Doing research that does something: The trope of the exceptional knowledge-producing medical doctor

Presented by Renee van der Wiel

Monday, 9 April, 2018 - 15:00

Over the last decade, the Wits School of Clinical Medicine has increased efforts to develop a new generation of doctors who produce research, or who are at least research-literate. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork I describe how these efforts - from undergraduate introductions to research to PhD scholarships - are related to the need to equip professionals to interpret increasing amounts of emerging scientific evidence for use in local practice. In developing a so-called culture of research there is the expectation that exposure to research will encourage a new generation of doctors to contribute to local knowledge-making and become the future professoriate, filling a perceived gap in research expertise in the School. I discuss in more detail the hotly debated Masters in Medicine (MMed). The MMed is a relatively recent professional requirement that registrars (specialists in training) must complete a postgraduate research degree, in addition to their gruelling clinical training, to qualify as specialists. In this seminar paper I discuss the unsurprising consternation over MMed research, showing how this degree encapsulates anxieties of professionals straddling demands of hospital and university; relates to complex and contested ideas about the value of clinical research in a struggling healthcare system; and highlights concerns about the kind of doctors the university should be producing for contemporary South Africa. (This presentation is based on chapter of my doctorate on research culture in clinical medicine, an ethnography largely centred around Wits School of Clinical Medicine and teaching hospitals.)

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