"A clinical view is important to make sense of research and research is important to improve clinical practice.”
During her residency in the Psychiatric Service of the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital, Eva Calvo was drawn to some of the studies conducted by VHIR’s Psychiatry, Addictions and Mental Health Group, headed Dr. Miquel Casas, and became involved in them. “From the very start, the project on the identification of biomarkers for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, coordinated by Dr. Marta Ribasés, greatly appealed to me. Now, thanks to the Phd4MD Programme, I will have the opportunity to delve further into this field of research without losing touch with clinical practice,” she explains.
Eva holds a Degree in Medicine from the “Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona” and is currently studying a Masters in Social Cognitive Therapy at the “Universitat de Barcelona”. Over the next three years, she will be working with Dr. Casas’ group at VHIR and with the team devoted to Genomics and Disease, headed by Dr. Xavier Estivill at CRG.
Why did you decide to apply for the PhD4MD Programme?
I heard about the PhD4MD programme when I was in the final stage of my training as a medical specialist in Psychiatry. This was a particularly critical time for me because I was trying to decide how to focus my career. This programme provides an opportunity to develop translational medicine, tackling basic research without losing contact with clinical practice, and this is why I applied.
What attracted you most about the programme?
As I mentioned before, one of the points that attracted me most about the programme was the combination of basic research and clinical work. Moreover, the opportunity to work in a project related to neurodevelopmental disorders was also fascinating. I have always been interested in this field, especially in ADHD, and during my training as a Psychiatrist at the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital, I was lucky to be taught by the best specialists in this disorder, but mainly from a clinical approach. This programme offers me the chance to keep working as a clinician in this field while at the same time do research into biomarkers of ADHD, in collaboration with Dr. Marta Ribasés at the Psychiatric Genetics Unit at the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute.
What advantages does being a doctor bring to research?
I think that a clinical view is important to make sense of research and that research is important to improve clinical practice. We must always remember that the purpose of research in our field is not only to acquire knowledge but also to use this knowledge to help our patients. These are the reasons why we do research. And this is why I hope to be able to contribute to this project both as a clinician and researcher.
Few doctors do research, why is that?
Even though many of us are interested in research, it is quite difficult to combine it with clinical practice during our medical training. This doesn’t change much even after we have completed our training, as our workload may get even heavier. Also, for a clinician it feels strange leaving clinical consultation and entering a laboratory because from the very start of our medical residency period we are in constant contact with patients, not with cells, or animals or blood samples. Programmes like the PhD4MD provide an excellent opportunity for clinicians to get involved in research without losing contact with their patients.
How did the move from hospital to lab go?
The experience is both difficult and challenging. As a psychiatrist, my usual work has nothing to do with the tasks I am performing in the lab. This is a real start from scratch: new place, new words, new things to do, so many things to learn… Work in the lab is tough, it takes a lot of time and dedication, and the results are not always what you expect. I am lucky to have the support of my colleagues, who are making this transition much easier. It is hard but definitely worth the effort.