Thursday, March 29, 2018

YSP career tips for success 4. The science part II

It’s week four of our YSP career tips for success series and we are now looking at projects, and which ones we should do , this time with Atte Meretoja from Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland.



4. What projects should you do?

Choosing your first research project is not the most critical decision you make, but choosing the next few will be. Successful researchers always have multiple projects going on simultaneously. Many, if not most projects will fail, some will became moderate successes, and some will make your career. As there is no certain way of telling which project will go bust, you need to throughout your career 1) diversify the risk, 2) consider cost-effectiveness, and 3) seek mutually beneficial collaborations.

Diversifying risk relates to combining high risk and low risk research. High risk projects, typically interventional trials or long-term prospective observational cohorts of rare cases, will take years of full time work to complete, will test a single novel hypothesis which if proven will change clinical practice globally, but if negative will be of little interest to anyone. Low risk projects, typically retrospective observational studies, will collect over a few months or a year a dataset of consecutive patients in routine clinical practice and then report numerous hypothesis generating observations of associations in that dataset. Earlier in one’s career, with less opportunity to bear failed projects, it might be wiser to emphasize low risk.

Cost-effectiveness relates to the ratio of time invested per scientific output. Output can be measured with quantity and quality, but in reality measuring the former is easier. Therefore early in one’s career one has to emphasize quantity. Getting a few papers out will prove that you can write and publish, which will then get you a little funding to buy you time to do a few more projects, with an aim of getting on to the first solid ground of a few years of secure funding. For this reason, you need to think quick returns initially. Start off with multiple projects that can be completed in a year. Congress abstracts and articles in stroke journals will give you hints on topics others find worthwhile just now, then find your own twist to these.

As quantity is not everything and we need to compete in an increasingly competitive funding environment, it is crucial to include in your first half-a-dozen or dozen papers some that will be clearly novel and original. Systematic literature reviews may be helpful in identifying areas with little or no previous observational work. Over time it might be wise to increase the number of high-risk projects, as these when successful will get you to faculty positions.

The most cost-effective studies are those done in collaboration. Once you have collected a dataset, be that observational or trial data, make sure you reach out to others working in the same field. Most people will be happy to share their data for a chance of publishing a research project together, especially if you will do the analyses and write the first draft. You might find it much easier to publish research that comes from multiple sites due to external validity. Inviting others into your projects will often result in counter-invitations.

In summary, do not put all of your eggs in one basket but rather diversify by taking many projects early on, emphasizing first those with likely quick returns and then making sure you have some with totally novel outputs. In the long run collaboration will be most cost-effective approach.


Atte.Meretoja@hus.fi

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Seven minutes in stroke - Tomohiro Kawano

Dr. Tomohiro Kawano, is from the
Department of Neurology, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine

1. What inspired you towards neuroscience?

When I was a medical student my interest in neuroscience was sparked by Professor Mitsuhiro Osame, from Kagoshima University, Japan. He is not only a great scientist and clinician but also remarkable educator. He often encouraged us by saying “In neurological diseases, there are often some limitations for treatment even after definitive diagnosis. Thereafter, there are so many things to elucidate. Neurologist never give up.” 

2. Why stroke?

When I trained as a resident, I was very impressed by successful Intravenous thrombolysis in patients with acute stroke. On the other hand, I was so discouraged by neurological worsening during hospitalization or insufficient functional recovery in stroke survivors. Based on these experiences, I made up my mind to eradicate stroke!

3. What have been the highs so far?

Dramatic recovery following successful recanalization of occluded artery always makes me happy. These days, I am working on basic research in PhD course Osaka University in Japan. When I obtained good experimental results as expected, I feel great.

4. What have been the lows?

There are two cases: in one case, experiments do not work well. In another case, paper is rejected. 

5.How do you balance work life with the needs of home life?

I think it is probably difficult for many physicians to maintain a work-life balance besides clinical work. I always try to complete work during the daytime as much as possible. However, I often go back to the lab to put myself to complete unfinished work until midnight after my children fall asleep.

6. Who are your most important mentors and how did you find them?

I am very lucky to have met good mentors in my professional life. Among them, Dr Munehisa Shimamura, associate professor in Osaka University, is not only a supervisor of my PhD course, but also the most important mentor. He works incredibly hard and shows me what the physician-scientist should be.

7. What are your most important collaborations and how have you built them?

Working in National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center, located in Osaka, Japan, gave me a good network among vascular neurologist who came from all over Japan. Thanks to this network with my colleagues, I could publish a paper in Int J Stroke [https://doi.org/10.1177/1747493016677982].


Currently, I have had the pleasure to collaborate with many excellent clinicians and scientists in Osaka University. Our recent research project is development of antithrombotic vaccine for prevention of ischemic stroke in mice toward clinical applications. We hope to provide this unique vaccination as a more effective treatment on the clinical scene in the future.


Spreading the message of stroke awareness and support in Eastern India and Bangladesh

The renowned artist and popular Bengali writer, Debabrata Chakraborty, talked with Professor Dipes Kumar Mandal of the Stroke Foundation of Bengal, a World Stroke Organization SSO Member. Their conversation appeared as an article in the Dainik Stateman Newspaper in March 2018, reaching a large section of the 300 million Bengali-speaking people of Eastern India and Bangladesh. Here we share extracts from the article.


'I was born in a remote village called Nayachak, in West Bengal. I aspired to be an engineer but ended up becoming a doctor. I was initially  admitted to an engineering course but I was later admitted to the Medical College, Calcutta where decades later I became the Head of the Department of Neurology’ reminisces Professor (Dr.) Dipes Kumar Mandal, my next door neighbour. We got engrossed in such friendly chatter sitting in his ground floor clinic in our housing complex. Today, being Sunday his patients would start queuing up a little later than usual.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

YSP career tips for success 3. The science


This week, the third week of our YSP career tips for success is focused on science, moving on from the Mentorship theme. Tip 3 Choosing your field with Dr. Monica Saini from the Changi General Hospital and National University in Singapore.



3. Choosing your field

Choosing a specialty needs serious thought as it will have a significant impact on your future life. The decision involves a fine act of balancing personal preferences with available options.  You may like to ask yourself whether a specialty fits your work ethics and values, ignites your interest in a sustained manner, and provides requisite amount of flexibility that you desire in your work.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Finns Win National Award for Making Heart and Brain Connection


World Stroke Organization members, the Finnish Brain Association, have been recognized with a highly prized national award for their ‘Priceless Processor’ blood pressure campaign. The Association’s campaign was developed to address low awareness among the Finnish population that high blood pressure can have effects on the brain, not just the heart. 

Encouraging people to protect their ‘Priceless Processor’, the Association set up over 250 ‘pop-up’ blood pressure monitoring stations across the country. The campaign worked in partnership with occupational health centres and pharmacies to offer blood pressure monitoring and information to the public. Social media, TV, radio and press were all used to share information about the link between heart and brain, and to encourage people to take action to monitor and control their blood pressure.

The Brain Association beat off stiff competition to receive the accolade at the country’s annual Foresight Forum. Fifty nominations were assessed for the HEALTH ACT and HEALTH INNOVATION awards. The jury consisted of a diverse range of health professionals and selected the 'Priceless Processor' campaign for the HEALTH ACT award because, increasing awareness of the connection between brain health and elevated blood pressure was a noteworthy insight. Self-monitoring is part of future health care, and making it more widely adopted among citizens is essential in the prevention of serious health issues.”   

Thursday, March 15, 2018

YSP career tips for success 2. Mentorship part II

Welcome back to our series on career tips for young stroke professionals, last week we addressed Step 1. of Mentorship, what makes a good mentor? This week we are looking at tip 2. with Assistant Professor Dar Dowlatshahi from the University of Ottawa, Canada.



2. How to find and meet a mentor

Many aspects of your career will benefit from mentorship: the research direction, the clinical practice, and even achieving work-life balance. Therefore it is reasonable to have more than one mentor, and finding them depends very much on the mentorship context. For example, it is a good idea to seek a local mentor to help guide your academic development at your own institution, as they are likely to know of the local pitfalls and opportunities that will present themselves in your near future. But when it comes to growing your research profile, you may benefit from a mentor with a strong international academic network, who may be at another institution, or even another country. These are the mentors that can be challenging to find, and meeting them requires persistence, planning, networking and, as with anything else, luck.

First, identify your area of interest, whether it’s a clinical subspecialty, a procedural skill, or a research focus.

Then identify the experts in that area; much of this can be done through online research, or even word of mouth from local experts.

The next step is to reach out to your prospective mentor, in the hopes of securing a fellowship or similar training program. If at all possible, ask an intermediary to introduce you (such as a local mentor who may know the person). If not, then meeting them in person at an academic meeting may be your best bet. In this scenario, it would be helpful to try and connect via email ahead of time. Keep in mind that some experts are highly sought after and very frequently get approached, so they may at first be dismissive. You should come prepared (with project ideas, a specific training plan, or a proposal for a manuscript), and you may need to be persistent, perhaps approaching them again at other meetings, or in follow-up emails.

The process of meeting and getting to know a prospective mentor can take months, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead, and approach more than one person in parallel in case things don’t work out. While the mentor-mentee relationship does not specifically require you to undergo a formal fellowship, it is definitely helpful to spend a reasonable amount of time working closely together – this is how you will learn from them, meet their collaborators, and grow your own network.


ddowlat@toh.ca

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