LIVE FROM THE 9TH EAPC WORLD RESEARCH CONGRESS IN DUBLIN . . .
Highlights of every EAPC Congress are the EAPC Researcher Awards, which recognize and support the work of scientists and clinicians who make an outstanding contribution to palliative care research. For the first time, three separate awards were made: Early Researcher Award, Post-Doc Researcher Award and Clinical Impact Researcher Award.
Today in Dublin, Dr Martin Loučka, Director of The Center for Palliative Care, Prague, Czech Republic, reflects on his research career and winning the Early Researcher Award.
I am honoured to receive this year’s EAPC Early Researcher Award, to share what has influenced my professional life so far and helped me to get to this exciting moment in my career.
My background is in psychology with a strong focus on palliative care. In 2007, I started a two-year training in paediatric palliative care in a Slovakian children’s hospice, The Flicker, which resulted in both undergraduate and master’s dissertations. I was also strongly influenced by existential psychotherapy and authors such as Rollo May and Irvin Yalom. After graduating, I looked for the best way to get involved in the hospice movement in my own country and paradoxically the most promising option was to move abroad to learn from more developed countries. I was lucky to be chosen as one of 12 early stage researchers, working in the EURO IMPACT project consortium. This project developed a network of several European universities that are among the best palliative care research institutions in the world. As part of our PhD work, we underwent extensive research training in different countries, which helped me to appreciate the variety of approaches to palliative care research. I am grateful for this experience and my first recommendation is:
“Get international work experience if possible.” It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Many people have supported and inspired me, including professors on the EURO IMPACT project, Luc Deliens, Bregje Onwuteaka-Philipsen, Irene Higginson, Lieve van den Block, Stein Kaasa, Augusto Caraceni and Joachim Cohen. All have been important for my thinking about research and palliative care and I truly appreciate their investment in us. But the two people who had the biggest impact on my development were my PhD supervisors – Professor Sheila Payne and Dr Sarah Brearley. Both are super-busy academics with huge responsibilities, yet they always made me feel as if I was their only PhD student. Without their support over the past five years I would not be writing this blog post today and I hope to emulate their example in my own supervisory work with my students.
So, the second thank you goes to all these inspiring leaders, and my learning experience to share is:
“Find the best supervisor possible. Get to know the best people in your field and listen to all of them carefully.”
The third key moment came when I was thinking about my next steps after completing my PhD at Lancaster University. The decision to return to the Czech Republic was hard: there is a very limited research infrastructure and academic life is not easy from a financial and personal growth perspective. Yet, at the same time, I saw how much research could help to facilitate the development of palliative care in my country. Eventually, I found colleagues, mentors and donors who supported the idea of an independent research organisation focusing on palliative care. Thanks to them, in 2014 we established the Center for Palliative Care in Prague, which I have led ever since.
You can see some examples of our public education work at allswell.info or thinkaboutdeath.org and I am grateful for the support that has allowed us to achieve so much so quickly. The EAPC award is a huge motivation for me personally and our team and proof that good work can be done even with limited resources. I believe that it will help us to extend the impact of our work even more.
So the last learning point to share is:
“Do not be afraid to choose the risky path.”
Read more posts from the 2016 Early Researcher Award winners, Dr Bridget Candy and Dr Kirsten Wentlandt, next week on the EAPC Blog