Clinician scientist training: ‘You’re trying to carve out your own path with few examples to follow’


Dr Jessica Okosun is a clinician scientist working at Barts Most cancers Institute in London

“We’re in a novel place,” says Dr Jessica Okosun, from Barts Most cancers Institute in London. “We act as a bridge between the clinic and laboratory analysis.”

As a clinician scientist, Okosun splits her time between finding out a kind of blood most cancers and dealing as a physician who diagnoses and treats blood circumstances at St Bartholomew’s Hospital.

It’s an 80/20 break up between the lab and the hospital. And the combo, Okosun says, provides an opportunity to see the important thing challenges in treating and caring for sufferers with blood most cancers first hand, which drives her analysis.

“You recognise the issues within the clinic and then you definately attempt to take these issues to the bench within the lab and try to remedy them. You put on two hats I assume, straddling each worlds.”

This distinctive perspective signifies that clinician scientists play a significant function in most cancers analysis. However gaining this priceless mixture of expertise is an extended and sometimes difficult path, with many clinicians not persevering with in analysis after finishing the primary main little bit of scientific coaching, their PhD.

That is specific true for ladies. A report by the Medical Analysis Council discovered that whereas round half of junior medical fellowships have been awarded to ladies between 2007 and 2011, only one in 10 senior fellowship holders have been ladies.

We wish to guarantee that clinician scientists get the appropriate help, enabling them to keep and work in each the lab and the clinic. So we’ve modified the programmes we provide to practice clinician scientists, including extra choices and making the programme extra versatile.

Okosun says the modifications are a constructive begin.

‘It’s a balancing act’

Okosun’s curiosity in analysis sparked when she first was finding out to grow to be a physician.

“I used to be all the time very scientifically minded – throughout medical college I’d take any alternative to be within the lab,” she says.

After ending her medical diploma, Okosun started coaching to grow to be a haematologist however paused it midway via to do a PhD. After finishing her PhD and her specialist coaching, she now splits her time between the clinic and the lab, supported by a Most cancers Analysis UK Clinician Scientist fellowship.

Trying again, one of many largest challenges for Okosun was figuring out how to grow to be a clinician scientist. She says that it wasn’t very clear when or how to do issues.

“In the event you’re a non-clinical scientist there’s a extra conventional and streamlined pipeline – you do a PhD, then a submit doc and then you definately look to grow to be an impartial researcher by searching for out a gaggle chief or school place. The route is a little more meandering for clinician scientists.”

The shortage of senior clinician scientists that Okosun noticed throughout her coaching was a barrier. And that scarcity is extra acute for ladies. Out of about 50 teachers at Okosun’s institute, solely 2 are feminine senior clinician scientists.

“It’s a problem once you’re trying to navigate how to get someplace however you’ll be able to’t see that many individuals who’ve efficiently completed it, so that you’re all the time trying to carve out your own path with few examples to observe.”

She thinks that mentoring has a key half to play.

“Having very targeted mentorship programmes could be very, crucial. It’s one thing that Most cancers Analysis UK have taken on board and are literally doing very effectively.”

The brand new programme will provide help earlier than, throughout and after coaching, together with help and mentorship from senior clinician scientists. The hope is that this community will assist clinician scientists make the leap right into a analysis function after their PhD, reasonably than returning to a full-time medical function.

“You have got to make the clinician scientist profession journey enticing so that individuals will need to proceed down that highway,” says Okosun.

And which means contemplating extra than simply jobs.

‘You may’t simply uproot in the identical manner’

“As clinician scientists, we will be up to a decade older than non-clinical scientists who’re ending their PhD, we’re often in our 30s. And you’ll’t simply uproot in the identical manner as a result of you may have your medical coaching and will produce other private elements like mortgages and household to contemplate.”

Jessica says that is one thing folks haven’t all the time appreciated prior to now. Clinician scientists have already got a profession, so it’s tough to up sticks and transfer for the following analysis job after they’ve completed a PhD. Funding throughout this era can also be one other barrier.

And by the point Okosun was prepared to apply for a fellowship she additionally had a household to contemplate as effectively.

“Once I was making use of for my fellowship from Most cancers Analysis UK, I used to be making use of understanding that I used to be about to have my son. And I used to be wanting to see if there was any flexibility by way of endeavor the fellowship half time, however on the time that choice didn’t appear to be out there. And that may put folks off.”

To ensure everybody is aware of what choices can be found, the brand new programme will function our versatile working insurance policies extra prominently. These embrace offering help throughout parental depart in addition to serving to folks return to work after break day.

The brand new programme may even present a extra numerous vary of coaching choices. This contains the choice to mix medical coaching with a PhD, which first turned fashionable within the US. But it surely’s gathering momentum in different places too, together with the UK.

‘There are a number of paths to the identical aim’

Jessica says she is aware of a number of colleagues and pals who did a mixed coaching programme, typically known as an MB-PhD, while finding out in Cambridge.

“I’ve to say that almost all of them have stayed very strongly in academia – so I believe the mannequin works since you’re getting folks into analysis from that very early stage of their coaching.”

The figures look encouraging too. A latest survey of graduates who mixed medical coaching with a PhD within the US discovered that 6 in 10 have been in full-time tutorial roles. And virtually eight in 10 have been nonetheless lively in analysis.

“I’ve all the time been an enormous fan of the precept of equifinality – the concept there are a number of paths that lead to the identical aim. And I believe that’s why it’s essential to have a number of and versatile coaching choices so that individuals can step onto a clinician scientist route at completely different timepoints.”

“Everybody approaches their profession in numerous methods so giving folks choices signifies that you’ll appeal to completely different folks, which may solely be an excellent factor.”


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