Igor Švab is head of department of Family Medicine and vice dean of Medical Faculty in Ljubljana, Slovenia
I am a family medicine academic from a country with a low GDP that is is experiencing a financial crisis. I have decided not to complain about being in this unenviable position, but to share with you my experiences of one of the most challenging and rewarding activities - teacher of family medicine.
For more than fifteen years I have been teaching basic research skills for family doctors. My audiences are usually made up of family medicine trainees in my country. The aim of the module we are running is simple: make the learners write a proposal of a research project they would conduct themselves over the next year or two. They have to come up with an idea of their own and think of a methodology. After that, they are assigned a tutor to help them to finish this task.
The most challenging session is the first one. This is where we ask them to come up with a good idea, based on a problem they have encountered in practice - one that has made them think. They often come up with ideas that are strange, sometimes even foolish. Trainees differ in the way they approach their practice: to some of them this is an already boring discipline that they had to choose because they could not get the speciality they wanted. Some of the are just looking for an easy way out of this exercise and propose ideas they have read in scientific journals. But there are always a few young, bright people who think about their work, their patients and their problems. To them, every patient brings new ideas. They come up with brilliant research questions that nobody has thought of. We always end up with a long list of suggestions. After a few years one group always produces at least one paper that is of sufficient quality to be published in an indexed peer reviewed journal.
I must say that I still understand and identify with complaints about lack of money, support, structure, recognition, journals and impact factors. But, because of my experience in teaching, I also have a positive belief about family medicine research. What I have learned is that good research is primarily about good ideas, preferably ones that are rooted in practice. As long as we as teachers keep supporting our learners to think, wonder and ask themselves about the problems they are encountering, they will ask themselves meaningful research questions, which will lead to good research.
This blog is part of a series on global primary care research that CMAJBlogs is publishing in the lead-up to the NAPCRG Annual Meeting 2014