Background Clinician educators face barriers to scholarship including lack of time, insufficient skills, and access to mentoring. An urban department of family medicine implemented a federally funded Scholars Program to increase the participants’ perceived confidence, knowledge and skills to conduct educational research. Method A part-time faculty development model provided modest protected time for one year to busy clinician educators. Scholars focused on designing, implementing, and writing about a scholarly project. Scholars participated in skill seminars, cohort and individual meetings, an educational poster fair and an annual writing retreat with consultation from a visiting professor. We assessed the increases in the quantity and quality of peer reviewed education scholarship. Data included pre- and post-program self-assessed research skills and confidence and semi-structured interviews. Further, data were collected longitudinally through a survey conducted three years after program participation to assess continued involvement in educational scholarship, academic presentations and publications. Results Ten scholars completed the program. Scholars reported that protected time, coaching by a coordinator, peer mentoring, engagement of project leaders, and involvement of a visiting professor increased confidence and ability to apply research skills. Participation resulted in academic presentations and publications and new educational leadership positions for several of the participants. Conclusions A faculty scholars program emphasizing multi-level mentoring and focused protected time can result in increased confidence, skills and scholarly outcomes at modest cost.