The Challenge of Mastering Medical Science

Mastering Medical Science - A Shifting Goalpost

Four decades spent in their professional life may turn out to be insufficient for many non-clinical MBBS/MD doctors in their quest to fully master medical science. 

Though, with hard work and the presence of the right professional mentor (guru), it is possible.

Mastering medical sciences are particularly difficult due to its ever-expanding nature and less exposure to scientific methods in the curriculum of medical courses. Working along with non-medico medical scientists can help the non-clinical doctors in improving their scientific acumen and the spirit of scientific inquiry.

The Ever-Expanding Nature of Medical Science

Learning Medical Science
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Medical sciences by nature are vast and seem to be endless. 

If one analyzes the growth of medical science in the last forty years in relation to a professional who started his/her journey forty years back, one could probably find that if the professional didn't upgrade himself/herself then he/she would be irrelevant now.

Just to keep pace with changes in medical science takes huge efforts at the end of professionals. Just imagine the efforts required to advance and master medical science. Mastering medical science is by no means a small task. The challenge is only getting bigger in the light of a globally connected world with more number of scientific publications being published than ever!

Limited Exposure to Scientific Methods in Medical Courses

Medical training
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Graduate medical courses like the British MBBS system or the American MDs are typically designed to produce clinicians.

The designers of these medical courses direct all resources to produce clinically relevant or clinically oriented content. Even the human anatomy has the mandatory section of "clinical importance" Scientific departments in a medical college or medical school take pride in calling them clinical, pre-clinical or para-clinical rather than addressing them as "non-clinical" which is many times seen as something having a lesser value. The medical graduates are not familiarized with the basic skills of medical writing and scientific methods. 

Post Graduate courses or the British MD system and American Residency system fare somewhat better at introducing the spirit of science and imparting scientific skills. Here also the focus is more on the core activities of the department like dissection, lab work, or teaching, and mastering "science" seems a lesser goal.

The real introduction to medical science starts only after obtaining a formal doctorate. This sad state when the "Doctor" is exposed to only a little science is not comparable across any other scientific stream.

Challenges Emerging From Working with Non-medico Scientists

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Non-medico, medical scientists can be found in almost every medical college or research institute. These are people who have done graduation, post-graduation, and a doctorate in basic sciences like microbiology, physiology, statistics, etc. They work in teams along with the medico non-clinical doctor. 

Since these people are not medical doctors they may not be the expert about the clinical relevance, but they are much more trained in scientific inquiry and methods. In a healthy work culture, both of these can complement each other and work as a team with the common goal of the advancement of clinically relevant medical science. 

Optimizing Medical Science by Working with the Right Institution and Mentor

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Many times, learning a new scientific method or technique may be feasible only at a different institution that may even be located far away in a different continent. The non-clinical doctor who wants to master science would be often traveling across seven seas to learn a new concept/technique to stay in a different culture. 

It is said that Guru is more important than God in order of precedence as it is the guru who introduces us to God. 

Similarly, the right mentor or lack of it can make or break careers. Most successful non-clinical always venerate their mentors even long after they are gone forever. The role of a good mentor in professional life is not to be undervalued. 

Getting Recognized as an Expert and Its After-effects

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Even with the right mindset, team, and mentor, getting recognized as a master of medical science is not easy. It requires lots of hard work to really master medical science or be a part of it. 

One would need to be focused enough to identify one's interests and see whether the current set of his/her team and mentors is the right fit. One has to find meaningful original scientific questions and find their solutions. The solutions that are proposed, need to be presented to the scientific community for further debate and discussion. The process has to repeat endlessly until the person develops a mastery of the subject. Presenting your original thoughts for peer review and accepting their criticism has to be learned over time, so as to be considered worthy of the title of the "expert"

Once one reaches the professional heights of an expert, life takes a fast forward to newer challenges. One of them is the ability to mentor others. Secondly, the expert should be able to provide answers or hypotheses to the most complex prevailing scientific problems. The expert has to also look after various new scientific engagements and partnerships formed as a result of his expertise. The policymakers, as well as the media, expect the expert to provide immediate ready solutions to broader public policy challenges.

"Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence" - Abigail Adams

Did you get a pulse of the challenges faced by a non-clinical doctor? Feel free to share your views.

Views expressed are personal

Last Updated On 08/26/2019 07:30 PM

Author Profile

Dr. Naval Asija is a New Delhi-based non-clinical doctor having health administration postgraduate training. Since 2018, he has been writing/blogging full-time on health issues. In the past, he has worked for a decade in healthcare, in different organizations, namely Innodata India Pvt. Ltd., Win-Medicare Pvt. Ltd., National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, Integrated Disease Surveillance Project, and the National Polio Surveillance Project.
The author can be contacted through
journey of a non clinical doctor



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