Combining research with clinical work
My children say that I have three jobs. I work at three different physical locations, and when I tell them stories from work, or drag them along on weekends, they might see all three of them. I am a medical doctor at the Centre for Inherited Metabolic Diseases (CMMS), and I am also finishing my residency at Clinical Genetics. First and foremost though, I am a scientist leading a research group at Karolinska Institutet. So the idea that I have three jobs is not so far off, and although my activities are very complementary and synergistic, it sometimes feels as if I am trying to excel in three different jobs at the same time.
Officially my time is divided between the three locations, each one comes with a different set of tasks, demands and especially expectations. With good time management this should easily be dealt with, but the problem is that not only does my head constantly try to deal with my research, the clinical responsibilities cannot easily be contained, and often require extra attention. But I am not complaining. I chose this, and ever since starting my medical education in 1998 I wanted to combine research with clinical work. I had plenty of opportunities on the way to change my mind, but even the increasing demands in my clinical duties and research activities, as well as my children’s climbing -, swimming - and Kung Fu lessons - and shall I dare say, my own exercise - I still believe it is possible to combine clinical work with research without compromising on either profession. However, with this dual responsibility, it is clear that some things will suffer. For one, I am probably a better scientist than clinician. After all, I spent a much greater part of the last 16 years behind the bench than in the ward. Also, the boundaries between work and family life are - let's say - blurry, and work is a constant part of our life.
Nevertheless, even with all dedication and commitment from myself and my family, there are some additional crucial factors that have made this possible for me. 16 years ago my PhD supervisor believed in me, supporting me in my ambition. So while finishing medical school I spent long hours at the bench to do an experimental PhD in molecular biology and mitochondrial genetics, providing me with a solid scientific education. In all honesty, I have met many professionals during my time in medicine who would not have given me the same opportunity, or even believed that it is a good idea to do basic science.
After my PhD I obtained my medical license, but decided that I should take another brake from the clinic and do a PostDoc. I finally got the opportunity to combine my passion for basic science and re-entre clinical work, when I was recruited to CMMS; an amazing clinic, where the leadership has a genuine interest in academic work as well as actually performing research at high level. I get the freedom and resources the clinic can offer, to follow my research ambitions and in return, I contribute with my science to the clinic. So how do I combine clinical work with research? I don’t do anything extraordinary or special. The thing is, many things had to come in place to get me here. Yes, I had to work extraordinary hard, but many of us do. And yes, I was fortunate to receive funding during my PhD, my years of clinical training and now, as a group leader, that allowed me to combine clinical work and research. But mainly, I always had people that were willing to believe in me and support me.
Now, that I am finally starting to come to positions where I can influence decisions, I try to return some of this trust that was given to me. I try to share this attitude that there is a common goal to be reached and that we should work with one another, rather than against each other and that hard work and success should be rewarded. And to my children I say, no, I have one job, but it's an ambitious one and together we can go further, than if we were alone. If you want to see some of the people that are in my team please visit my website at: www.wredenberglab.com.