26 Mar 2009


Our department held the research day last Saturday. Sadly, none of our trainees attended the meeting. I hope they were just skeptical about the quality of the meeting instead of having no interest in research at all.

This is not to say that research must be of prime importance. In fact, I am afraid some people put too much emphasis on research output in judging one’s worth. I am all too happy to see youngsters striving to become responsible and competent doctors. However, in the era of evidence-based medicine, even doctors not doing research should know how research is done and if the conclusion of a report does justice.

The event led me to reflect why I am doing research.

Hopefully, it is not for fame, prize and money. If I choose those, the temptations to do wrong are too great.

It is the sheer joy of finding things out. Not only do I want to learn the truth, I am also eager to see how people get the answer. Our nephrologists were probably fed up during my attachment when I asked silly questions like ‘Why does proteinuria lead to frothy urine? When is frothy urine pathological (I often see bubbles in urine)? Does the size or number of bubbles matter?’

Recently, I brought our youngest and talented trainee to a laboratory meeting. After the presentation, she summarized the whole work in one question – ‘What is the use?’ At that time, I nodded politely. (Friends familiar with both of us would understand that I had no other choice.) Deep in my heart, however, my answer was, ‘You never know.’

When Osamu Shimomura applied for a research post to investigate why jellyfish glowed in the early 1960s, many might also question the significance of his work. Who would have imagined that the discovery of the green fluorescent protein would transform biomedical research and earn him a Nobel Prize in Chemistry 40 years later?

1 comment:

  1. "What is the use?" is also the reason for their absence on research day.