Society of Urologic Oncology has identified the lack of structured education in clinical research and clinical trial design and involvement as a weakness for many physicians graduating from the Society of Urologic Oncology accredited fellowships. To this end, the SUO convened a Symposium on Clinical Research and Clinical Trials in conjunction with this year’s annual meeting. 

As the final presentation of this symposium, Dr. Stephen Boorjian from the Mayo Clinic provided his perspective and advice on setting up for success in clinical research as a young urologic oncologist.

He began by highlighting the importance of this session given the evidence that most newly graduated urologic oncologists are not enrolling many patients in clinical trials despite an interest in research and a reasonable amount of protected research time.

He divided this presentation into two components: maximizing research training during fellowship and identifying jobs which can facilitate post-fellowship research success.

Discussing maximizing research training during fellowship begins by selecting a fellowship training program that aligns with your interests and abilities. While urologic oncology fellows interact most with urologic oncologists, expertise outside the Urology department, including in biostatistics, basic scientists, and others, may hugely facilitate research success.

After selecting an appropriate institution, Dr. Boorjian highlighted the importance of project selection. For success, a project must be of interest to the fellow, must be of interest to a faculty mentor, and must be feasible. He then outlined a timeframe to guide the “lifecycle” of a clinical project.


While outlined in the context of a fellowship research project, such an approach could apply for the remainder of one’s career.

Beyond specific research projects, Dr. Boorjian highlighted the importance of skill development. While this may take the form of formal training, including graduate degrees or certificates, it is the acquired skillset (including biostatistics, epidemiology, clinical trial design, and others) that is more valuable.

Dr. Boorjian highlighted the importance of engaging in the clinical trial process at one’s institution in order to understand the process of trial design and conduct. Further, expressions of interest at this stage may facilitate future collaborations.

Finally, he discussed the importance of both being present and developing a presence. This includes involvement and networking at meetings, social media interaction, and (the “currency of academic medicine”) peer-reviewed publications.

Dr. Boorjian then moved on to discuss keys in setting up for research success in the first job. His first key comes down to understanding yourself and what you want to achieve. This is operationalized by a clear plan for research priorities and direction. This will help both in identifying institutions which will be able to support and facilitate such a career as well as in clarifying the resources and support requested.

Approaching the job search process, Dr. Boorjian suggested having a clear plan and rationale for what is needed to meeting research goals during both the interview and negotiation phases. Ranging from protected time to start-up money or other resources, he highlighted the importance of having a clearly articulated reason why these are necessary to be successful. He then highlighted three requisites for clinical trial success as a young faculty: infrastructure, time and mentorship. These components form a critical portion of assessing the suitability of an institution during the job selection process.

Presented by: Stephen Boorjian, MD, Professor of Urology, Department of Urology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA.

Written by: Christopher J.D. Wallis, MD, PhD, FRCSC, Twitter: @WallisCJD at the 20th Annual Meeting of the Society of Urologic Oncology (SUO), December 4 - 6, 2019, Washington, DC