Research had always been a large part of my medical career and as I transitioned into the clinical setting, that practice only continued to grow. In many ways, I was fortune in finding such a great project and mentor with Dr. Bahner. I was able to design my own research project in the Ultrasound Medical Education space and became one of the few medical students with some expertise in Transesophageal Echocardiography (TEE). Creating an Objective Structured Clinical Examination to assess TEE competency for Cardiology and Anesthesiology, I learned a multitude of new skills from how to appropriately design test questions to the differing components that go into best assessing a demonstrated competency.
The effects of my research concurrent to my clinical studies were far reaching. On my Cardiothoracic Surgery rotation, I was able to demonstrate my knowledge of TEE to the attending Anesthesiologist and with his guidance, was able to help by navigating the TEE probe during the procedure. More than the direct application of TEE though, my research taught me essential skills such as organizationally staying on top of project deadlines and how to effectively parse through dense medical literature.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, however. In many ways, my concurrent research divided my attention from my academic studies. It became difficult to juggle a clinical schedule but still make time to make significant progress with all of my ongoing research projects. That is when I began to realize that I was stretching myself too thin. Following the advice of Greg McKeown in his book Essentialism, I realized that I had taken on too many large-scale projects and in wanting to keep creative control, I was not reaching out for support when I should have been. Dialing back attempting to juggle more than five research projects concurrent to my clinical duties, I instead gave my time to no more than two projects at any given time. The trade-off in this case, was that I also recognized that if I was pushing fewer projects forward, that I would need to establish goals and checkpoints to ensure that my projects continued to move forward. I built projected timelines for project completions in order to do so and integrated the use of project management sites such as Basecamp.
The results of these shifts were mixed. Likely due in part to my shift in specialty interest and the need to pivot to starting research projects in Ophthalmology, unfortunately, many of my projects were completed but at this time, have still not reached the publication stage. On the brighter side, I was over the moon when I had found out that my long-term TEE project had been accepted for Oral presentations at a national conference not once but twice.
Looking back, I owe a lot to my experiences in research in both developing skills that will help me as a physician but also helping me to grow as a person. I came to truly see how difficult it was to manage the twenty-four hours in a day and how sometimes, it was better to say “no” in order to create a better focus on more essential matters at hand. In the time I have remaining as a medical student, I hope to bring these projects to completion, two remaining to be written up and two pending submission following in-house revisions.