Why Academic Research Is Vital

“You'd be amazed how much research you can get done when you have no life whatsoever.” 
― Ernest ClineReady Player One

Research. There's no running away from it in the medical field.  Point blank.

I can remember as the end of my junior year was coming to a quick completion thinking about what I would do with my Biology degree. Back then, (and we're talking in 2006), there were basically only three options. One would either simply 1. teach Biology 2. go to medical school or 3. find a research lab and make that your life's work.

Those of you familiar with the American process of applying to medical school may know that it is during your junior year of college you sit the MCAT and spend your days trying to write a comprehensive personal statement for multiple medical school applications.

Well for me, things didn't work out quite that way. So there I was, stuck with a decision to make. I detested research, and teaching pre-teens about glycolysis was far from appealing to me. I knew I wanted to go to medical school. My getting there however was just a bit hazy despite it not being as linear as some of my fellow classmates. Fortunately for me, I was introduced to the head of the Clinical Laboratory Science (CLS) department at a sister University and spent a year earning a degree in CLS. This opened the doors for me and allowed me to be exposed to a field I knew very little about.

It was in this field I  was able to work on my first research study- as a laboratory technologist; it focused on Reducing the Turnaround Time (TAT) For Patients With Special Needs, (special needs relating to their blood type and the antibodies they may possess) During A Massive Blood Transfusion Protocol. The process was long and tiring and sometimes even discouraging. It was the fact that there would be a patient that would benefit from a change in our system that motivated me to stick with it. This study allowed the Blood Bank to test a hypothesis that patients with multiple antibodies could receive compatible units just as quickly as someone without any, which would make the difference between life and death during a massive bleed.

It was at the Poster Presentation at the American Association of Blood Bankers in San Diego, California in 2011, I got the chance to interact with Blood Bank supervisors and Medical Directors from all over the world, who were all interested in how this process worked for our lab and ways in which they could implement such a process in theirs.

Poster Presentations can be so exhausting. 

As I'm spending less time shadowing and more time working on the completion of a new research study with a great team that consists of eight of my classmates. I am so glad I learnt to embrace the  importance of research and have been afforded the opportunity to be published once again from which others would benefit.

Although our topic doesn't seem as interesting as others, (it's The Extent To Which Academic Research Has Influenced Policy Development in The Caribbean Countries of The Bahamas, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago) it is highly important. In essence we're examining the overall usefulness of academic research in the Caribbean.

As you prepare to begin your senior year of college, or maybe even prepare for your first year of  medical school, or maybe in the seat to bid medical school 'good riddance'; I urge you to rethink research. Take some time to consider a specialty or issue of medicine that you are passionate about and get in touch with a Principal Investigator and consider making a contribution to medical research.

Photo courtesy of http://www.michaelwosnick.com/blog/

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