Today was the last session of my clinical research class. I'm so glad it's over! The class session itself was fun though. We had each been assigned to read two other students' proposals. Then today, we had a mock NIH review session where each proposal had a primary reviewer and a secondary reviewer. Each of us was the primary reviewer for one proposal and the secondary reviewer for another. The way the reviews worked is that the primary reviewer would present the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal first, followed by the secondary reviewer. Then the rest of the "committee" could comment, with the exception of the person who had submitted that proposal. Normally, proposal authors are not permitted to sit in on the NIH deliberations, so here we were supposed to be "flies on the wall" while our own proposals were being deliberated.
Right afterward, I had a course review meeting for the Endo/Repro block that we just finished. I don't know how I keep getting invited to serve on these committees so often. Most of my classmates have only had two or three invites, but I've had five! This is the fourth time I've actually served. I had to say no to one because I had clinic that day. Anyway, I mainly wanted to reiterate the points I had been making all block, which were that the reading assignments were too long and the conference rooms are too small. Nothing new or exciting there.
The Professionalism competency for my portfolio was due at 5 PM, and I submitted it around 4:30. Then I went to a talk from the Department of Orthopedic Surgery that was cryptically entitled "The “Clinician Scientist” an Oxymoron?" The speaker is an orthopedic surgeon in Calgary. He explained that it is difficult to create and keep orthopedic clinician scientists. There aren’t enough of them, and it is not clear how to train, mentor and support them. It is very difficult to be a clinician scientist in orthopedics because they have so many clinical demands on their time. Surgeons are less than 1% of the MDs that have national grants in Canada. Very few surgeons are PIs on national peer reviewed grants. Orthopedic surgeons compose only a tiny percent of those surgeons, and the distribution in Canada is proportionately the same as in the US. Interestingly, orthopedic residents often come in having graduate degrees and wanting to do research. But somehow they change their minds during training, possibly because of lifestyle factors. Some of the challenges include finding and cultivating inquiring minds, training and mentoring people on collaborators, the clinical and surgical culture valuing clinical work more than research, and life balance.
I'm not particularly interested in orthopedics, but I think a lot of the problems apply to anyone trying to balance a procedural specialty with doing research.