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Clinical Research or Basic Medical Research?

FutureNeuroStud

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    I'm a student who's currently going through the med school applications process and have been assisting with clinical research for the past year at a neurosurgery practice near my undergrad school. I've done a lot of shadowing in different specialties and am pretty sure that neurosurgery is the field I want to go into. I understand that many people change their minds in medical school, so please don't respond to this post with comments about how I need to keep my mind open when I get to medical school or anything along those lines...I already know that and plan to do so, but have a pretty good feeling that my mind's not gonna change.

    So here's my real question:

    Should I try to get on board with clinical research or basic medical research in medical school?

    I'd assume that neurosurgery residency directors would prefer basic medical research, but I really like clinical research. Thus, I would like to know if the benefits of having basic medical research experience in neuroscience/neurology/neurosurgery would greatly outweigh clinical research experience when it comes time to go through the match. In speaking with the docs at the practice where I work, I have gotten responses in favor of both types of research. Hence, I would appreciate further opinions/advice.
     

    H_Caulfield

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      I'm a first-year student; came in (in September) with a million ideas with regard to setting myself up nicely for a shot at neurosurgery. I'm at an upper-level U.S. MD school. Here's what I've found, despite having been at the very top of my class in college:

      This **** is a lot of work. I seriously had no idea, and when I acknowledged beforehand that I KNEW it would be a lot of work, I'll admit now that even as I was saying it I didn't really understand it. I imagined I would be smart and efficient enough to get involved right away...with research, shadowing, et cetera. I was wrong. I'm lucky if I have enough free time on my hands to not fail either the anatomy, histology, psychiatry, or biochemistry exam, all of them ridiculously detailed and all within 7 days of one another.

      More power to anyone who can reply subsequently and let the OP know that he or she has been able to do things differently. But I spoke to a neurosurgeon when I first got here, and he actually warned me that I didn't have time now, that I was being ridiculous, and that my opportunities would be this summer and during the late third and early fourth years.

      My advice, based on experience? Just pass your classes and prepare for step 1. Do some neurology research during your first summer. That's all you should try to do right now.
       

      H_Caulfield

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        And sorry...realizing now that I didn't really answer your question. I would do basic medical/scientific research. Neurosurgery is too long a road to jump into clinical right away; it's maybe the furthest thing from private practice that there is, and there's a lot of dry subject matter to learn before you've gone and jumped into the patient-based part.
         
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        mpp

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          I would recommend doing whatever you enjoy most. First priority should be academics as how well you learn material in the first two years of medcal school will determine how well you do on Step 1. Most people would agree that your Step 1 score is a more important factor than research.
           

          FutureNeuroStud

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            Thanks to both mpp and H_Caulfield for their advice. For the record, I'm a dude. Also, I wasn't planning on jumping into the research right away. I was just thinking that I should start talking to someone once I get there to set up something for the summer after MS I. Neuroscience/Neurology is a really hot field right now for research...the last frontier in medicine, if you will. Thus, I would imagine that the slots for research fill up quickly.
             

            Megalin

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              I would recommend CLINICAL research. Based on my experience, most of the neurosurgery research done at least BY neurosurgeons at my institution IS CLINICAL. Also, with the limited amt of time you have in medical school, it is MUCH more possible to be published via clinical research, especially if it is just for the summer. I did basic science research after my first year of med school and although I enjoyed it, it seems a complete waste of time compared to the clinical research my peers were involved in.

              IMO.
               

              cpc23

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                I did some basic science last spring but couldn't keep up with it this year (MSII) because it was too time intensive. Some of my classmates are doing clinical research (crunching numbers/writing paper introductions etc.) which they do at home in their free time. So, from a time perspective my advice is clinical.

                Also, while doing basic research I spent a lot of time being a gopher for the resident who was doing his research year.
                 

                Ecthgar

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                  Basic science research is always looked at more favorably than clinical resarch. Mostly because its more difficult......as some have said, more time consuming and its usually requires a deeper level of thought in regards to experiemental design and data processing/analysis. Not to knock clinical research of course......its definitley needed and not easy by any stretch. Bottom line: if you can get a basic science publication, its definitely worth more than a clinical publication in the eyes of most people (PD's and chairs especically).
                   

                  Megalin

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                    Basic science research is always looked at more favorably than clinical resarch. Mostly because its more difficult......as some have said, more time consuming and its usually requires a deeper level of thought in regards to experiemental design and data processing/analysis. Not to knock clinical research of course......its definitley needed and not easy by any stretch. Bottom line: if you can get a basic science publication, its definitely worth more than a clinical publication in the eyes of most people (PD's and chairs especically).

                    what's also nice is if you are at a big institution, lab techs can do things for you in basic science research. i had a classmate that did a western blot band intensity analysis project and never poured his own gels/ran his own western's.
                     

                    physiologyman

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                      ok so which would be better when going for a neuroscience residency if you published basic research in a low ranked neuroscience journal or if you published a clinical study in a middle tier clinical journal??
                       

                      taXi

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                        ok so which would be better when going for a neuroscience residency if you published basic research in a low ranked neuroscience journal or if you published a clinical study in a middle tier clinical journal??
                        I understand why you would be compelled to ask, but believe me when I say you are overthinking this. At the end of the day what is going to be respected in academics is genuine effort.

                        Generally, basic science takes longer to bring to the point of publication and the effort required to do so is greater than writing a simple case report. On the other hand, someone with little ambition could chance upon a great opportunity to work in a lab, at a time when a huge project is coming to fruition, be assigned a small part of said project and 6 months later find themselves as a co-author on a Nature paper. At the same time, another individual could be given an interesting case to write up, take the time to seriously research relevant literature, spend endless time on the phone getting films/studies from other hospitals, write something of quality and learn something in the process.

                        When residency directors interview applicants, they can distinguish serious efforts from resume padding. Find a research opportunity that you actually want to take part in and work hard. The return will be proportional to your investment.
                         

                        Gozar

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                          When residency directors interview applicants, they can distinguish serious efforts from resume padding. Find a research opportunity that you actually want to take part in and work hard. The return will be proportional to your investment.

                          taxi definitely hits on a couple of good points. the neurosurgeon that i work for (1 yr to date) has basically made a few things clear to me:
                          working during school is a mistake - most of your research should be done over the summer between ms1 and ms2
                          basic science is > clinical, but anything you do needs to have meaningful production - you need a good roi

                          one other thing - these guys and gals are unbelievably busy and getting into their lab can take a long time to set up. i literally dropped by my pi's office every other week for 6 months before we set up something concrete - this was after he had told me that he wanted me to work for him and that he had several projects already in mind. i would recommend reading a few publications by all the surgeons that you are interested in, see who gets the most quality work out the door and then get in contact with them.
                           

                          Anka

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                            While not going into neurosurgery, I did a significant amount of research during med school (i.e., while school was in session) to good effect. Academics have to be your highest priority, but you may find you are able to do more than other people think you can. There's a lot of drama about how difficult medical school is compared to anything you've ever done before, how everyone is in constant danger of failing, etc... just not true for at least some people in the class. I found it more a matter of discipline and hard work than constant fear.

                            Anka
                            p.s. I realize that didn't answer your question -- as someone not going into nsgy I can't help you with that. It was more an answer to H_Caulfield's post.
                             
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