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The APBRN is a voluntary consortium of community-based primary care providers who aim to improve healthcare delivery and outcomes by integrating research into their daily practice of medicine. Its overall mission is to find practical solutions to real-world challenges faced by patients and providers.

Since 2000, through a Coordinating Center housed in the DFCM Research Division, the APBRN has engaged in over 20 collaborative projects with researchers from a variety disciplines. The Coordinating Center helps to facilitate collaborations and provides logistical support for research carried out in community-based clinical settings.

As of 2017, APBRN membership included over 160 physicians. Most are in private practice or health system affiliated. The majority are Family Medicine, but Internal Medicine is also well represented. Members include faculty from all four UA campuses (Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa) as well as several family medicine residency programs and Federally Qualified Health Centers.


Many providers report that they enjoy the intellectual stimulation and challenge that comes from approaching problems a different way or having the opportunity to examine data about patients and treatment processes.They also derive satisfaction from being able to offer patients adjuncts or alternatives to conventional treatments – for example, support for chronic disease self-management – that they wouldn’t otherwise have the time or resources to provide or make available.  

What’s in it for Me?

  • First and foremost, a platform for you to voice and explore ideas and topics of concern for your practice.
  • Potential for positive change via practice based research efforts related to practice specific ideas and topics.
  • Change which benefits the specific practice and patient population.
  • CME through the UAB Division of CMEAAFP * and AHRQ **
  • Incentives and/or monetary reimbursement.
  • Opportunities for practice staff to expand their skill set and work experience.
  • Interaction / exchange of ideas and information with other physician and researchers.
  • Opportunities to inform primary care issues on the national level.
  • Recognition through peer-reviewed publications and presentations.
  • Free literature searches (contact the Coordinating Center for details).
  • Educational opportunities for medical students and residents, by working with physician and academic preceptors to conduct practice-based research.

The APBRN advocates for fair compensation for time and effort devoted to research. 
In addition to honoraria, CME / CEU credits are often available to providers through their professional organizations.* Depending on topic and scope, we may also work with the UAB Division of CME to obtain accreditation for certain activities. For extramurally funded projects, we insist on line item honoraria for participating practices and develop scopes of work that are appropriate for busy clinical settings. 

The most important voice in any APBRN research project is the provider’s. 
For most practices, research participation is on top of already demanding workloads and schedules. We recognize that, and go to great lengths to ensure that protocols are feasible, efficient, and can either be integrated into routine clinic flow or done after hours with minimal disruption to patient care. We also encourage participation in the planning and design aspects of proposed projects, to ensure that investigator expectations are reasonable and tasks doable in the context of daily practice. We try to engage providers and staff in all aspects of the research process and encourage them to speak out about what will or won’t work from a practical standpoint. Often their input is critical not only to the successful implementation of smooth-running studies, but also to the production of meaningful results. 

* AAFP members can earn free CME credits for participating in research and related activities: up to 10 per calendar year for direct participation, plus additional enrichment credits for things like online IRB training (4 credits). AAFP credits also count toward maintaining your Alabama medical licensure. Since 2002, over 1,000 research and enrichments credits have been earned by APBRN / AAFP members. 

** see https://pbrn.ahrq.gov/ for free, CME-earning National Webinars


APBRN membership is free, voluntary, and open to any primary care provider currently licensed and practicing in the state of Alabama.  Several APBRN member practices are championed by RNs or Nurse Practitioners. Medical students and residents are also welcome. Both clinical and non-clinical staff can play a supportive role, and are often the best “point people” for on-site coordination efforts. In the past, general membership meetings were held twice a year in conjunction with meetings of the Alabama Chapter of the AAFP. These have been replaced by project-specific small groups – nominal groups, webinars, or online conferences. These are usually held after hours so as not to interfere with patient care. Research opportunities are ongoing and are communicated to members primarily through email. 

Practices that don’t engage in at least one research activity every two years are considered “inactive,” but remain on the rolls and continue to receive notices about upcoming opportunities until or unless they either request removal or communications are returned undeliverable. Physicians and staff who participate in projects that require them to engage in the conduct of the research must complete and maintain certification in the protection of human research subjects (“UAB IRB training”). This training is free, but access-restricted. There may be additional administrative requirements for health system owned or FQHC-affiliated practices, or for studies not initiated or overseen by UAB. Throughout the year other opportunities may also arise, like studies conducted by other PBRNs or pharmaceutical companies. The APBRN Coordinating Center informs members of such offerings as they become available, as - particularly on the national level - they represent not only an opportunity earn CME but also to give voice to primary care issues from the Alabama perspective. 

New members are always welcome. To join the APBRN please contact us.
We will send you a brief questionnaire about your practice (often easiest for office managers or administrators to complete) and ask if there are any topics in which you have a special interest. We will then enter you in the membership database and add you to the email distribution list to be informed of upcoming research opportunities. You may also specify if you would prefer to be notified by other means (phone, fax, or mail).


In 1999, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the Federation of Practice-Based Research Networks (FPBRN) introduced a new initiative, the National Network for Family Practice and Primary Care Research. The mission for the new network was to conduct, support, promote and advocate primary care research in practice-based settings that:

  1. addresses questions of importance to the discipline of family medicine, and 
  2. improves health care delivery to, and health status of patients, families and communities. 

At the time, there were only 16 PBRNs in the US affiliated with the Federation, and only one in the south (Texas). There are now over 180 registered PBRNs, including two in Alabama (the APBRN and the National Dental PBRN, also headquartered at UAB).

With support from the Alabama Family Practice Rural Health Board and Alabama Academy of Family Physicians, the APBRN held its first organizational meeting on December 8, 2000 in Birmingham with 12 physicians. The membership has since grown to over 160 providers in more than 100 unique practices throughout the state.

The APBRN remains the only research network entirely devoted to primary care in Alabama. 

Additional Resources

The following links provide more information about primary care PBRNs.