Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Low points

Grant proposal #1 was rejected.

My mentor’s response: “That’s ok! Please get rejected!” Because rejection is part of the process… because to be successful you have to risk failure… because you have to learn to persevere. It will make you better. And as he walked away, “HAVE FUN! This should be fun!”

This rejection may be coloring my attitude towards research today, but I was frustrated and disappointed with a lunchtime lecture on obesity. The presenter’s research revolves around how to change our environment/communities to help solve the obesity epidemic. This is a very important topic and one I think we need to take more seriously. My reactions from the talk:

1) One of the major research accomplishments discussed was a finding that high-income communities have more fruits and vegetables available compared with low-income communities. Did we really need an NIH-funded study to prove that?!

2) A second major research accomplishment discussed was the development of methods to measure “healthful food," but this study included potato chips as a “healthful choice.” I think we first need to figure out how to correctly define this!

3) The issue of fructose was not discussed (though calories, fat, and portion size were).

4) If we’re talking about making change in communities, we should look at what we're doing here at this hospital to change our environment. What are our patients eating in this hospital? Why is there a McDonalds at the children’s hospital? How come there is not a gym at the medical center for patients, family members, and medical staff? And why did they serve greasy potato chips and sodas for this lunchtime lecture? 

If I am going to do research for my career, here are some questions I want to make sure I remember to think about:
  • What does this research contribute to society?
  • Is it worth everybody’s time (not only your time, but that of your patients and your collaborators)? 
  • What new interventions or clinical practices will come out of this? 
  • Is the study worth all the money going into it (or could that money be better spent on something else to benefit society?) 
Running underneath all of this, my mind kept going back to a patient I met this morning in clinic. 31 years old and she has metastatic breast cancer (currently getting chemo and radiation). She came in today because of bad headaches that have been keeping her up at night for the past week.

This may be metastatic cancer to her brain. I watched as the oncologist talked with her about what this would mean. She was calm, quiet, rational. She was beautiful. I wanted to know everything about her.

She's 31. How does this happen???


  1. Just read you blog, I felt the need to comment.
    That was quite a post.
    You are really really getting one hell of an education, seems frustrating this world of samsara we live in.
    I think that you may find this podcast really worth listening to, a cultural critique by Chris Hedges very interesting
    Wall Street Journal newspaper today I think has big article on study of salt costing 24 billion per year in health care costs.

    take care
    make love not war

  2. i think your research can and will contribute a lot to society. don't you think it's worth the time and money if saves even one person? the trouble is the work just doesn't stop with the research or that data that you collect or the conclusions you can draw from the data. you have to then make it public in a manner that's attractive to the every dimming american attention span. perhaps that's the hardest part of all. shock and awe. that's a good approach.

  3. Rejection is definitely part of the process. Do not fret. I am glad you are enjoying the clinic. you really seem to be connecting with your patients! Lizzie

  4. Thanks Craig and Lizzie! That is very true that one of the most important parts of the whole research process is dissemination of information in a way that is useful and impactful to the public...

  5. Ahh! You are so right - If it is becoming more widely accepted that we should focus more on preventive medicine not curative, why is it that so many physicians and health care providers do not keep themselves healthy? Is it the rigorous intern/resident training that makes eating well and exercising seem incompatible with the profession? It should be a professional standard that physicians take care of themselves first and demonstrate the healthy lifestyle they prescribe to patients!