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Edward J. Stemmler Medical Education Research Fund


The NBME established the Medical Education Research Fund in 1995 and subsequently named it in honor of Dr. Edward J. Stemmler, who encouraged conception of the program while chair of the NBME. Dr. Stemmler served as the first chair of the Fund’s Steering Committee, and established many of the policies and operating guidelines still used today. He was elected Chair of the National Board for two successive terms and received its Distinguished Service Award. He also had a long and illustrious career as a physician and as dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

The goal of the Stemmler Fund is to provide support for research on, and development of, innovative assessment approaches that will enhance the professional development of those preparing to, or continuing to, practice medicine. The Fund serves as an extension of the NBME’s dedication to its central and common mission with medical schools: “...to assess ever more precisely the knowledge, competence, and qualification of those preparing for and continuing to assume responsibility for the health of the public.” Eligibility for funding is restricted to applicants representing medical schools accredited by the LCME and the AOA. This fund thus contributes directly to the support of research in medical education and assessment, and the medical schools that contribute so richly to the NBME’s national faculty of volunteers.

Expected outcomes include advances in the theory, knowledge, or practice of assessment at any point along the continuum of medical education, from undergraduate and graduate education and training, through practice. Pilot and more comprehensive projects are both of interest. Collaborative investigations within or among institutions are not only eligible but encouraged, particularly as they strengthen the likelihood of any project’s contribution and success.

Each yearly Stemmler cycle has two phases. The first, the Letter of Intent phase, begins in the spring, with a July deadline. This phase consists of a process whereby applicants are invited to submit brief, structured Letters of Intent. These Letters of Intent undergo committee evaluation, and a subset of investigators will be invited to submit full proposals.

The second, the Proposal phase, begins in the fall, with a January deadline. This phase consists of a comprehensive application process, whereby selected investigators submit full proposals. Proposals undergo peer and committee review, and one to three are selected for funding. The maximum grant award is $150,000 up to two years.

In its first 20 years, the program awarded 80 grants for a total of $7.1 million.

Selection/Funding Process

The Stemmler Fund Steering Committee members undertake evaluation of each Letter of Intent (LOI), specifically looking at the extent to which the project

  • is innovative or will advance assessment in medical education or practice
  • addresses an important problem or issue in medical education or practice
  • is likely to be successful given the described design and methodology

In the fall, the Stemmler Fund Steering Committee meets to review all Letters of Intent; a subset (approximately 10-15) is selected; and the investigators are invited to submit full proposals.

Peer reviewers with expertise in measurement, research design, and methodology then evaluate the proposals with respect to the

  • relevance and significance of the proposal to the purpose and goals of the program
  • likelihood that the project might have a significant impact on medical education or practice
  • adequacy and completeness of the research design or methodology
  • qualifications of the principal investigator and primary project staff

In the spring, the Stemmler Fund Steering Committee meets to review all proposals, giving careful consideration to the opinions of peer reviewers, as well as to the adequacy of the budget, timetable, and other key project resources in each proposal. One to three proposals are selected for funding, and the NBME Stemmler team ensures execution of appropriate legal agreements and payment schedules.

The process for consideration of new proposals and resubmissions is identical. The number of grants awarded depends upon the nature, quality, and level of the requests received during any given funding cycle.

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