Research among Early Career Doctors in Nigeria

by Isokariari, Ogechukwu M.

Like food is to the body, so can research be likened to a scientist’s career! Research forms the core of any discipline and determines the rate of growth and extent to which scientists keep up with evolving trends. 

Early Career Doctors (ECDs) are young professionals still struggling with understanding their role in the medical sphere while facing unique challenges; not the least being time and family constraints, and as such may not be particularly attracted to research. The fact that mentorship is a scarce commodity, especially in the Nigerian Health Sector, makes it even more challenging to compete in the scientific space of medical research.

I am an Early Career Doctor(ECD) myself, and even with my background in Epidemiology, I have made enormous effort to delve into research with so many obstacles inundating my path. Even though it is widely known that research involvement is needed for the advancement of one’s career, an ECD still needs some motivation in the form of mentorship to succeed in this poorly illuminated space. Studies have indeed shown that the earlier one commences involvement in research activities, the better and faster his future research efforts will be (1).

“Studies have indeed shown that the earlier one commences involvement in research activities, the better and faster his future research efforts will be”

Most ECDs in Nigeria have only ever been involved in research at the undergraduate level (as a pre-requisite for award of MBBS degree) or during their Pre-Part II residency training (also as a pre-requisite for the fellowship award). It seems evident that making research compulsory stirs up one’s active participation. Perhaps more compulsory opportunities for research involvement should be entrenched into the undergraduate and postgraduate training of doctors to increase their research engagement and help them develop a healthy research lifestyle. The fact that grants available to the young professionals are also limited, also makes engaging in high profile research difficult.

The problem of research in this environment is not only in producing scientific literature but also the process of utilising available evidence. The ECDs in Nigeria are not active seekers and critical analysers of original scientific evidence, rather making use of processed evidence; in the form of books and best practice guidelines from relevant bodies and organisations; to inform their practice. The ability to critique an article to determine if its results are valid is a skill still lacking among many ECDs practising in Nigeria. 

The results of my encounter with some ECDs within my institution has led me to believe that the “fear of the unknown” is actually more significant than the “unknown” itself. There are sincere yearnings and longing to partake in research, but most simply do not know where and how to begin.

“The results of my encounter with some ECDs within my institution has led me to believe that the “fear of the unknown” is actually more significant than the “unknown” itself”

I propose a solution to this research engagement gap in the form of Research Collaborative efforts which harmonises the expertise of different people into one outcome. One of such is the commendable efforts of the Research Collaborative Network (RCN) instituted by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) which has produced outstanding results. This can be replicated at each institution and at the state level to enhance research interest and engagement among ECDs in Nigeria.

References

1. Pimlott N, Katz A. Ecology of family physicians’ research engagement. Can Fam Physician. 2016 May;62(5):385–90. 

Dr Ogechukwu M. Isokariari is an Epidemiologist, Biostatician and Resident Public Health Physician. She currently works at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Port Harcourt and she is an active member of the Research Collaboration Network(RCN).

2 thoughts on “Research among Early Career Doctors in Nigeria”

  1. Nice one! about scarcity of mentors, I think it is scarcity in the mist of plenty.
    The rigorous nature of research actually requires a lot of coaching.

  2. I quite agree that interested researchers might have their zeal dampened by numerous obstacles as highlighted. A structured mentorship programme will go a long way in bringing out hidden skills and grooming talents for research development. Well done!

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