Leveraging a research background in your medical career

Most hiring groups for private practices are looking for physicians who can deliver quality care to a high-volume of patients. If applicants also have a background in medical research, it may just set them apart from an otherwise similar pool of candidates.

“Overall, (having a background in medical research) is a positive thing, but it does not change how much money you are going to make or how successful you will be in getting a job,” Matthew Bosner, MD, a cardiologist practicing in St. Louis, Miss., told Clinical Advisor. “It's how you translate that experience into caring for patients and how you come across to a potential employer that counts.”

Dr. Bosner, a university-trained clinical cardiologist with extensive background in clinical and basic research that returned to his research roots after 13 years in clinical practice, said that individuals must carefully emphasize the positive aspects of a research background.

In the current world of medicine where physicians in private practices are often expected to see a large volume of patients and move them through the system, those with medical research background tend to approach patient care more thoroughly. “Research experience gives you depth of information on how you look at clinical questions,” Bosner explained. “It allows you to broaden your perceptions on treatment options and question treatment plans.“

Researchers tend to be much more critical of literature and how they evaluate data, which can be a huge benefit, according to Bosner — particularly when reviewing a medical treatment for which marketers with a vested interest in selling the product have written commercials and advertisements.

“Having a research background also keeps clinicians in touch with what is going on in the medical world,” Bosner said. “Otherwise they could become stagnant.” It's important for clinicians to regularly attend conferences, read journals and stay current on treatment options.

Research experience also tends to keep clinicians close to the academic community. “It's vital to know what is going on in clinical trials, and sometimes you may even need to refer patients to data from a certain trial for a question that they have,” Bosner said.

Although the positives outweigh the negatives, when it comes to having a research background, hiring groups may screen applicants to be sure the following will not occur:

  • Getting stuck: “Sometimes, you can get stuck in research quicksand and bottom line is you have to be able to make a decision,” Bosner said. “Do you prescribe the antibiotic or not? Do you put in the heart stents or not?” Decisions must be made confidently and fairly quickly in a private practice setting.
  • Inability to translate clinical research to patient care: “When it comes to clinical research sometimes you see different results in clinical practice. Controls are different,” says Dr. Bosner. “It comes down to having the ability to relate clinical projects to your own patients who are sitting in front of you.”

To successfully blend a research background with a private practice, both parties -- employers and applicants -- must agree upon and facilitate the possible positive contributions clinical practice.

“In the end, you must convince your employer that you can take care of the patients in front of you,” Bosner said.

Heather Kempskie is a freelance medical writer.

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