Matiram Pun on clinical medicine vs research

Matiram Pun I developed a strong interest in medicine and becoming a doctor at the beginning of high school. I liked the idea of being of service, the social respect doctors are afforded, and the bread and butter (financial reward) was fair enough.

So I worked hard to realise my dream. There is no substitute for hard work and believing in oneself. It paid off. I got a scholarship and started medical school, which I enjoyed very much.

Sometimes, though, something else comes along and you think: “Perhaps I’ll start this and will enjoy it more.”

While learning basic science at medical school, the professor who taught me physiology was a board certified clinician from the US who was involved in a number of physiological and clinical research to do with mountain medicine and high altitude physiology.

His name is Dr Buddha Basnyat from Nepal. He did a thesis-based Masters degree in physiology from Calgary, Canada, and then internal medicine, as well as a fellowship from the USA.

Armed with these degrees, he returned to Nepal to teach medical students, practice medicine, and do research. Now he mentors young doctors and medical students who are researching mountain medicine, high altitude physiology and tropical medicine.

His different style of thinking (combined with a traditional way of teaching which he juggles with a busy clinical practice), and the encouragement he gives to young doctors, has inspired many of us to think about resarch and publication.

In 2003, a Nepali society of mountain medicine (Mountain Medicine and High Altitude Physiology) was established. He guided and supported to the young doctors.

The society is active in research, organising workshops and journal clubs in Nepal. It has enabled us to know what research is and how a research paper is written.

He introduced us to Student BMJ, BMJ, Lancet, and many other journals. He always encouraged us to read and write rapid responses.

His strategy has already borne fruit. Two of the society’s members (Kausha Raj Pandey and Siddartha Yadav) have already become BMJ Clegg Scholars. Some have started publishing in very good journals. This is amazing.

So I got fascinated with all these and involved myself in many activities. Research seemed something that we can enjoy contributing to alongside clinical medicine.

This is why I’ve now joined a thesis based graduate program in Mountain Medicine and High Altitude Physiology (MMHAP) at the University of Calgary, Calgary (Canada).

So, being a hard-working doctor from the very competitive third world is fantastic. I’m practicing clinical medicine, but undertaking research is even more fantastic.

As I can see many Westerners do master’s in physiology or even PhD before entering medical school. I’m just doing it a different way round.

By the way, I’m not going to quit clinical medicine. I like the idea of doing clinical research alongside. In the mean-time, I’ll be concentrating on the program.

Competing interest: I’m secretary of Mountain Medicine Society of Nepal (MMSN) and one of the students of Buddha Basnyat. I have recently joined master’s program (Mountain Medicine and High Altitude Physiology) in University of Calgary, Calgary (AB). I would like thank Buddha Basnyat and program coordinator Prof Marc J Poulin.