总住院日记 Chief’s Diary （二）
6/6/09 My journey to a psychiatry resident
I am from New Zealand. I mean I am a citizen of New Zealand. Well, I was Chinese. I am among those early immigrants to New Zealand and Australia back in early 1990s. After I graduated from a medical school in China, I chose to immigrate to New Zealand. I spent several years as a dustman while waiting for the New Zealand Citizenship. During those years, I lived in a closet very close to a central air-condition compressor. The buzz of the compressor almost drove my crazy. I can never forget those dark days in my life. I paid several most valuable years in exchange for the New Zealand passport. Does it worth it, I don’t know, probably not, but I did it. As Americans like to say, “Once I was young and foolish.”
Then I was able to get PhD training in immunology in Australia. When talking about lab work now, people think of molecular biology. But what the young generation of researchers not familiar is: immunology was the most popular technique in research field at that time. After immunology, it is genetics, and now it is molecular biology. I luckily switched to apoptosis study for Alzheimer's disease after several years of postdoctoral training in molecular biology in the US. Right now, several fields related to apoptosis are also very promising; these include longevity study, cancer, and neuro-science. Thus I see apoptosis as a good research field. I got a semi-faculty job in a pretty well know University. Yes, the university is famous, but not for medicine. The department of Neurology and Psychiatry is especially weak.
The push for translational research by NIH started several years ago. By “translational”, it means the researcher should have background in both basic research and clinical work. Most of the time, such “background” implies US experience so that NIH and other funding agencies will recognize it. The research projects proposed by translational researchers are more likely to address clinical questions, more readily to apply to clinical practice, and as a result more likely to be funded. This is particular important when the funding is tight, while the US government is throwing money out seas.
Aimed at becoming a translational researcher, I decided to take the USMLE exams and apply for a residency in pathology, psychiatry or neurology. For me, this is not only about money. I am old; I won’t have many years to earn money after I graduate from a residency program. Besides, as a New Zealand citizen, I have some basic retirement and social security money to cover my later life even if I stop working now. But I want to do something before I retire. To cut the story really short, I ended up in psychiatry residency in the same university.