Medical Education and Research by Dr. Shabih Zaidi, Chancellor, SIVU

Medical Education and Research

Research is the key to success in life. It is the mother of scientific progress, just as necessity is the mother of invention. Science cannot progress without research. The relationship between them is akin to mother with motherhood. Neither can flourish in isolation.

The research could be academic, corporate qualitative, quantitative, prospective contemporary, or retrospective. All pathways lead to one simple goal, i.e to find the truth. The fundamental role of research is to think of a hypothesis, carry our substantive literature search, identify the existing lacunae, design a study to prove the hypothesis, or disprove it as an antithesis,  with the focused aim of adding to existing knowledge. A hypothesis proved with an outcome is a thesis. A hypothesis disproved is often called an antithesis. Sometimes an antithesis is more powerful and productive than a proven hypothesis.

Genuine research is rare. Many of us indulge in research with the objective of adding points to our CVs.

Genuine research is rare. Many of us indulge in research with the objective of adding points to our CVs. It leads to academic enhancement. It also leads to a boastful propagation of our achievement. Or to impress peers and colleagues.  Or indeed as a necessity to gain useful employment.
How often does one perform research to improve a lot of humanity? Seldom.if any.
Institutions demand a candidate to conduct research and publish in indexed journals. It is often done successfully, but only as a matter of routine. Research should be a passion, not a requirement.  It should totally engulf a person in the process making him oblivious of whatever else happens around him or her. It is consuming and exhausting. So, the lesser mortals avoid indulging in it. Which is sad.
To guide the future of mankind and to improve the quality of life should indeed be the normative principle of academic research,  particularly in health sciences.

COVID-19 is a perfect model to quote. The disaster caused by the nanoparticle forced mankind to look for a remedy post haste. People were dying. The economy had melted down. Health services were collapsing under the burden of disease. Mankind felt helpless. So, there was an urgent need to carry out life-saving research.

The aim was clear, the objective was identified. The focus was found. So the scientists put all other things behind and fully concentrated on identifying the source and its preventive antidote. The vaccine was therefore discovered and developed in a short time of about 8 or 9 months. Normally it takes years to do so. It is therefore a fine example to remember that earnest research has a clear intent and purpose. In this instance, it was to find a vaccine to save humanity. And it was duly achieved. We saw how it changed the complexion of the game in just a few weeks. That is what research can do. Research should have a purpose. It is a misunderstanding that it is a sheer luxury for students or scholars to satisfy their desire for personal achievement, glory, or success. That would be a wrong pathway.

Academic research is often dependant upon funding. It is always a challenge to generate sufficient funds to conduct research. That is one of the reasons why the developing countries fall short in conducting high quality research. A scientist in many developing countries is at the mercy of the appointing authority. So, he or she must first fulfill the job obligations before embarking upon research. Funds are accrued through institutional help, endowments, goodwill, charity, philanthropy, and government or NGO support. They are only made available to a research scientist after a rigorous process of a routine and detailed assessment.

Academic research is often dependant upon funding. It is always a challenge to generate sufficient funds to conduct research.

Getting Started in Medical Education Research
Getting Started in Medical Education Research

Writing a research grant application is an art. To present your case with the might of your pen certainly needs extra qualities. That is why many senior physicians or chairs are often extra busy as they are writing applications for research grants.

Research is dependant upon access to books, periodicals, journals and a library. How much has life changed in the last decade or so that access to knowledge has literally reached one’s home. With a click of a button, huge volumes of data can be accessed. Besides, as you read more and more new colors appear on the mental horizon,  just like a kaleidoscope. The more you shake it the prettier the colors and patterns emerge.

Data gathering and processing lead to the next step in research namely the application of the information into resolving an issue; sometimes called problem-solving. Modern research whether academic or for business ventures engages the brightest minds and provides them with the necessary tools including large sums of money to achieve a certain goal. So when we hear of someone sitting in a solitary lab somewhere in the corner of the world meditating, dissecting out his thoughts, meandering through the maze of the unknown,  he may be opening a door to a hitherto unknown world.

All students and scholars know it well that research is the name of propagating knowledge gained through the collection of facts or figures. It then leads to stimulation of the brain to investigate the underlying message, carrying out necessary experiments, performing litmus tests, arriving at a focal point duly augmented with a lot of reading, referencing, and publishing.

The famous Japanese saying ‘publish or perish’ can not be overemphasized. Research carried out in a quiet lab, even if gold dust, is of no use to mankind unless it is published. And published in recognized, indexed, peer-reviewed, high impact relevant journals.

‘Wealth needs your protection. Knowledge protects you’.

‘Wealth needs your protection. Knowledge protects you’. Said Ali ibne abi Talib. Knowledge can not be stolen or lost or robbed. Like Imam Ali said, ‘ wealth diminishes as you spend it, knowledge increases as you spend it . And knowledge is nearly always a byproduct of research. Layers of knowledge generated by research can be safely stored in books and now of course in digital libraries. Ali also said that ‘ all pitchers get filled up when filled, except the pitcher of knowledge which continues expand as it is filled’

Finally, all scientific research must be ethical. There are strict guidelines published on various relevant webpage sites from time to time. They must be followed. Cardinal rules are:
Discuss intellectual property frankly.
Be conscious of multiple roles.
Follow informed-consent rules.
Respect confidentiality and privacy.
Tap into ethics resources. ( Ref Google, accessed on21 March 21)

Research begins with a thought, then experimented in labs, then tried of animal models, before human trial on health subjects. Ultimately the trial and practical application is extended to say patients or those who need it. No human experimentation can be carried out without following the guidelines which began with the Helsinki declaration and continue to be updated periodically. Belmont house proclamation Belmont Report is one of the leading works concerning ethics and health care research. Its primary purpose is to protect subjects and participants in clinical trials or research studies. This report consists of 3 principles: beneficence, justice, and respect for persons.
( ref pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov › …

The fundamental principle of ethics in the Western Hemisphere are:
Autonomy… ie every individual has a right to make an informed decision.
Beneficence. … all research or its outcomes should be directed to benefit mankind.
Nonmaleficence… avoiding any harm.
And justice must be the founding brick for any decision.

Same normative rules in Islamic ethics are based upon the principle of’ la zarar fi la zarrar’ , gained through Al Takreem, Birr, Adl o Ehsan.

Medical ethics is a voluminous subject. It will be discussed and posted on the SIVU pages in due course.

Shabih Zaidi.
Nawroz 2021

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