Dr Alicia Mackowski is a SET2 trainee in General Surgery. She has a strong interest in surgical research and has published articles on the management of pilonidal sinus disease and chronic high output ileostomy. Her current work involves research on the role of negative pressure wound therapy dressings following mastectomy in breast cancer patients.
As junior doctors the process of finding a research project can be more confusing than the recent obsession with Pokémon Go. And just like the popular game, you can be left searching high and low for the perfect one. Having been through the research game, here are my tips on how to get to level two using the CATCH model.
1. Commit to an area of interest
Catching a research project is not easy if you are unsure what type of project you are looking for. Decide what area you are interested in, there are opportunities in any field from general surgery to nuclear medicine.
2. Ask a potential supervisor
Ask consultants (or even registrars) in your field of interest if they have any ideas for research topics or current research you can get involved in. Your supervisor is an important person who will guide your research, you should choose them carefully. Often senior consultants have a number of research topic ideas, or good research projects that others may have started but never had the time to complete. The Buildit site will also be a great place to get in touch with a supervisor.
3. Try to keep an open mind
The precise topic of a research project is not important, but it should be in an area you have some interest in. Completing a project you have no interest in at all is an impossible task, but being too picky about your research topic might leave you without one altogether. Your first research project is about learning the process of research (and scoring some CV points).
4. Create a study design
Although prospective randomised controlled trials produce high level clinical evidence, simple retrospective studies can also be very effective and are much simpler to conduct. Retrospective studies, especially those with long term follow-up are sometimes the best available evidence within the literature. These types of studies are also very useful in describing experiences with novel treatments or new applications of surgical techniques.
5. Have a go at presenting your research
Presenting your research is a great way to share your findings with senior colleagues and to get to know those working in your field of interest. Presentations and publications are also another points booster for your CV.