NCSP Mentors Reflect on Their Time as Scholars

September 18, 2019

Charles Scales, MD, MHS, FACS, and Charlene Wong, MD, MSHP

In 2019, Duke University became the newest site for the National Clinician Scholars Program (NCSP). Duke welcomed its first cohort in July. Among the Duke clinicians and researchers that are participating in the program as mentors, two of them – Charles Scales, MD, MSHS, FACS; and Charlene Wong, MD, MSHP – are graduates of NCSP themselves. Charles and Charlene reminisce on their time as scholars and how their experiences with NCSP help inform their roles as mentors.

Charles Scales, MD, MSHS, FACS

Charles Scales, MD, MSHS, FACS participated in the program beginning in 2011 at the University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA). As a scholar, Chuck’s research focused on the epidemiology and comparative effectiveness of two major modalities for removing kidney stones. Coming off of his urology residency at Duke, he said the program at UCLA allowed him to expand his mind as a researcher and develop skills in community-based participatory research.

“While I was a scholar, I got to learn at the knee of some of the legends of health services and policy research,” Charles said. “I learned more about areas I had not been exposed to before, which helped expand my approach to scientific questions.” 

During his residency, Charles said he became really good at looking at data and asking critical questions. What he valued about the program was that he dramatically expanded the skills in his researcher toolbox.

“I learned how to become a leader and a change agent,” Charles said. “I learned the importance of motivating people to be interested in the health of individuals and the community, along with delivering high-quality health care.”

Now, as an Associate Professor of Surgery and Population Health at Duke and a mentor for Duke’s NCSP site, Chuck gets to return the favor by fostering the scholars who will come through the program. He calls helping to establish Duke’s site and working with the site team, including fellow NCSP alumna Charlene Wong, MD, one of his most rewarding experiences at Duke.

“The NCSP is a premiere program for people who want to make a difference in health care,” Charles said. “It’s been a great experience to help implement the program in a way that makes sense for Duke, Durham, and North Carolina.”

Charlene Wong, MD, MSHP

After completing her pediatric residency at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Charlene Wong, MD MSHP, joined the Clinician Scholars Program at the University of Pennsylvania. With experience in population health research coming in, she focused her clinical scholars research on access to healthcare and the impact of health policy on adolescents and young adults.

Throughout her time as a scholar, Charlene said the people she met and connections she made were highly impactful to her career.

“The peer learning that took place within the group was among the most valuable learning experiences I’ve had,” she said. “It is wonderful to still have access to that network of peers in addition to the continued relationships with mentors, who were a critical and unique aspect of the Clinician Scholar experience.”

As a clinician scholar, Charlene worked with a team of mentors from various disciplines, including medicine, economics, and law. As a mentor for Duke’s NCSP site, she hopes to help build diverse mentorship teams for the scholars she supports.

“With multidisciplinary teams, scholars can think about the health issues they’re tackling from many lenses,” Charlene said.

One of the things Charlene has enjoyed most about establishing the NCSP site at Duke has been interacting with new colleagues. She said the team at Duke is deeply committed to creating a tailored experience for scholars, offering each individual attention from some of Duke’s most senior and impactful leaders.

“When I was in the program, I appreciated the way I was treated as an adult learner,” Charlene said. “At Duke, we have created a curriculum that is meant to acknowledge that everyone comes in with different experiences and ensures everyone gets exposure to the key tenets of health services research.”