New Government Must Ensure That Academic Medicine Is a Priority; Professor Bharat Jasani, Chair of BMA Cymru Wales' Medical Academic Staff Committee, Highlights the Importance of Education, Training and Research Monday, 25 April 2011 THEPROFESSIONALS

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Byline: Bharat Jasani

ONE of the main strengths of the NHS is the role that it plays in education, training and research.

Medical academics are responsible for teaching new generations of doctors and have a vital clinical role providing specialised services direct to patients, as well as contributing significantly to the Welsh economy.

Over the years, medical academics working in the NHS and universities have led research teams that have transformed fertility through IVF treatment, and extended the lives of many thousands of people by proving the links between smoking and lung cancer.

In the light of discoveries in science offering tremendous opportunities to develop more effective methods of treatment and prevention, it is important this area is embraced and nurtured.

There is, however, a growing concern in Wales about the future of academic medicine.

Medical academics in Wales are an ageing group, and continue to attract very few women.

During the past decade there has been a serious decline in senior clinical academic posts in Wales, the UK and beyond.

There area number of factors which could be attributed to the decline, including prolonged training, early financial disincentives, long working hours and tensions between the responsibilities for teaching, research and clinical service. Despite the fact that women constitute a growing proportion of the medical workforce, they continue to be under-represented in academic medicine. The BMA has argued that in order to promote women in the profession, there needs to be a structural and cultural change within the workplace, including, amongst other ideas, encouraging opportunities for balancing work and life responsibilities, such as caring for children or elderly relatives.

There could be even tougher times ahead for medical schools and academics because of the current economic crisis. It is for this very reason that Wales should embrace the benefits that a strong clinical research group can bring. …