Hello 2018: Starting up and setting goals

I’ve been thinking about ways to encourage myself to write more for some time now (which, you may cleverly notice, doesn’t involve doing any writing). Inspired by my friend Heidi – who blogs about her PhD research on participant recruitment in clinical trials, science communication (#scicomm), phd life (#phdchat), and other things – I finally started a blog. About a year ago. She’d occasionally nudge me to actually write something, but I’d deflect with the promise to do it later. Mac users: you know when you see the “updates available” pop-up, and answer “install later,” but then it asks “when later? like, in an hour? tonight?” and you think, uhh, I don’t know, “later”? Kind of like that.

Nudged by seeing Heidi’s 2018 goals, I figured “later” should be “now.” While I have more goals in mind, professional and personal, I’ll share some main ones here that I’ll write about.

Submit one PhD chapter for publication

My PhD thesis is on patient/carer/public partnership in developing clinical practice guidelines. I’ll write a longer post about it, but it’s about the process of making recommendations for medical decisions (e.g. drugs, surgeries) with the people they apply to. For example, a guideline on diabetes management co-produced with persons who have, and those who care for persons who have, diabetes.

One of my favourite profs, Dr. Lehana Thabane, lectured on practical advice for new PhD students, i.e. how to be productive while preserving your sanity. Something that stuck with me was, instead of seeing your thesis as this behemoth task, focus on publishing one PhD paper each year: 3 years, 3 chapters. In our program, if your thesis chapter is already published in a peer-reviewed journal, it’s not subject to revisions from your committee. Awesome, right? Granted, publishing can take almost as long as writing, hence my (hopefully) achievable goal of just submitting.

Read 365 papers

The #365papers challenge is something I’m eager to take on this year – I have a looong list of papers to read. Other than thesis stuff, I want to read classic papers in epidemiology, such as the clinician-trialist series from the (late, great) Dr. David Sackett. I’m neither a clinician nor a trialist, but the series was highly recommended, especially the 3 papers on “ways to advance your career by saying no,” with Dr. Andy Oxman.

Read 6 fiction and 6 non-fiction books

I usually have one fiction and one non-fiction book on the go, but I can go weeks or  months without touching them. I find that a struggle for many grad students is that it’s hard to read “for pleasure” when there’s so much mandatory reading to do. I know it will help my writing (and thinking) though. Sackett, for example, loved the work of Kurt Vonnegut. And I’m interested in narrative medicine, medical memoirs, and the like, which has some overlap with my thesis work (e.g. qualitative research, patient experience). Time to work on reducing my tsundoku.

Make 12 creative things

As a kid, I always enjoyed arts and crafts, but I haven’t done much in a long time. Sculpting used to be a favourite. Before soft “play-doh” was around, we had plasticine, and to make it more malleable, my sister and I would put it on the radiator heater – often (to my mother’s dismay) we’d forget it there, leaving plastic-smelling, brightly-coloured streaks. Sorry mum! Anyway. I signed up for a 4-week sculpting class in January at the Art Gallery of Ontario, aka AGO.

Each creative thing has no bounds, but must be unlike the others. This blog post is the first of 12.

Looking forward to 2018!

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