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University of Colorado Primary Care Research Fellowship

The University of Colorado Primary Care Research Fellowship is designed to train outstanding physician researchers to improve the provision of primary care health services.  This joint program of University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health is designed for physicians in primary care specialties, such as internal medicine, pediatrics and family medicine, interested in research training. Our fellows have gone on to become local and national leaders in academic medicine and community-based health systems.   

The fellowship is located on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado just outside of Denver.

Key Components of the Primary Care Research Fellowship

This two or three year fellowship requires 80% protected time for research and education and allows for 20% clinical time.  The fellowship is funded by the NRSA Grant Program of the Health Resources and Services Administration.  

1. Master of Public Health

Concurrent with the program, fellows obtain a MPH degree at the Colorado School of Public Health. The Colorado School of Public Health has a strong focus on rural health, American Indian/Alaska Native health and chronic disease prevention.  All enrollees in the NRSA fellowship are expected to enter the MPH Program, unless they already possess that degree or its equivalent. The MPH offers many opportunities for a well-rounded public health education as well as specialization in concentration areas such as biostatistics, community & behavioral health, environmental & occupational health, epidemiology, health systems, management & policy, maternal/child health, global health and health services research. Forty-two hours of required and elective course work is necessary along with completion of a capstone project and a practicum. 

2. Individual Research   

At the beginning of the fellowship, fellows will work with their mentors to identify a research topic and projects. Completion of at least one independent project requiring study design, data collection, and statistical analysis will be required; many fellows have been able to complete more than one project during the program.   

Well-established research mentorships are available with active researchers in generalist disciplines and other departments or divisions in the School of Medicine and School of Public Health. Areas of active research include: delivery of childhood and adult immunizations, chronic physical and mental health problems in children and adults, injury epidemiology, drug abuse, obesity prevention and treatment, management of acute problems in primary care, and health disparities. Fellows are encouraged either to join established researchers in ongoing research projects or to pursue areas of unique interest with the assistance of their mentor(s). Fellows present their ongoing work at a weekly fellowship research conference.  

3. Mini-Courses  

The fellowship includes mini-courses on a range of topics such as how to prepare an IRB application, how to write an excellent abstract, secondary data analysis, community-based participatory research, qualitative methods, and how to prepare a job talk, among other topics. Fellows also participate in an intensive grant-writing course in the second year of fellowship.   

4. Clinical Practice  

Our fellows conduct their clinical activities at the Colorado Children’s Hospital, University of Colorado Hospital, Denver Health Medical Center, the Denver Veterans Affairs Hospital and Presbyterian St. Luke's.   

5. Strong Mentorship  

The program is led by a multidisciplinary team of established researchers in the divisions of General Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and Family Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health. Each fellow is assigned a primary fellowship mentor and encouraged to identify a mentorship team from the research faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health. 

Our core faculty members include: 

  • Ingrid A. Binswanger, MD, MPH, MS

  • Mandy Allison, MD, MPH

  • Lori Crane, PhD

  • Miriam Dickenson, PhD

  • Arthur Davidson, MD


6. Our Fellows  

We seek to create a dynamic peer learning environment in our works-in-progress sessions and other activities. Currently four fellows are enrolled in the fellowship.  

Maureen Cunningham, MD, is a 2nd year NRSA primary care research fellow at the University of Colorado Denver. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in International Studies from American University and completed medical school and a residency in Pediatrics at the University of Colorado Denver. After residency, Dr. Cunningham served as an instructor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado Denver prior to starting fellowship in 2012. 
Dr. Cunningham is interested in health services research with a focus on improved access to early intervention and child development services for underserved children.  She is currently developing a study to examine factors associated with loss to follow up and delayed diagnosis and early intervention for Deaf and hard of hearing children. She is also working with faculty at the Center for Global Health to design and evaluate a Child Health and Development Program in the Trifinio region of Guatemala.  

Rochelle Cason-Wilkerson, MD, is currently a second year Primary Care Research Fellow (2012-2014). As a part of the fellowship she is pursuing her Master’s in Public Health in the concentration of Community and Behavioral Health and is a candidate for completion in 2014. Her previous education and work experience background is varied in that she attended Spelman College (1993-1997), in Atlanta, GA as an undergraduate with a major in Biology and minor in French. She then went on to attend medical school at Meharry Medical College (1998-2002) in Nashville, TN. After completing medical school she started her commitment as an officer and pediatrician in the United States Army and was on active duty for 10 years (2002-2012), during which time she completed her residency in Pediatrics at Madigan Army Medical Center (2002-2005) in Tacoma, Washington. Her current research goal is to make an impact on the current epidemic of childhood obesity. More specifically, her research interests include looking at cultural beliefs around obesity, nutrition and physical activity and how culture may play a part in long term lifestyle changes that are needed to fight the epidemic of childhood obesity. An additional research interest is the study of post-partum weight retention in adolescent minority females who are currently participating in an adolescent maternity program. With this study she would like to have a better understanding of possible psychosocial factors which may cause increased post-partum weight retention leading to adolescent obesity and associated co-morbidities. 

Dipesh Amin, MD, is a first year fellow in the NRSA primary care research fellowship at the University of Colorado.  He received his undergraduate degree in molecular biology and economics from the University of Colorado, Boulder and also attended medical school at the University of Colorado.  He completed his internship at Brown University and residency training in internal medicine at Saint Joseph Hospital, Denver. Dr. Amin also served as chief resident and completed the Chief Resident Immersion Training in Addiction Medicine (CRIT) program at Boston University.  Following training he stayed on as faculty in his residency program and most recently worked as a primary care internist with Kaiser Permanente before beginning the fellowship.  He is currently a candidate for an MPH. 

Dr. Amin’s research interests are in public policy as it relates to healthcare spending and decision-making processes in understanding cost-effectiveness of therapies.  He is currently researching provider knowledge and understanding of the ABIM Choosing Wisely Campaign and the overutilization of diagnostic testing in an integrated health system.   

Dr. Amin has been involved in public policy since residency and has attended the American College of Physicians Leadership Day on numerous occasions and sits on the Colorado ACP chapter Health and Public Policy Committee as well as serves on the Colorado Medical Society Council on Legislation.   

Meredith A. Niess, MD, MPH, is a NRSA primary care research fellow in the Department of General Internal Medicine at the University of Colorado.  Dr. Niess earned her undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College in 2003.  She completed her medical degree and master of public health at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.  She completed her residency training at the University of Colorado.  While pursuing her research interests in fellowship, she also maintains a primary care practice at High Street Internal Medicine in Denver, CO. 

Dr. Niess' research interests include healthcare policy with a focus on the access to care for underserved populations and socioeconomic determinants of health.  She also has spent some time looking at harms from overuse of medical testing. 

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, her current research activities include studying how eligibility translates to enrollment, and how enrollment translates to actual access to office-based care.