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How to Do Remote Online Research as an IMG?

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I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

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Starting from scratch – The baby steps!

 

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  1. Before writing a paper, it is essential to read one! Thereby you should start building basics in research terminology as a first step.
  2. Remember, the internet is a rich source; I personally used YouTube and Coursera. Also make sure to check Dr. Asaad’s research course (which is actually an affordable, all-in-one choice!).
  3. Make it a habit to read high-quality research from reputed journals, and make sure it relates to your specialty of interest!
  4. Start to write your own articles, whether as part of your school’s coursework submissions or as your own “practice” essays. (Dr. Asaad’s course has many of these practice assignments too).

Mentorship: The critical component!

 

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After you get the research experience, a good mentor can guide and help you put this experience into actual research work. Hard work can go to waste if not put in the right direction. However, let’s clear some common misconceptions:

  1. A mentor is not essentially the program director of your dream residency. It could be a research fellow or a resident who has good experience in research.
  2. It is alright to have more than one mentor. Every phase of your journey to residency will need further guidance. Sometimes your mentor will even refer you to other US researchers, which will definitely expand your circle of connections.
  3. It is not a good idea to look for mentors when your knowledge in research is zero. As previously mentioned, try to learn the “language” of research through online courses to maximize your chances of being involved in more projects.

Finding a mentor: The sprinkle of luck

 

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Research Course

The research course will teach you how to take a research project from idea to publication and in which I will share my 3-year experience of clinical research in which I had over 100 publications and 80 presentations.

While there is no straightforward way of doing so, here’s how to maximize your chances:

  1. If you are interested in a specific specialty, follow the prominent journals on social media. From there you can find researchers being featured via stories or posts. By doing a little homework you will find those who publish with medical students. That’s your shot!
  2. While going through journal articles, look for student authors. If you find any, then the first or senior authors probably support student research.
  3. Sometimes researchers look for volunteers through posts on Facebook research groups. So why not maximize your chances by joining those! You can also post on these groups asking for mentors!
  4. If you know any senior students with good research profiles, it is always a good idea to ask them how they got there.
  5. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Write a nice email or a message to multiple researchers expressing your interest in helping with research and one of them will hopefully respond.

Contacting mentors; Be professional, be sincere

 

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  1. Make sure your message includes proper identifiers like your name, current educational status, and goals of career (as the specialty of interest) in addition to a well-written CV and recommendation letters if you have any.
  2. Use appropriate emails (with your actual name) and social media bios (if messaging through social media).
  3. Inquire about the possibility of participating in projects. If you feel overwhelmed by the roles offered, make sure you clarify your time constraints. Do not expect someone to involve you in research projects if you only have 1-2 hours a week. Research projects require much more time than that.

Be Careful of Predatory Courses and Fake researchers!

The term “predatory” describes courses and journals that offer publications in return for a price. Remember that publications are not for sale, and these parties are taking advantage of your energy and excitement to publish. Also, beware of researchers that make you spend significant time and energy on projects that will never be published due to a poor idea or study design. You can always check the researcher’s PubMed and track record of publications to make sure that your time will not go to waste. Check out our blog on predatory research courses to know more.

What type of research can I do?

 
  1. The short answer is anything. You will probably not be able to do research projects involving patient information from an institution you’re not part of. Luckily, a plethora of other research study types exist, including surveys and systematic reviews.
  2. It goes without saying that patient confidentiality is the cornerstone of medical ethics. That’s why it only happens on “rare” occasions that a “foreign” student can be part of research projects involving patient information if they are not working at that particular institution.

How to find research positions in the US

This live and interactive session + recorded lessons will go over the details of finding research positions in the US.

But I wanted to do ground-breaking clinical research!

 
Many students are very creative and have amazing “clinical” ideas. Yet, you must learn to walk before your run!
  1. The main benefit of this whole process is that you “learn by doing”, which is, in my opinion, the best form of learning.
  2. Don’t forget that you’re forming important connections along the process too!

Some caveats to be aware of!

  1. Time, time, and time! The process is very time-consuming, from data collection to manuscript submission. So discipline and time management are critical.
  2. Balancing studies and research is no easy job either, but most importantly, do not cut your medical education for the sake of extra research.
  3. Not all research is completed, and not all completed research is published!
  4. Sometimes it might take a year if not more to see your first publication. That’s why you must be PATIENT.
  5. Starting from day 1: do your work accurately and within specified timeframes. First impressions are incredibly important and might determine if you’ll be involved in further projects.
  6. Be humble and appreciate those who help you. Even if you do the most perfect job on earth, a big ego will repel people away.

Did I do all of this?

 
Yes, with a lot of mistakes! I started by setting my basics and practicing through university assignments, especially systematic reviews.
  • Later, I debuted some lab projects that were too advanced for my level, eventually struggling with funds and professional support, and ultimately shutting down. Here, I learned my lesson the hard way: Having an amazing idea doesn’t guarantee successful execution.
  • This is when I grasped the importance of mentorship. So, I worked with senior staff in my university on multiple projects, and it was quite fruitful. I also joined lots of research groups looking for further “supervised” research opportunities, where I actually met Dr. Asaad! He was looking for help with a research project. So I signed up and he chose me to work on it.
  • My initial roles were limited to data collection. I collected hundreds of entries for a project about plastic surgery exams. Later, Dr. Asaad reached out to me again for other projects and since then, we have worked on multiple projects where I did data collection, manuscript writing, and abstract presentations.
  • During this journey, I learned a lot of “practical” points that would have not been possibly acquired through the internet. I also cleared off a lot of myths about research and residency in the US.
  • Keep in mind that although we have worked together for over a year, none of the manuscripts (including accepted ones) is published yet. As I previously mentioned, the timeframe from idea to publication can be quite stretchy.
  • Recently, I was introduced by Dr. Asaad to another IMG plastic surgery resident with whom I am working on a new project that will hopefully yield high-impact literature.
  • For me, the biggest win from working with senior researchers is learning the “tactics” of research execution. In addition, meeting and building connections with other researchers through your mentors is as important as publishing your research.
  • I am looking to learn about statistical analysis as this skill is essential if you are doing research. To learn more about that, you can check Dr. Asaad statistics course.
  • Finally, if you’re looking for research positions in US hospitals, make sure to check out this video
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By Rami Elmorsi and Malke Asaad

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