Participation in the Research Summer School (RSS) has been my goal to achieve since I started my medicine course here. Well, RSS is not something outlandish to medical students here in RCSI. As most of us know, RCSI is involved in a wide array of researches in many different areas of healthcare, be it biomedical or non-biomedical aspect. I personally have heard so much about RSS from seniors and various lecturers about the impact and benefits of this summer programme, and this has led me to be so determine in gaining a place to do research in RCSI this summer.
Research Summer School has gave me so much more than I can imagine. I get to learn from researchers and students from different backgrounds and expertise. RSS also provides a conducive environment for discussions and exchange of ideas and viewpoints. For the past 8 weeks, I have been working at RCSI Health Professions Education Center Department. At first I was a bit nervous and worried that I couldn’t adapt to the office style of working environment, but the warm welcome from the staffs and their ever-ready helping hands soon melted away my fear and worries. Students also get to know each other through the Friday Discovery Series that were organised by RSS every week, also from the Think Tank Session, IEF conference, BEME review meeting, and certainly from the HPEC department. I have met so many respectable and influential people from all walks of life. This certainly broaden up my network and help build friendships interprofessionally as there are staffs and students from pharmacy, physiotherapy and other professions taking part in RSS as well. Besides the impact of the research works done, social networking is also important in the field of medicine where team work and expertise from various professions are required.
Moreover, I also get to know how useful systematic review is to a research question. Basically, systematic review is a logical, explicit, and systematic method to collate all empirical data about a pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a specific research questions. It requires high level search from various databases and libraries resources to ensure all relevant information are being captured. One can imagine how many studies that would be captured especially for a generic topic like communication skills assessment. The results of a systematic review are so immense and robust that it is actually rank the highest in the evidence hierarchy of the different types of research study. I realised too that the article abstracts are the most important part in a research paper as many reviewers do not have time to go through the full text and they only read the title and abstract to get whatever information they want. This gave me an insight on how important it is to frame the abstract so that it is like a mini-research paper and all relevant keywords are in it. However, this could also be a limitation for systematic review as it is prone to bias from the reviewers.
Another thing that I have learnt from RSS is the wide array of projects going on. Projects range across a broad spectrum of disciplines, from biochemistry, bioinformatics, molecular biology, immunology and inflammation, microbiology, molecular oncology, neurosciences and physiology, pharmacology, and cognitive science to clinical investigation and bioethics. There are so many fields to explore and different projects uses different tools in their research as well as teaching and learning session. I find it really fascinating and useful especially after I have attended the IEF conference and Think Tank session to explore what other people are doing in their respective research projects. Even though I may not be practically doing it myself I still can get a taste of how is it like to work in lab or a clinical setting. It has open up my mind to greater things that I have never heard or seen before.
Towards the end of my research project, I did a little survey among my fellow friends in RSS about what kind of experience they had in RSS and any improvement that can be made. Generally, they were quite please and happy with the projects they are doing, as well as the organisation of RSS this year. However some expressed that the Friday Discovery Series were too long and shouldn’t be made mandatory as it was hard for the lab work students to work around it. The programmes scheduled for the RSS were released quite late for some of the international students to work around their time and travel. As for the Principal Investigators (PIs), some of the PIs didn’t know that there will be students working under them until very last minute and some PIs did not give details about the project that the students will be doing prior to interviewing them. Also, there are some students complaining that it was unfair for the students who applied early yet did not get a chance to participate in RSS but there were students who applied way passed the dateline of the RSS application date yet still were accepted into the system. However, majority of the students still think they would participate again in RSS next year and it is definitely a worth while experience.
Of course, all works and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Besides reading articles and evaluating papers, my PI also encourage me to do reflective writing and explore the usage of different presentation tools like Powtoon during our free time. I find it really beneficial to practice reflective writing about a certain topic in medical or healthcare practice as it gives me an insight of how the medical world is functioning and also who I want to be in my future career prospect. This practice gives me some personal time to really sit down and reflect on the works people have done, the impact it has made, and what other modifications that can be done. I’ve learnt how to critically appraise a paper and to think out of the box to solve a problem. Reading through the various topics and discovering that there are so much more that are unseen or unpopular in the eyes of public, make me realized that there’s a need to stand up to what I believe in, to raise up my voice for the needy and vulnerable, and to be an advocate for the patients. Besides all the skills and knowledge that I have gained throughout this 8 weeks, I guess this is the greatest gift that I received from participation in this summer research: To look at medicine from a different perspective from now on…To love what I am doing and to live with passion everyday.
This will not be the end of my research journey. I believe with the experience and skills I have gained, there will be more research to come in my way and this will be my stepping stone to future research endeavour. Hopefully, my works will have a little bit of impact in some people’s lives…;)