Nov 25, 2016

U of T Hosts Young Investigators Forum

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 Participants at Third Annual Young Investigators Forum

Liam Mitchell

 Participants at Third Annual Young Investigators Forum

“The good news is that clinical scientists are needed, and will be needed even more going into the future,” Professor Norman Rosenblum told the assembled group. “We straddle the sphere between patient care and research, and our ability to translate discoveries into practice is highly valued.”

The group Rosenblum addressed included 180 eager research trainees from across Canada attending the Third Annual Young Investigators Forum for clinical scientists in training, a group that includes MD/PhD students and Clinical Investigator Program trainees. Focused on the theme of “mapping your career as a clinician scientist,” the two-day conference hosted at the University of Toronto was organized by the Canadian Society for Clinical Investigation, the Clinician Investigator Trainee Association of Canada (CITAC), and the University of Toronto Clinical Investigator Program.

“Because clinician scientists represent a very small majority of medical trainees, maybe only a few students at some schools, it’s really important for people to come together and build professional connections. It’s the friendships and connections made at conferences like this that will help them in their careers,” explained Kirill Zaslavsky, a U of T MD/PhD student and the President of CITAC.

The program was planned by a committee chaired by Professor Nicola Jones of the Department of Paediatrics, who is also a Senior Scientist in the Cell Biology Program at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and a member of the University of Toronto Clinical Investigator Program Committee. Presentations touched on developing a successful mentee/mentor relationship, sharing your research through traditional news and social media, and integrating clinical practice and research during undergraduate and postgraduate training.

In his keynote address, Rosenblum – who is Associate Dean, Physician Scientist Training and a Professor of Paediatrics, Physiology and Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology at U of T – talked about building the personal capacity required to succeed as a physician scientist. He highlighted the “eight words, eight concepts and eight enabling ideas” that are needed which include a strong sense of personal and professional identity.

Kirill Zaslavsky, a U of T MD/PhD student, presents at the Third Annual Young Investigators Forum. Photo Credit: Ben Ouyang “You need to define for yourself what it means to be a clinician scientist. Many trainees enter the physician scientist pathway first as ‘clinicians’, but because of many different experiences in which the limitations of current knowledge are highlighted, your professional interests begin to evolve to incorporate research,” said Rosenblum, who is also a Senior Scientist of Developmental & Stem Cell Biology at SickKids. “Knowledge gained via the study of clinician scientist trainees teaches us that trainees undergo a process of testing out and solidifying their evolving professional identity in the context of their personal identity.”

For Zaslavsky, Rosenblum’s talk was one of the conference highlights. The event was also a chance for Zaslavsky to identify his priorities as he assumes the responsibilities of being CITAC President.

“Something we really want to focus on is establishing a stronger partnership with our sister organization, the Canadian Society for Clinical Investigation, so we can better leverage our respective strengths. Together, we can help both organization grow and help our trainees mature into professionals that integrate innovative research with excellent clinical practice.”