In this post, Farooq Rathore – a physician and researcher based in Pakistan – explains why it is both important and beneficial for medical professionals (particularly those based in LMICs) to engage in academic research.
Two common challenges faced by physicians and other medical professionals are: i) finding time to engage in serious research, and ii) finding time to write and publish their research. More often than not, priority is given to clinical work and patients, and research often gets left behind.
So why is research important? And why should medical professionals strive to find time in their busy schedules to conduct thorough research and publish their results?
Understanding the challenges
I am passionate about research but, being based in Pakistan, I fully understand the challenges that other clinicians working in lower middle income countries (LMICs) face. All too often, the high patient-to-doctor ratio means that medical professionals have a heavy work burden, and research and writing is put on the backburner. (On the day I’m writing this, for example, I attended 73 patients in the out-patient department of my hospital and administered four intra-articular injections).
Physicians often feel exhausted at the end of their shift and struggle to find the time and energy to do research and writing. This is further compounded by a lack of guidance (not a lack of resources – there are many resources, but many people do not know how to use them). Add a lack of funding and poor institutional support into the mix, and this will give you a good idea as to why research and writing sounds boring, difficult and – dare I add – a waste of time to many clinicians and physicians in LMICs.
Know the benefits
My take on research is as follows:
First, if you are serious about research, it is important to connect with like minded people who are similarly passionate about research and writing. The company you keep matters a lot – and the more you interact with enthusiastic researchers (young or old), the more you are likely to feel motivated.
Second, medical professionals should always aim to make a difference in the lives of their patients. Research and writing is a crucial way to share the knowledge you have built up, highlight good or bad management strategies, and teach others about your experience of working in your own country and context (e.g. perhaps you have had different results with the same treatment that has been used in other countries – if so, it is crucial to share this).
Develop your skills
For medical professionals, I believe that engaging in research and writing can lead to:
- Sharpening critical thinking skills and enabling them to develop the ability to systematically analyze scientific literature
- Improving time management skills. This is especially the case in LMIC contexts, where many physicians are not allocated research time in their schedules, and so have to do it in their spare time.
- Enhancing communication skills. Disseminating research often involves giving presentations at local and national forums, which teaches important lessons about communicating clearly in front of an audience.
- Developing teamwork skills. Good research is always a collaborative effort – for instance, research has taught me a lot about interacting with and managing different people from diverse backgrounds.
In conclusion, I firmly believe that research can open up new avenues of both personal and professional growth. It takes commitment, determination and a degree of self-discipline – but the rewards you will reap as a result are worth it, and I would fervently encourage my medical colleagues to rise to the challenge and engage in research.
Farooq Rathore is a physician who works in Rehabilitation Medicine at the Pakistan Naval Hospital Shifa in Karachi, Pakistan. He is also an Assistant Professor at Bahria University of Medical and Dental College, Karachi. His areas of interest are neurorehabilitation, musculoskeletal medicine and rheumatologic disorders. He has conducted 55 workshops on different aspects of medical research writing in four countries since 2014. In his own words, Farooq describes himself as “an ordinary guy who loves to share the knowledge I have, teach others what I have learnt over the years, and pass on the skills I have developed in my own journey of research and writing”.