Surgical research has a really bad reputation, and has become a cliche. When people find out I am doing my PhD, they assume I am:
- Trying to get into a training program
- Trying to get a job in a big department
- Sucking up.
I have much better reasons for doing research. I will benefit from a nice resume, but I am not planning to be the next Professor of Surgery. In fact, I hope to work in a regional area, where I need no extra-curricular bells and whistles to get a job. So why do research?
Since I have been working on my PhD,
- I have learnt how to plan an experiment, and finish it
- I have learnt more about research ethics than I ever could have working on data-trawling studies in medical records
- I know how to draft, write, and submit a scientific journal article
- I have had good quality research articles published, that add to scientific endeavour (Ever seen a dodgy registrar paper in a second-rate journal? Not for me.)
- I have had the opportunity and experience of presenting my work at national conferences.
- I have used my medical degree in a different way – to experience a different part of the world. Maybe I even understand “9 to 5 people” a bit better.
- I have had a flexible lifestyle for a few years (which I won’t ever get to experience in my working life as a surgeon), which I have used to spend more time with my kids.
- I have learnt how to do Medline and PubMed searches properly.
- I have had fun
- I have learnt how much I really love clinical work, and will be excited to return when I am finished.
All of these skills will make me a better doctor: the sort of doctor who can design and perform clinical research, and the sort of doctor who realizes how cool their clinical job is. Medical research is not the easy path, and I have had to fight more than I thought for the chance to participate. But research is more important than a tool to change your career path. It should not be about what job you want to get, but what sort of doctor you want to be.