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Studying for a PhD in Geriatric Medicine: Opportunities and Challenges

Author/Affiliations: Rose Penfold: Multimorbidity PhD Fellow (University of Edinburgh), Geriatrics and General Medicine Registrar


I am a UK doctor, specialising in Geriatric Medicine. I have long enjoyed research, and it was with much excitement that I received an offer for a PhD Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh, funded by Wellcome Trust. The first few months have been amazing. I work with colleagues passionate about improving the lives of older adults, with enviable knowledge in their fields of expertise. Here are my top 5 reasons for doing a PhD – but also a few challenges. Why do a PhD in Geriatric Medicine? Clinical and Population Need. There is global need for healthcare professionals specialising in the care of older adults. Research into ageing-related diseases and the impact of ageing is vital as we support our growing ageing population to live longer and healthier lives. Increasing Opportunity. In the UK, Geriatric Medicine trainees comprise 1/3 of specialist trainees, yet are underrepresented in research. Lack of opportunities could jeopardise the future workforce of research-active geriatricians in the UK and limit patient access to emerging research (Lim et al., 2022). A PhD offers opportunity both to develop yourself as an independent researcher, and to drop the ladder for others aspiring to follow a research path. Advocacy. Older adults have been excluded from research, with concerns over safety, consent, and capacity. Inclusion is essential so that older adults benefit from advances and to improve research quality and generalisability. Recent years have seen efforts to address issues, including specialised centres for ageing research, and guidelines to ensure older adults are not excluded without good reason. Data-driven research, e.g. using routine health data, can remove some of the barriers. Personal fulfilment and career advancement. A PhD in Geriatric medicine offers personal fulfilment, by providing opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people often vulnerable and marginalised in society. It opens doors for a future career in academic research or clinical leadership, and to have a varied and satisfying career as a senior clinician. But there are certainly challenges - a topic for a whole other blog, perhaps. These include financial constraints, pressure, isolation, and precarity in reaching the next step. Would I apply again? Absolutely. The intellectual autonomy and opportunity to change the way we do things are unrivalled. Happy to speak to anyone thinking of a PhD in Geriatric medicine, or currently doing research.


Image by Felipe from Pixabay


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