The truth about research: Lessons learned by an aspiring physician-researcher

Many people looking in on the world of research have perceptions of brilliant minds at work, rapidly putting forth groundbreaking ideas.  While they’re not entirely wrong, I discovered that this arena of fascinating new discoveries is not always so rapid and not glamorous at all.

As a clinical trials research associate, I learned that research is hard. I found that testing and implementing theories and postulations takes time and dedication.  I realized that behind the brilliant minds of the amazing physicians and their colleagues, are data managers, statisticians, regulatory associates, assistants, and the like, that all play a vital role in the progression of research projects. My colleagues and I, put in long hours, were often understaffed and hard-pressed to meet crucial deadlines for the research to be able to continue and reach completion.

Working with cancer patients has motivated me to work hard. I admire these brave individuals who have volunteered their lives by enrolling in research studies, knowing that their participation is not guaranteed to help them personally, but is mostly for the purpose of improving therapies for future patients.

As I went on to pursue a career in medicine, I strived to participate in research every step along the way and what a rewarding process it has been. Now, as an aspiring pediatric hematology-oncology physician, I hope to continue improving the world around me through taking care of this specialty of patients.

The research universe is an exciting place that I have come to admire and deeply respect. It requires the utmost devotion and perseverance that can lead to the most exciting discoveries. The immeasurable importance of research and discovery has been repeatedly impressed upon me in the current state of our world. People are filled with uncertainty and feelings of anxious hopefulness that our scientists and health care leaders will offer sound guidance and answers to what the future holds. This objective requires time. Time to ensure the most evidence-based data is attained.

There are so many avenues of knowledge to be gained, awareness to be spread, and medical advancements to uncover. I know that staying cognizant of the importance of hard work, patience, and never forgetting the significance of all members on a research team is necessary for a sustainable career in medicine and research. Keeping the patients as the central inspiration for my efforts as a physician and researcher, I know it will only lead me down a path full of fulfillment and success.

Sara-Jane Onyeama is a pediatric hematology-oncology physician.

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