Taped to the wall next to my computer is a picture of an adorable little boy who suffers from a genetic disease. His mom sent it to me when she mailed in forms for my clinical research project that is funded by an Oregon Clinical & Translational Research Center training grant. Being chosen as one of the 2011-2012 recipients of the yearlong Oregon Students Learn and Experience Research (OSLER) training grant has been a wonderful experience, and is of significant benefit to both my mentor and my career for multiple reasons.
First, it provides funds to cover my stipend for one year, taking some monetary pressure off of my mentor. It also provides some research dollars for a yearlong clinical research project that I proposed in my application.
Just as important as the money that comes with this award, I get additional training. At monthly meetings we discuss various aspects of clinical research including design, implementation and data analysis. As a student in the Human Investigations Program Master of Clinical Research, I also get formal training about the rules and regulations of clinical research, designing clinical studies, and lots of statistics training (that I needed desperately).
A potential benefit of this award to PhD students if they choose not to do the Master’s in Clinical Research; the yearlong project can be a part of their doctoral thesis. MD or DMD students who accept one of the awards must enroll in a master’s program but PhD students are not required to enroll in any other program or take extra courses.
Lastly and most importantly, doing this project has helped me keep perspective. Sometimes when I spend weeks trying to make something work in the lab I find it difficult to remember why I love science. It is hard to lose perspective with a picture in my field of vision of a little one who suffers from the disease I study. His mother, somewhat unknowingly, provided me with a constant positive reminder of why I am here. I’m certain that my frustration with work in the lab pales in comparison to that of mothers with children that have extra challenges in their daily lives. Her dedication to helping with research so that others may not suffer like her son inspires me to soldier on.
Interacting with translational researchers and learning how they think about science and research is a unique opportunity for PhD students. For me, it brought the science I love (when it works at least) back around to the people aspect of research. I needed that, a lot.
I would encourage any and all doctoral students that are interested in clinical research to consider applying for the OSLER or AHRQ training grants through the OCTRI website. There are no additional requirements for course work if you are a PhD student; you have nothing to lose. Click this link today; applications are due February 15 this year!