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Editor,—Article 3 of the charter of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health states “The objects of the college shall be to advance the art and science of paediatrics”, highlighting the importance of academic medicine to paediatrics. To ensure that this objective continues to be fulfilled we need to create a climate which will encourage trainees to pursue an academic career. Several recent articles, however, have reported discontent in academic medicine.1-3 In addition Raine recently described the paucity of hard information about the career paths of junior paediatric staff studying for MDs.4 This makes it virtually impossible to assess the true state of research and is a barrier to improving both standards and recruitment. This problem could be addressed by a system of registration and monitoring for all trainees and supervisors engaged in research, and also for their host institutions. This proposal has other benefits: it would strengthen academic training by peer review of projects at an early stage, allow supervision of supervisors, and pastoral care for researchers.
Trainees think that academic medicine lacks a formal training programme, takes longer, and is a more risky career strategy than clinical training.5 These perceived differences have been exacerbated by the implementation of Calman, and are of particulat relevance to paediatrics where a high proportion of trainees are female. In addition, there has traditionaly been more emphasis on clinical skills than research during paediatric training. Practical measures, such as an assessment of competance when awarding a certificate of completion of specialist training, rather than just time of service, may encourage paediatricians to pursue an academic career. Finally, Calman has imposed a “regional” structure on medical training which may penalise trainees in small disciplines, which are particularly common in paediatrics. This issue could be addressed by facilitating movement between regions in designated specialties.
Many of the changes which we have suggested require a significant readjustment of attitudes to academic research in paediatric training. Such changes would have been difficult to implement in the past, but the creation of our new college with its stated commitment to improving “the science of paediatrics” provides a perfect springboard for these new initiatives.
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