Primary Care Introduction To Research Inspires Medical Student
A career can span many decades and an early experience can steer your path in a certain direction. This was exactly the case for Viktorija Kaminskaite a fourth-year medical student at the University of Exeter who, whilst on the placement at Claremont Medical Practice (Exmouth), was introduced to the world of primary care research.
In recent years there has been an increase in the number of research studies delivered in a community primary care setting. GP Practices are becoming more of a common environment for patients and staff to get a first-hand experience of research delivery. Dr Lisa Gibbons, GP Partner at Claremont Medical Practice and Primary Care Lead NIHR Clinical Research Network: South West Peninsula, described how she first met Viktorija:
“[She] is a really research interested and active medical student and we got chatting about research when she came on placements. Viktorija observed me suggesting a diabetes study and an arthritis study to patients. She also observed discussions about a number of research studies including trouble shooting some issues with patients and studies. This was all while taking part and observing a busy duty surgery. It was lovely to have a research active and interested medical student on placement at a highly research active practice.”
The NIHR supports early career researchers in a range of ways but the first step in this process is to demonstrate the value and importance of research. Viktorija explains why research was appealing to her:
“Wanting to learn more and delve deeper into certain topics pushes me to seek research opportunities. Research involvement provides invaluable experience as well as insight into a specific topic of medicine. I definitely think that getting involved is an excellent opportunity for students even if they think they do not like research”
Viktorija’s educational pathway to medicine was not a straight one. After not receiving the grades needed to get into medicine, she decided to do BSc Biomedical Science at the University of West of England (UWE). After a few months of immersing herself in the human anatomy and physiology, she decided to pursue medicine seriously and transfer to the University of Exeter after a year at UWE. She took a risk because she would only be able to transfer if she did a year of BSc Medical Science and satisfying all the demanding requirements, but was successful. She has been involved in various research projects from her first year of medicine. Now, after four years of medicine, she plans to intercalate in MSc Genomic Medicine next year.
“I am proud of my path to medicine. It was not easy, and I would not recommend it to anyone. However, it has taught me hard work and perseverance, which are two qualities that were also developed by my involvement in research.”
One achievement that left a lasting impression on her was presenting a research poster at European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Congress, an international conference in Lisbon.
She presented research into probiotic supplementation that she had worked on with Dr Sian Ludman, from the Royal Devon and Exeter (RD&E) NHS Foundation Trust. Viktorija and the team assessed whether probiotic use in premature babies had an effect on the rate as well as the acquisition of tolerance to cows’ milk protein allergy. Her poster and presentation clearly made an impact as it was awarded the prize for best research poster in her category.
“The congress was a blur. It was a massive event that made allergies look attractive! I felt out of place as I didn’t meet any other medical students. Presenting in front of researchers and trainees was scary. There were two markers and about 25 [presenters] in my category and I won. It was my first poster presentation and looking back I probably should have had some practice at the local or national level first.”
Viktorija understands the pressures involved in studying medicine and that the challenges faced must be acknowledged and overcome with the right attitude.
“Research has taught me resilience. I am very proud of my work and I have gained a lot of confidence; you think ‘I can do this’. It’s incredibly exciting but at the same time you need to put the hard work in as it is all about experience. To medical students who are just starting on their journey, I would like to say that everyone is on a different path; if you’re passionate about something – pursue it! There is no reason to compare yourself to others, just relax and work towards your goal. I wish you all the best!”
Viktorija is still working with Dr Ludman and a group of medical students on CMPA. Additionally, she is a STARSurg Regional Lead working on an international surgical audit and is an editor for the ‘Inspire Student Research Journal’, a student-led regional journal showcasing student research.
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