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Successful research training is dependent on new ideas and developments

Children's Hospital has a long tradition of carrying on successful research. Although many of the clinically relevant research questions are produced by the experienced senior clinicians, the people who actually carry on the majority of our research are young investigators preparing their thesis works. (Read more)

Supervision by the research group leaders is essential, but more is needed, especially today when the research methods develop at a high speed, competition is demanding etc.. The doctoral training programs can offer additional tools and ingredients to doctoral training. In Finland the tradition of structured doctoral programs is rather new, the first programs starting in 1990's. Medical research schools or doctoral programs are even younger and have been covering only selected areas of medicine. About two years ago the Finnish universities created a doctoral school/program system to which all doctoral students shall belong. However, the resources are limited: besides offering salaries to a minority of the students, the programs can arrange training on general research topics.

Children's Hospital started a systematic research training program (“Tutkijakoulutusohjelma, TKO”) in 1999, and its main assets have been to evaluate the study plans early on and a requirement for annual meetings of the student and the follow-up group. Even in the era of structured doctoral programs to which all students shall join, the “local role” of TKO is essential. With the help of many colleagues the TKO system has emerged essential for the student (and the supervisors'(s)) and to improve research quality and research training. The continuous improvement lays in large part upon our senior clinicians willing to give their time in the evaluation committee and follow-up groups. I'd encourage all of us to put our time and expertise also in the future to help the young researchers, since the university graduate programs do not have capacity to take care of all aspects of the research training.

The task we have probably not been so successful, is to support postdoctoral fellows who at the same time are residents or serve as house officers after their training. New 12 month positions were launched in collaboration with the faculty and hospital last year, and this is a great opportunity for active postdoctoral fellows. Given that there were not many positions available, maybe Children's Hospital could use some of its research money for this kind of support! A great new possibility, opened this year at Children's, is that short research periods to join one of our PRC groups became possible for residents, who have no earlier research experience. Hopefully this “mini-program” will be a success and boost interest towards academic pediatrics among our trainees.

We have a great tradition, but continuous renewal of research training at all levels is mandatory. You, either junior or senior researcher, can bring your ideas and energy to the best of pediatric research.

Markku Heikinheimo