The word “research” evokes a wide range of reactions often on opposite sides of the spectrum. I was someone who had a very all or nothing mentality when it came to research — either I was a “researcher” or I was a “clinician.” However, I had the wonderful opportunity to be involved in an intensive, full-time research traineeship over the summer at Washington University in St. Louis. The more experience I’ve gotten as being both a student clinician and now a research assistant, I’ve realized quite a few things about myself and what it means to participate in research in the field of audiology:
- If you have questions, there are research labs exploring the answers.
Research is hugely variable and having a research position does not mean you will be solely working on statistics, spreadsheets, or foreign, complex equations. If you have interests in otolaryngology, you have the power and access to search for the right fit for you. For example, I am someone who really enjoys patient contact, but I also have specific interests, so I was sure seek out possible supervisors with the same passion.
- You can do both research and work as a clinician — a crazy concept for a student, right?
Perhaps not, but I find I have to remind myself of it often. The fantastic thing I was able to learn from being a research trainee over this past summer is that you have the ability to explore unanswered questions and things that need to be improved, while simultaneously interacting with patients and applying what you’re learning. Research does not have to be your one and only focal point, but it can be a fantastic outlet to strengthen your clinical practice.
- Anyone can do research.
I’ve heard from many students, including myself, that they are not “built” for research. However, over the summer, I found myself stretching and learning in more ways than I could count: I was fully immersed in assisting my supervisors in their research and also reviewing and discussing research in many areas of otolaryngology. In addition, I was able to attend research conferences, rubbing shoulders with brilliant physicians, professors, and researchers. Everyday was a learning experience and not without its challenges, but I made it through and improved my work ethic, critical thinking, and my ability to evaluate and discuss research.
- You don’t need a PhD to explore unanswered questions.
This ties with many of my aforementioned points, but it bears mentioning. When I considered involving myself in research, I put immense pressure to consider pursuing a PhD, because in my mind, if I wanted to be heavily involved in research, I would have to have that degree. Of course, there are many fantastic reasons to pursue a PhD, but you can also be a research audiologist with a clinical doctorate. The wonderful thing about being a research audiologist is that you can serve patients in the clinic while also being involved in hands on research.
So, what’s the moral of my story? That you and I are absolutely capable of doing research, whether as our sole passion or in conjunction with being a clinician. There is no prerequisite to being curious and wanting to explore unanswered questions. So, why not start now?
Victoria Shihadah is a second-year audiology student at Washington University in St. Louis. She is passionate about supporting all communication modalities and hearing technologies such as sign language, hearing aids, and cochlear implants.
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