A Career with Two Masters – The Split Position of a Postdoc and Clinician

Posted on 08.02.2021

Lene Ring Madsen tells us what her split position as postdoc and clinician entails.

I am a part-time postdoc researcher, funded by the DDA, at Steno Diabetes Center Aarhus and a part-time clinician working as an endocrinologist at the Department of Medicine, Regional Hospital West Jutland. 

A split position offers a varied and interesting workday

During a normal week, I diagnose and treat patients with diabetes, thyroid diseases, osteoporosis, and pituitary disorders at the outpatient clinic, supervise and guide younger doctors in the clinic, and write guidelines both locally and nationally. I also arrange and participate in conferences, supervise research year students, engage in new research collaborations at home and abroad, and do register-based studies on bariatric surgery and pregnancies. 

“I can only recommend a position similar to mine, I am sure we will become both better clinicians and researchers with merged careers.”

Lene Ring Madsen 

Position: Specialist in endocrinology and postdoctoral researcher
Age: 42
Contact: Twitter: @MadsenRing.

Career path
2008: Cand.med., Aarhus University

2018: PhD, Aarhus University

2020- now: Specialist in endocrinology, Regional  Hospital West Jutland and postdoctoral researcher, Steno Diabetes Center Aarhus

Would not be able to go on without patients

I engaged in research quite late in my clinical career; mostly because I struggled with the dilemma of becoming both a skilled MD with flair for talking to and treating patients and at the same time devoting myself to a research field.

I wrote my PhD during a leave from my endocrinologist-in-training position, and quickly, it became clear to me, that I would not be able to go without patients in my future professional life.

“The challenge for MDs doing research is always finding time and money for doing both.”

During my PhD, I conducted both large clinical and register-based studies, which made sense to me because I could combine my skills as a clinician and a researcher when engaging with study participants, but also when interpreting register data. Therefore, when I obtained my specialist title as an endocrinologist and were awarded the part-time postdoc from DDA, within the same week last fall, I was excited to carry on this way of working. 

A privileged career path—with its challenges

My path to my current position has been somewhat straight; the challenge for MDs doing research is always finding time and money for doing both.

I am convinced that you become a better clinician if you also do research and vice versa, so my position is really privileged. Most of us clinical-based MDs ‘sold our soul’ to diabetes and diabetes research a long time ago, so it would never strike our minds to switch to another research field. You could call that somewhat predictable.

PhD research stay inspired the postdoc project

During my PhD, the DDA was good at pushing me into situations that I would never have put myself in, especially within the field of public relations, research conveying, and networking. I use these skills every day in my current position. A concrete example is the outline of my postdoc project, where a research stay during my PhD inspired me to draw up my current research proposal and reach out to collaborators.

Advice for clinical PhDs who are interested in a similar position

My best advice is to be very aware of the pitfalls of part-time positions and the fact that you are serving two masters. I am fortunate enough to belong to a group of colleagues employed as part-time clinicians and researchers, which makes it easier. I can only recommend a position similar to mine, I am sure we will become both better clinicians and researchers with merged careers.

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