Sometimes being a clinician as well as a scientist is more apparent than at other times. It’s something I try not to make too much of, because everyone has time pressures and a range of commitments. I’m on my one weekend not on call at the hospital out of 4 at the moment, which has brought things in to focus a little more than usual. Having said that, it’s my own fault I’m on call so much, working an extra weekend for some holiday money, and swapping a weekend so I can go to a conference in October.
The commitments to clinics during the week can also be a drain at times. They can be psychologically draining (however much us docs try and hide it) and generate a certain amount of paperwork. While I’m doing my PhD full time,I probably spend on average a 9-5 day’s work doing clinics and following up on letters and results.
But would I give it up? Perhaps I’ll drop the on calls later in the year, going in to the third year of my PhD. But the clinics and the phonecalls from patients’ relatives I love doing. It’s what I’m trained to do. Connecting with people is one of the privileges of being a doctor, and I’m very lucky to get to know my patients and their families very well, both when they come to clinics and when they come for research.
And it gives me a unique perspective on my research. I meet a lot of scientists who work in my field on my patient groups who have never met someone with the disease they are studying. This isn’t always the case, and the brilliant Selina Wray is a great example of a basic scientist who goes out of her way to attend patient groups and give something back to the people who take part in research.
On the flip side, doing research gives me a different perspective on the diseases I treat as a doctor. I have been painfully aware of academic clinicians I have worked with who see clinical work as less important and put very little effort in to it. However, I’ve been inspired over the years by doctors such as Nigel Leigh (neurologist at King’s College Hospital, London) and James Lowe (pathologist at Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham) who throw themselves in to their clinical duties and still produce world class research.
Perhaps it is harder work being a clinician and a scientist, I’m not sure. But, to be honest, I don’t care either! I love what I do and wouldn’t give up either the clinical or the academic work for anything.