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Students' Research: To be or not be that is the question.....

Posted by plosmedicine on 30 Mar 2009 at 23:49 GMT

Author: Haider Naqvi
Position: Psychiatrist
Institution: Aga Khan University Hospial
Submitted Date: December 07, 2005
Published Date: December 9, 2005
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

Aslam et al [1] have highlighted the important subject of the involvement of medical students in research. There is much controversy and debate on this topic. Some clinicians believe this involvement is invaluable to general teaching. However, there is no objective evidence to support this viewpoint. In fact, research and critical thinking goes a long way in promoting an evidence-based approach to medicine.

We have successful experience of incorporating a research project in medical students clerkship in psychiatry. During four weeks of rotation a group of seven or eight students are expected to think of an idea, design a project, collect the appropriate date and present the main findings. This has served to galvanise the students' interest in the psychiatry rotation, besides reducing the stigma and prejudice against those with mental illness. It also promotes experiential learning pertaining to the field of mental health.

Facilitating this undergraduate research project has been like walking on a tightrope; one has to balance clinical obligations with research-project-related requirements.

In essence, research and clinical medicine cannot be dichotomized. Good research questions stem from astute clinical observations. These, however, need to be tested with robust methodology. The undergraduate research focus is essentially about developing these observations.
In the context of Pakistan, a developing south Asian country research culture needs to be incorporated into the regular and elective rotations. Developing countries cannot afford not to do research.

1. Aslam F, Shakir M, Qayyum MA (2005) Why Medical Students Are Crucial to the Future of Research in South Asia. PLoS Med 2(11): e322.

No competing interests declared.