How to stay sane as a clinical academic?

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It was a welcomed distraction from the research treadmill to reflect on my career at this Joint NERD-CiRN career event with the inspirational Prof Connie Weyand, the visiting Carnegie Professor from Stanford University School of Medicine.

She started with a stimulating talk about how her community and geography interacted and developed. More importantly, she talked about how demographics of her research landscape were changing, with data related to the projection that the US would become a majority-minority nation in the near future (i.e. when less than half of its population is non-Hispanic whites).

However, what I found the most helpful was the list of advices she regularly gave to her mentees. I would like to share them with you:

  • Appreciate your mentors: identify somebody who you aspire to be, and then “simply go up and ask if he/she would become your mentor”.
  • Communicate: speak to people about your ideas and concerns, don’t keen them to youself!
  • Get your degree (PhD/MD), stay healthy and don’t forget your family!
  • The 10,000 hours rule: although the rhetoric from the popular book Outliers: the Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell may not be always right, investing time to become expert in your field of research is very important.
  • Manage your time: find a way to make your time works for you.
  • Say no!
  • Stay curious and passionate: make use of the interactions you have, e.g. time that you are waiting at the centrifuge, and stay curious about research!
  • Be nice: the world is bad enough with all the negative experiments we do. There is always something nice to say, and somebody’s time behind that poorly written paper.
  • Seize opportunities: keep an open mind!
  • The power of being a generalist: the balance between being a super-specialist and a generalist could be crucial when it comes to finding your next job.
  • Avoid perfectionism: sounds obvious, but yet it was nice to have it spelt out loud!

I hope you find these pearls of wisdom useful too.

p.s. we are trying to get the slide set from this event and put a link on this site when we receive it. So watch this space!

NERD CiRN joint event

Career Morning with Carnegie Professor Connie Weyand was a joint NERD-CiRN Event. For more information about NERD, please go to their webpage.


Get started into becoming a clinical investigator

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16-034-h-daebritzbeatson-gla-ac-uk-copyA great opportunity to get involved in clinical or translational cancer research at an earlier stage of your career is becoming a trainee member in one of the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Clinical Studies Groups (CSGs).

These mainly tumour entity-centred, interdisciplinary expert panels aim at translating current clinical and scientific questions into new appropriately-designed trials. Each group comprises of several smaller sub-groups that work on defined aspects of a malignant disease (e.g. surgical treatment vs. medical treatment; early vs. advanced tumour stage, etc.) and report their suggestions to the whole study group at internal meetings.

Besides senior clinicians from various UK centres, each CSG offers trainee memberships of 18 month to more junior doctors (registrar level, two trainee members per study group at a time) in order to provide insights into major aspects of trial design and planning to the next generation of clinicians, but also to support your ideas for new clinical and translational research projects. Depending on their speciality and interest, trainee members are assigned to one of the subgroups. So, there is plenty of opportunity to directly interact with and learn from the leading experts of your field in an informal setting.

I recently had the chance to join the NCRI Bladder & Renal Cancer Clinical Studies Group as a trainee member and to attend “my” first internal study group meeting. I have to admit that I was very impressed not only by the warm, informal welcome from senior group members, but also by the intense and detailed discussion of each individual study that had been suggested to the group before the meeting.

If you want to take your first steps towards becoming a clinical investigator, more details on how and when to apply to the NCRI CSG trainee scheme can be found here:

NCRI Clinical Studies Group

Best wishes,