Being an intern at the Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology (CEBD) is an opportunity that has changed the trajectory of my career in ways that I could not have imagined. Coming into medical school in 2020, I was fixated on completing my studies and becoming a specialist doctor however, I always had a budding interest for the field of research but was unsure as to how to cultivate and explore it. I came across the scheme ‘Excel In Science’ which is a programme aimed at students from under-represented backgrounds to get hands-on research experience. I did not know what to expect but later, it became the stepping stone for the start of embarking on a career in research and I am grateful for such an opportunity. As a basis of this year, I am considering a career in academia and I am excited to see what the future holds.
During my time at the CEBD, I was specifically working on the Rapid Eczema Trials which involved working with members of the public to design and run clinical trials that answer questions that people have about living with eczema. It was interesting to conduct research in a way that is different to the typical, traditional style of research as this made me realise how dynamic the field of research can be. This consisted of partaking in a variety of meetings such as meeting with members of the public to meeting the website design team who facilitated in launching our website. Being able to see the work that goes on behind the scenes and how it all interlinks gave me a deeper appreciation for the work of researchers. Teamwork and collaboration are skills that are of great importance and working with the Rapid Eczema Trials team has allowed me to develop this.
As a student working amongst professionals, you can easily be forgotten about, feel excluded and given menial tasks to do however, working with the team at Rapid Eczema Trials, I have been embraced and warmly welcomed as the team are open and willing for their interns to get hands-on experience. As a result of this, I have been able to present work on behalf of the team at national conferences such as the NIHR biomedical research conference as well as international conferences such as the EADV which was held in Seville, Spain. I was able to present posters and talk about the results from our survey and what questions were prioritised by members of the public regarding research eczema patients want answers for. Prior to being an intern, I had limited understanding of what it meant to be a researcher and fell for the stereotype of it being isolating however, it has proven to be the opposite. As a researcher, you can get the privilege of interacting with and integrating the opinions of citizen scientists. Being able to act on the deepest concerns of patients and members of the public and seeing it impact their lives for the better is one that I don’t take for granted. We engage with the community in many ways for example, we set up a stand at the ‘Science In the Park’ event at Wollaton Park. We got to speak to many families and individuals and hearing their stories was enough for me to want to see a change which is possible through the work of a researcher.
It has been such a privilege as such opportunities are not usually readily accessible to students and the exposure I have been given is mind—blowing. If you had asked me at the start of medical school what I expected my 3rd year to be like, I would not have envisioned this. It can be so easy to think that you don’t fit into the criteria of what it takes to be a researcher for many reasons- age, lack of experience, race and much more but one thing I have learnt is that the biggest limitation of getting to the next level can sometimes be yourself. My time as an intern has taught me the importance of networking, availing yourself and simply asking, you will be surprised with what comes your way!
I want to take this time to encourage not only students but anyone reading this who wants to embark on a path that they feel unqualified for. Find opportunities and get stuck in. It is a journey of discovery that requires you taking that first step for your dream to become a reality.
Written by Natalie, 3rd year Medical Student, Rapid Eczema Trials Intern