A Medical Student’s Reflection; Oxford University Research Internship
21 January 2022
Hassan Kamal shares his experience on working as a research intern at the University of Oxford Medical Sciences Division.
The clinical nature of the medical school curriculum has limited opportunities for students to actively participate in scientific research however, this reduced exposure had not hindered my enthusiasm and curiosity for research. The art of utilising my academic knowledge merging intellectual challenges through research to develop my interpersonal skills truly excites me. My desire towards contributing to this ever-evolving discipline to pursue my deeper research interests combined with a strong desire for success, enthusiastic attitude, persistence, and a willingness to learn motivated me to apply for a research Internship at Oxford. Competition for a place was fierce and after a rigorous application process, I was delighted to have been awarded a scholarship to undertake an Internship at the University of Oxford Medical Sciences Division. I was pleased to receive my first choice research project at the UK EQUATOR Centre working with the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS) within the Centre for Statistics in Medicine (CSM). My supervisor was Dr Paula Dhiman (Postdoctoral Researcher in Meta Research) who is a specialist in observing at how medical research is done, how well the methodological conduct is reported in the published literature, and how it can be done better with a strong interest in prognostic/risk modelling. For me, this was a new and exciting opportunity to work alongside and learn from leading specialists influencing reporting of scientific research in a well specialised area of statistics fundamentally using mathematical and machine learning methods that seeks to predict future events or outcomes by analysing patterns that are likely to forecast future results.
During my first week, a comprehensive data-science course was delivered teaching me all about advanced statistics and training using R programming and machine learning methods comprising of lectures and practical tutorials which taught me essential skills relevant to my project.
This was certainly a steep learning curve and proved challenging however, I received endless support from my supervisor who was exceedingly invested in my learning throughout. Evidence based medicine is vital for progress of modern medicine; systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials are regularly being conducted and influencing clinical practice. My research project involved working on a systematic review and meta-analysis:
- to describe, critically appraise and evaluate the reporting and methodological conduct of studies developing and validating allogenic blood transfusion prediction models used peri-operatively in patients undergoing elective surgery;
- to identify and list predictors of allogenic blood transfusion;
- to summarise the predictive performance of existing allogenic blood transfusion prediction models;
- and to assess their risk of bias.
I have learned to appreciate that publishing quality scientific research not only requires persistence and perseverance but also strong critical thinking, dissemination, and a fine attention to detail. My positive experiences from working closely with my supervisor has genuinely sparked my greater research interests in prediction modelling and machine learning methodology.
Overall, I have now gained experience and insight into all steps of doing and evaluating medical research studies; from working with to formulate research questions, design medical research studies, learn and improve how to code using specialised statistical analysis software, analyse data and help disseminate research through contributing to writing a research article. Furthermore, I am confident that through this Internship, I have been better equipped with essential interpersonal skills applicable throughout my academic career. Additionally, this experience has empowered me to develop my academic abilities in scientific research and contribute to the current literature with the aim of establishing novel findings that will lead to future publication and presentation at international conferences. It was an honour to step into a research environment connecting world experts at NDORMS where I had endless opportunities to attend regular research seminars, meetings, network and liaise with leading academics and specialist clinicians who have inspired my future academic interests in orthopaedic surgery and encouraged me to pursue my postgraduate studies at Oxford. Moreover, throughout the internship there were many events hosted within the different university colleges ranging from postgraduate study, social activities, including organised formal dinners and tours of Oxford’s famous traditions and locations to the latest innovative COVID-19 research; providing me with the opportunity to experience first-hand what student life and research at Oxford is all about. Also, I was grateful and fortunate to receive a generous invitation to attend the publication school course funded and hosted by NDORMS at Oxford designed for early-career researchers dissecting all elements of research and publication which I am highly keen on attending; an invaluable opportunity I will relish and completely utilise.
Finally, towards the end of my Internship, I had the opportunity to present my research orally at a conference scheduled to conclude my time at the department. This was a wonderful experience to allow interns to present the work they have carried out whilst providing a flavour and scope of research conducted across the board. I am grateful for the team at NDORMS for their invaluable support in helping prepare for this conference organising presentation skills workshops and mock presentations at internal meetings.
The University of Oxford is, above everything, a community of talented people working to push the boundaries of human knowledge. There is no formula for what makes a great Oxford student, but what students here definitely share with others is a passion for their subject, a record of academic excellence and a drive to know more. I have shared great memories and met wonderful people along the way. I would like to conclude by expressing my utmost gratitude to my supervisor Dr Paula Dhiman for her continuous enthusiasm, admirable guidance and for awarding me the opportunity to embark on my research internship under her supervision. I had a fantastic experience and have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my time working with the team at NDORMS. I have undoubtedly learned a great deal from this experience to reflect upon for my future studies which I hold with high regard. I would sincerely recommend future applicants passionate about academia and research to apply for a research internship at Oxford, the opportunities are endless, and I have never looked back since.
Medical Student (MBChB)
School of Medicine - University of Dundee