Year : 2022 | Volume
: 3 | Issue : 1 | Page : 82--83
Research: The perspective of medical undergraduates
Arpit Singh, Oshin Puri
Bachelors of Medicine and Bachelors of Surgery, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India
Mr. Oshin Puri
78305, All India Institute of Medical Sciences Campus, Veerbhadra Road, Rishikesh - 249 203, Uttarakhand
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Singh A, Puri O. Research: The perspective of medical undergraduates.J Med Evid 2022;3:82-83
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Singh A, Puri O. Research: The perspective of medical undergraduates. J Med Evid [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Aug 12 ];3:82-83
Available from: http://www.journaljme.org/text.asp?2022/3/1/82/344295
Research is vital to match the dynamic nature of medicine. It is research that helps us combat the ever-changing needs of health-care services. This need for continuous medical research and innovation cannot be emphasised more than it has been during coronavirus disease (COVID). From diagnostic modalities to treatment regimen and vaccination, all are the output of rigorous research work done by clinician scientists all around the globe. Furthermore, new pathologies are being discovered at a pace much greater than the current pace of medical research being done to understand their aetiology and develop their cure, thus only accentuating the growing need.
Need to Involve Medical Students in Research
With the ever-increasing patient load, especially in a country like India, where the doctor–patient ratio is far from ideal ranges, medical research and innovation are often sidelined. The reasons for which vary from patient care being the priority to time crunch due to overwhelming workload. Many of these challenges can be overcome by the involvement of students in medical research. This will not only bring new perspectives but also reduce the research workload on the senior medical professionals. Early experience in research would also instil an innate interest in research among undergraduates, encouraging high-end research by the time today's students become tomorrow's clinician scientists.
Current Scenario of Undergraduate Medical Research Education
Research is a journey through several milestones, beginning from ideation, methodology and statistical analysis to publications and presentations. A thorough understanding of medical research not only needs structured training but also hands-on experience either of which are not well incorporated in the current medical curriculum of India. Indian students often tend to either learn by themselves or start off projects and learn along more practically, the benefits of which are indeed debatable.
Going hand in hand with the lack of formal training is a limited scope of ideation. To decide on an appropriate research topic, a researcher must be thorough with literature search and PICO creations, which cannot be understood well unless taught thoroughly with examples. This results in students majorly relying on faculty and guides for ideas. This not only compromises their experience in research ideation but also limits medical research to the ideas of experienced people alone, jeopardising the innovation fresh brains of young medical scientists could have brought in if they read medical literature and current research by themselves.
More often than not, medical research for an undergraduate lies in the spectrum of original studies ranging from cross-sectional to case–control studies and rarely to trials. The evidence pyramid below and above this spectrum is often overlooked, and hence, students are aware of only time-consuming and resource-intensive research studies. Reviews, case reports and letters to the editors which can be an easier way to start research need to be introduced to these research enthusiasts early in their career.
There are many more aspects such as biostatistics which students struggle with unless they formally learn the subject late in medical school during lectures in Community Medicine. A structured research learning course may emphasise on early learning in biostatistics and ensure due practise of the same which is extremely essential.
Opinion of Doctors of Tomorrow
Medical training is known to have a professional curriculum that is not only effort demanding but also the vastness of each subject it deals with makes it even more time-consuming. For students, balancing academics with their social, cultural or extra-curricular lives is a challenge in itself. Research, often perceived as an academic extra-curricular, does not get enough priority and is considered a liability even if initiated. For medical students, the advent of new topics and subjects from time to time itself is hard to keep up with. Moreover, most find it arduous to engage in something for which the short-term benefits look meagre and have not been emphasised upon. Thus, we wait for some enticing reward or just put it off until it becomes an absolute necessity like fulfilment criteria for post-graduation.
For a few students who are curious enough, finding the start point is the challenge. Especially in medical universities in India, where the large focus is to encourage academics and amassment of clinical skills, there are only a few opportunities for students to exhibit their interest and embark in the world of research. If, in rare circumstances, students initiate research, it becomes a challenging task considering the lack of research training in our undergraduate curriculum. Thus, only a few are able to make their ways through and complete the projects overcoming the paucity of formal training and time.
Encouraging research for medical undergraduates is the need of the hour. As highlighted earlier, through it, we can provide health care a huge support and tap upon the enshrouded potential of our future generation of professionals.
First and foremost, we need to emphasise the need for research in medical undergraduate programmes. The university administration being the key stakeholder may incorporate research education in undergraduate training in the form of simultaneous qualification, independent certification or additional curriculum. Strategies to encourage research may be incentivising short-term research projects for undergraduates by monetary or honorary rewards, as being done by selected central institutes. The college can also encourage their students to participate in the Indian Council of Medical Research Short Term Stewardship Program by timely informing them about the updates and providing a specialised panel of faculty to approach for guidance. Organising proposal writing competitions and panel discussions on research conduction will help encourage the students to see research as distinct from academics and develop more interest in it.
A special research training programme can be devised where the students can be trained on how to conduct a research project from ideation to publication and formally certified at the end of the same. It can be made a part of their academic training or added as an adjunct to their existing subjects in parts. The upper spectrum of evidence which is less time-consuming and resource-exhaustive including meta-analyses and systematic reviews can be made a part of academic assessment, which will help the students to see the current clinical methods from a perspective of a researcher. Many universities in other parts of the world employ research as one of the evaluation criteria for students' overall performance. The same encourages them to undertake a number of research projects and explore medicine even better.
Many foreign universities offer integrated medical programmes with a research degree. The same structure can be adapted and improvised according to the Indian setting, through which we can hone the skills of students who already possess an interest in research and analytical studies. Through this, we can make our country a hub and leading player in medical research and innovation, which will not only add to our development but also will provide India with a stronger foothold in times of need such as COVID.
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Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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