Thursday, January 30, 2014

For my benefit

This post is for my benefit.  You may want to skip over it.

Due to the current funding environment, my job is a bit more stressful than I originally anticipated.  I am what is know in the business as a "triple threat": researcher, clinician, teacher. "Triple threats" may be a dying breed; there is some debate about that.  I have a lot on my plate. I don't claim to be alone or exceptional in that regard.

Things I need to remember when I feel stressed or when I am stewing over some job-related issue (if I sound like Stuart Smalley, I didn't intend it) :

It's too easy to focus on the "minus" column and overlook the pluses.

I am at home in two different worlds: I can function in a basic research environment as well as any PhD, and I can walk into a hospital or medical clinic and be mistaken for a pure clinician. MD-PhDs are plentiful at top medical schools. It is easy to forget that being both a fully qualified MD and a PhD-level researcher might be seen as impressive outside the medical school campus.  At least my parents are impressed.

Being a physician is a pretty big responsibility. Hey, some people do it full time and even make a career of it. I guess I should keep this in mind when I compare myself to straight basic research PhDs.

I can help diagnose and treat people who are ill. I am privileged to be able to do so. This also greatly helps in framing research questions.

David Brooks says " . . .  I tell kids if you have a great career and a crappy marriage, you will be miserable. If you have a crappy career and a great marriage, you’ll be happy."  I have a good marriage (to the fetching Mrs. Grantslave). I should count myself lucky.

I don't think my kids are going to laying on a psychiatrist's couch when they're adults and complaining about me.  I've been fortunate to have had the desire and the  flexibility in scheduling to be an involved, not bad father.  When I'm very old, I think I would have regretted the time I didn't spend with my kids more than the one extra grant application I didn't have time to write.

I have made contributions to our encyclopedia of knowledge about how the body works. For some reason, this is satisfying.  I have to remind myself that this is something I very much wanted to do when I was a naive kid.

Every predoctoral trainee that has come through my laboratory--both graduate students and students spending a couple of years in the lab before going to medical school--has had solid first-author papers.  This has not been the case with other, bigger, better funded laboratories that I am familiar with.

I have used the public's money efficiently and always keep in mind that I am spending tax dollars taken from the earnings of the supermarket manager just barely in the middle class or the tow truck driver just scraping by or spending funds donated by the earnest, well-meaning walk-a-thon participant.

I just looked at the blog CaliforniaStemCellReport, so I have to throw this in:
I have never and would never personally fight for the passage of a state proposition that would force residents of my state to pay specifically for my research, willingly or not. I would not grossly exaggerate the potential for near-term benefits of my research in order to influence 55% the residents of my state to vote for a law that would also forcibly extract money (as bonds are paid off) from the other 45% who perhaps felt they had better uses for their money.  Public funding of biomedical research is essential. I am strongly in favor.  But  I wouldn't become a huckster in order to coerce funding targeted specifically to my laboratory, which of course I think is highly valuable and meritorious of funding.

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