Postdoctoral Training Programs

Chiropractors Pursue Advanced Training Through Innovative New Programs

By Vivian Ly, DC

Postdoctoral training programs are very common in the sciences and healthcare disciplines but may not be well known in chiropractic circles. The National Postdoctoral Association defines a postdoctoral scholar (“postdoc”) as “an individual holding a doctoral degree who is engaged in a temporary period of mentored research and/or scholarly training for the purpose of acquiring the professional skills needed to pursue a career path of his or her choosing.”

While nomenclature varies, postdoctoral training typically focuses on developing skills and experience in areas outside the realm of patient care. For healthcare providers, clinical training after receipt of a doctoral degree occurs in various clinical residencies, internships and fellowships. However, when speaking of “postdoc” programs, the usual concentration is on domains such as research, health policy, teaching, and healthcare administration, among others. Thus, clinicians who undertake postdoctoral training are typically aiming to make one or more of these non-clinical spheres all or part of their overall professional career.

Expanding the number of early-career DCs engaging in various postdoctoral training programs is an important underpinning for the continued development of the chiropractic profession. These programs can help prepare our future researchers, policy makers, and academicians to serve critically important roles. Also, since programs are usually conducted by prominent academic institutions and/or healthcare systems, chiropractors who complete such training gain strong interprofessional experiences and contacts along the way.

Postdoctoral programs open to DCs exist at various locations across the country, but one pair of intuitions recently developed several opportunities that has brought together a cadre of early career DCs in an exciting innovative environment. In 2017, the NCMIC Foundation provided a grant to the Yale Center for Medical Informatics (primary investigator (PI): Anthony Lisi, DC) to establish, in collaboration with the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, a postdoctoral informatics program targeted for DCs. The next year, an existing VA-supported program in medical informatics (PIs: Cynthia Brandt, MD, MPH; Amy Justice, MD, PhD) accepted a DC postdoc. Additionally, a separate DC postdoc position was implemented with support from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (PIs: Christine Goertz, DC, PhD; Cynthia Long, PhD), and another supported by the Palmer College Foundation (PI: Anthony Lisi, DC). This blog post introduces the doctors of chiroractic who have completed or are currently in one of these four different, but related postdoctoral programs conducted by the Yale/VA Connecticut partnership.

VA Advanced Fellowship in Medical Informatics 

Brian C. Coleman, DC, completed his Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Connecticut before continuing to receive his Doctor of Chiropractic from the University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic in 2017. With previous research experience and a background in computer programming, Dr. Coleman decided to pursue a fellowship in medical informatics and a subsequent career in this growing field. In 2018 he was accepted as a postdoctoral fellow in medical informatics at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System (VACHS), as part of its Pain Research, Informatics, Multimorbidities, and Education (PRIME) Center. This is one of several advanced fellowship opportunities sponsored by the VA Office of Academic Affiliations, many of which are open to physicians, dentists and associated health professionals, including chiropractors.

The fellowships provide a unique mentored educational experience aimed at developing the next cohort of healthcare leaders and change agents that will continue VA’s efforts to provide exceptional healthcare to veterans. As part of his fellowship, Dr. Coleman has full hospital privileges at VACHS and holds some clinical hours at the Newington location. Additionally, he holds a secondary academic appointment as a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale Center for Medical Informatics in the Yale School of Medicine, the academic affiliate of VACHS. Through this partnership, Dr. Coleman has had the opportunity to audit coursework and attend meetings, seminars, medical grand rounds presentations, and events at Yale University to develop an individualized career development and educational plan. Dr. Coleman feels the diversity of research and education centers has increased opportunities to learn and collaborate with expert mentors in the fields of pain research and digital health, including Cynthia Brandt, MD, MPH, Amy Justice, MD, PhD, Alicia Heapy, PhD, Todd Kawecki, DC, Lori Bastian, MD, MPH, and Anthony Lisi, DC. His goals are to continue pursuing research in the areas of digital health technology implementation, clinical informatics, machine learning, chiropractic service utilization and health services research. He has found his experiences in both the clinical and non-clinical aspects of the fellowship rewarding. He is also grateful for the multitude of opportunities he has been given to give back to our nation’s veterans and is happy to further discuss his experiences with interested students and early career clinicians. If you have questions about the medical informatics program, you may contact Dr. Coleman at [email protected].

IMPAACT Fellowship in Health Policy 

Following graduation from Cleveland University-Kansas City in April 2019, Ryan Burdick, DC, continued his training as the Innovations in Musculoskeletal Pain Administration, Analytics, and Care Training (IMPAACT) Fellow at Yale University/VA Connecticut Health System, which is made possible by a grant through the NCMIC Foundation. This two-year fellowship is relatively unique, as it is predominantly a non-clinical position that provides advanced training in healthcare policy, administration and medical informatics related to the management of musculoskeletal pain disorders. Dr. Burdick was drawn to this position following vast leadership opportunities at both Cleveland and within the Student American Chiropractic Association, where he developed an interest in how to improve care delivery within a broader healthcare system, as well as improve the equity within conservative care pain management.  Although early in his fellowship training, Dr. Burdick has identified benefits thus far to include the opportunity to audit classes at both the Yale School of Medicine and Yale School of Public Health, including Medical Informatics and Health Care Policy. He also attends medical grand rounds and special events from the Yale Medical and Law Schools. Taught by some of the country’s most influential thought leaders, Dr. Burdick has found these opportunities to be foundational in advancing his understanding of health policy topics and growing his professional network.

For those students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a similar path in politics or policy, he recommends becoming active within city or state governments and utilizing knowledge in conservative care to position yourself as a resource. Note: If you are a SACA member and will be attending Engage 2020, Dr. Burdick will be available for questions about the IMPAACT fellowship during the SACA Professional Development Workshop on Saturday, Feb. 1, as well as through email at [email protected]

VERDICT Trial Fellowship 

Stephanie M. Halloran, DC, MS, graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, before earning her Doctor of Chiropractic and Master of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine from the University of Western States in 2016 and 2019, respectively. Following graduation from chiropractic school, she went on to complete a one-year VA residency in Integrated Clinical Practice at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System under Dr. Anthony Lisi. Following completion of the residency, she was appointed as a postdoctoral research fellow at Yale Center for Medical Informatics, through an administrative supplemental grant provided by the National Institutes of Health/National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health, to work on the VERDICT trial. This trial will assess the impact of varying doses of standard chiropractic care on clinical outcomes across four VA facilities. Under the mentorship of Drs. Christin Goertz, Cynthia Long and Anthony Lisi, Dr. Halloran spent her first year creating templates within the electronic health records system. These templates will collect structured data from consults and follow-up visits throughout the trial regarding specific history and physical exam findings as well as treatment approaches at all four study sites. She also worked closely with the Yale University Institutional Review Board to obtain approval for research involving human subjects and assists with trial logistics as they pertain to the VACHS chiropractic clinic. In addition to her work at Yale/VACHS, Dr. Halloran was invited to attend a NCCIH Fellows and Trainees workshop on the NIH main campus focused on career development, mentoring skills, and strategies to promote successful training.

Dr. Halloran holds full hospital privileges at VACHS and sees patients in both the general chiropractic clinic and the women’s clinic, where she works alongside primary care providers and internal medicine residents. Following completion of her fellowship, Dr. Halloran aims to pursue a predominantly clinical position within the VA or private hospital, with opportunities for involvement in research and/or academics. In addition to her work at Yale University, Dr. Halloran is a course facilitator for the University of Western States in the Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine program and sits on the ACA Editorial Review Advisory Board and the North American Spine Society’s Membership and Political Engagement Committees. Dr. Halloran will be available at the SACA Professional Development Workshop on Saturday, Feb. 1 at Engage 2020 to answer questions about residency and fellowship, and can also be reached at [email protected].

Inter-Institutional Network for Chiropractic Research Fellowship 

A San Diego native, Vivian Ly, DC, attended the University of California, Irvine, for her undergraduate education before graduating from Palmer College of Chiropractic West in 2018 with her Doctor of Chiropractic. While at Palmer, she completed her clerkship at the Redding VA, which directly influenced her decision to complete a one-year VA residency in Integrated Practice at VA Connecticut Healthcare System. During her time at VACHS as a resident, Dr. Ly continued to develop her clinical skills through hospital-based training, interprofessional education, and scholarly activities, and became increasingly interested in learning more about the process of conducting research. After working on a small quality-improvement research project throughout her residency, and better understanding the role of research in advancing the chiropractic profession, she accepted a postdoctoral research position supported by the Inter-institutional Network for Chiropractic Research and funded by the Palmer College Foundation. The focus of this fellowship is developing DC clinician-researchers. Dr. Ly’s main project focuses on introducing and assessing inpatient chiropractic care as a non-pharmacological pain treatment option in the VACHS’s extended care Community Living Center. In addition to her work at VACHS, Dr. Ly audits courses at Yale University and has the opportunity to attend seminars and presentations at Yale School of Medicine. Additionally, she has full hospital privileges at VACHS and sees patients in the general chiropractic clinic. Though she is still early in the fellowship, she believes the opportunity to work on research, access to expert mentors, and collaborating with researchers outside of chiropractic has provided her the necessary foundation to pursue a career as a clinician-researcher.

Graduate: 2017-2018 IMPAACT Postdoctoral Fellowship 

Kelsey L. Corcoran, DC, is an associate research scientist at the Yale School of Medicine’s Center for Medical Informatics and the Chiropractic Program Manager at the PRIME Center at VA Connecticut Healthcare System. She was a Carl S. Ell Scholar at Northeastern University where she graduated summa cum laude with her B.S. in Biology. She received her DC from the University of Western States and completed the VA chiropractic residency program at the VA Western New York Healthcare System.

Dr. Corcoran completed the IMPAACT Fellowship in 2018. This novel program, funded by the NCMIC Foundation, enabled her to be involved in projects focused on nonpharmacological pain management spanning healthcare administration, research, and clinical care at both the VA and the Yale Center for Medical Informatics. Her healthcare administration projects included assisting with the expansion of chiropractic services in VA in response to Public Law 115-141 and a project to establish a dedicated data analytics effort for VA chiropractic services. Her completed research projects include a systematic review and meta-analysis of the association of chiropractic care and opioid prescriptions and she was a coauthor on a manuscript which investigated this relationship in VA. She is involved in several ongoing research projects since her time as a fellow, which focused on delivering chiropractic services in integrated healthcare settings.

She continues to provide clinical care to veterans and piloted a chiropractic clinic embedded in Women’s Health at VA Connecticut. This novel delivery of chiropractic care was an initial success and has since expanded three-fold to continue to better serve veterans. Dr. Corcoran is currently pursuing her Master of Public Health from Southern Connecticut State University, which is generously supported in part by an educational scholarship from the NCMIC Foundation.