Thursday, July 9, 2009


I made a post a couple of months ago about how impossible it is for a mother to do a fellowship. I feel a little embarrassed for acting like Whiny McWhinerson, especially since it turns out I landed a fellowship after all. Apparently, after residency it's all about the connections and I had the right one. Woo, I get to continue being an impoverished trainee! (Just kidding, I'm actually really psyched.)

A large component of my fellowship is supposed to be "flexible research time". This really appeals to me, not because I intend to spend this time taking my daughter to the park, but because I love doing research. Many eons ago, during college, I participated in quite a few serious research projects, but the mice in the lab weren't my bag (baby). I love proposing a project, collecting data, analyzing data, writing the paper, and especially seeing the article in print... but I hated sitting in a lab with test tubes and/or rodents. Ugh, and PCR.

So the idea of doing clinical research really appeals to me. People all tell me I seem like an academic. And it's in my blood (i.e. both my parents).

I also think that it's ideal work for a mother in medicine due to the flexibility. I never want to give up seeing patients or lose my clinical skills, but I think I'd lose my mind seeing patients full time. Research grants seem like a nice way to add to your income while not working yourself into the ground. Also, you have the opportunity to contribute something to your field as a whole.

I haven't seen any other MiMs on here discuss research as part of their job. An oversight or does it just not exist?


  1. ah, fizzy, this is exactly what I've been wondering. I love my research, and hope to keep it a major part of my career. It is a lot tougher for an academic physician to go part-time (if she plans on getting extramural funding, that is). The NIH does not look so fondly on part-time work.

    Anyone else a bit more senior than me have thoughts on this??

  2. I plan to be a mom-physician-scientist (still working on the mom part, but whatever). The flexibility definitely has an appeal. Also the fact that I'll be able to use that other part of my brain I almost killed during med school (did I mention I did MATH today?).

    There is a dearth of women in tenure track academic jobs, however. I think part of the problem is that the competition for grants is fierce, and hospitals won't give you much protected time for research unless your salary is covered by grants. I think a lot of women get tired of the constant uphill battle, and quit academics or become full time clinicians instead.

  3. I knew this post would pique your interest, OMDG :)

    My mom used to be at an academic institution and published probably a hundred articles. But her main responsibilities were teaching and clinical work.... the articles were mainly case reports, review articles, book chapters, etc. I don't think she ever applied for a research grant. My father, on the other hand, is always applying for grants for his clinical research. So maybe there really is something there, that women get discouraged from going in that direction.

    I still want to give it the old college try...

  4. There are LOTS of moms in medicine doing research, and some are part-time. Old MD Girl is right, getting grants is highly competitive, but that is true for anyone male/female parent/not parent.

    To be part-time definitely requires creativity and determination, but I think the options may increasing gradually. Options are most likely to increase if talented people keep asking/questioning/pursing!

    The ASP helped the NIH make a step in the right direction.

    This policy does not go far enough in allowing people to pursue part-time academic careers in research (in my opinion) but it is a significant step in the right direction.

    A great article...

    Levine RB, Mechaber H. Opting-in. Part-time careers in academic medicine. Am J Med. 2006 May;119(5):450-3.

    don't give up on academic medicine and research (whether clinical, basic or educational) if it is your passion and calling!

    I am mom who has been at times part-time and full-time who is clinical researcher. I love what I do (even if I can't always figure out what to have for dinner - but that seems to be true for almost (not really everyone...) all moms I know - no matter whether they are at-home or working outside the home full-time or anything in between).

  5. I do educational research as part of my job and a little clinical research. I love it and love that that my job is flexible enough to accomodate a variety of things: teaching, education, research. You can find positions where this is supported.

    I'm not interested in doing research full-time though; I have never wanted the pressure of needing to get a grant to be able to pay our mortgage, etc. Most of my research requires little funding.

    Email me if you want more details!

  6. Hooray! I hope you love it.

    I am one week into a research fellowship at my medical school, and I am thrilled. I am a mom, and a researcher, but still working on the physician thing.

  7. For me, the flexibility of my research job is the only thing that keeps my family together! My husband is an internist in practice - not flexible at all because patients are scheduled well ahead of time. When I first finished fellowship, I was also full-time clinical and it almost killed us. If patients ran over, no one could pick up the baby. If the baby was sick, no one could stay home or go in late. Etc.

    Now, I work 3 half-days of clinic per week (1 of those is mostly research patients) and I have the other days to do research. I do clinical research, so much of my time is spent writing, thinking, hunting down patient data. If I need to go in late, it doesn't bother anyone. I do generally spend time working after the kids are in bed, but I don't think that is very different from most doctors.

    Indeed, getting grants is hard... but so is everything that is actually worth doing! If you love research, you will find a way to make it work for you. ENJOY!

  8. Thanks for commenting, MEBC. What you described is exactly how my fellowship is set up and I'm hoping it will provide more flexibility than a regular clinical position. I don't mind hard work, but I also hate not being able to take a day off if I'm sick or my daughter is sick, so I'm looking to avoid a position where this would be impossible.


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