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Academic paediatrics: Easter Island or Easter Sunday?
  1. J Savill
  1. Correspondence to:
    Prof. J Savill
    University of Edinburgh, Vice Principal’s Office, University of Edinburgh Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh EH8 9AG, UK; j.savilled.ac.uk

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Commentary on the paper by Levene and Olver (see 450)

When the last tree on Easter Island was felled, the inhabitants belatedly realised that there was no escape from an eon of “groundhog days”. Paediatrics, a discipline championed in the UK, faces a comparably monotonous future bereft of innovation and improvement. Levene and Olver present alarming data on staffing changes in UK academic paediatrics between 1999 and 2004.1 Most worrying is a 26% reduction in the stock of clinical lecturers, the academic saplings crucial to the future health of the paediatric wood. Is there hope for this dying research discipline? Yes, but only if paediatrics joins the main forest of clinical academic medicine in pursuit of research excellence, the surest protection against research assessment exercise (RAE) related tree felling—loss of life seems more threatening than loss of identity. Young paediatricians will win coveted research training and clinician scientist fellowships if they are supported in spending time in major research centres working at critical mass (although academic medicine sorely needs more fellowships available, especially at the post-doctoral level). Furthermore, establishment of the joint Academic Medicine Sub-committee of Modernising Medical Careers and the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UK CRC) promises the design and implementation of an integrated, flexible clinical academic career track for good clinicians who excel in research and/or teaching. Paediatrics must participate, particularly as UK CRC will establish research networks for medicines in children. Rather than the bleak prospect of Easter Island, I look forward to an Easter Sunday for academic paediatrics, a resurrection of a highly respected discipline in a form that is even more influential and all-pervasive than before.

Commentary on the paper by Levene and Olver (see 450)

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