Hey, our names are Omar and Sanchita, some of the new STARSurg steering committee this year. We both joined after being RECON regional leads, and so are well placed to give some insight into the role!
Omar (Final Year at University of Dundee): I first joined STARSurg as a collaborator for the OAKS-2 project three (long) years ago. I gained an invaluable insight into surgical academia and assimilated the ethos of collaborative research into my practice as a medical student. I went on to become a regional lead for RECON, contributing to one of the most significant collaborative studies ever conducted by a student-led research collaboration, with a whopping 12,000 enlisted patients!
Sanchita (4th Year at University of Cardiff): I got involved with STARSurg as a data collector in IMAGINE, and became a regional lead last year for RECON. I have always been interested in research and have been involved with a myriad of research projects, from lab-based to larger data-based clinical studies. However, the collaborative model of STARSurg is very unique as it is very student-led and has supported me to push my own boundaries, develop more skills – not only skills in research methodology but also develop organisational and team-building skills.
How do you feel being part of STARSurg?
The opportunity to be a part of this wonderful collaborative family – run by students for students – has been energising (to say the least). Every single role within the STARSurg community, collaborator to committee member, is an integral part of the success of STARSurg and the delivery of high-quality research projects with the aim of improving patient lives.
What was gained from being a regional lead?
Regional leads are crucial for delivering STARSurg studies locally and ensuring the smooth operating of the collaborative throughout the country. Securing this role opens up a myriad of opportunities and develops the fundamental set of skills necessary for a future career in surgery and academia. During our time as regional leads, we were involved in recruiting collaborators, supporting audit registration, and handling the day-to-day running of STARSurg.
We significantly enhanced our confidence and leadership skills through coordinating a national study at our own individual trusts, built upon our research skills and networked with enthusiastic students and surgeons both locally and nationally. We’ve also found out this now counts for Core Surgery Training (CST) applications as it’s a regional leadership position for a year!
What was the most rewarding aspect of this role?
We both agree that we found this role very rewarding as we were able to meet like-minded students; revelling in the opportunity to guide them through their own academia pathways. This role acts as an avenue to get involved with STARSurg at a national level, as well as opening doors to greater national opportunity through the extended collaborative network. It is an amazing feeling when each of us as medical students can successfully take ownership to deliver and implement research projects of this scale!
What are the extra benefits of being regional lead?
As a regional lead, you would also be in first priority to reap the benefits of several opportunities such as the annual STARSurg project launch, GRANULE courses, and Hack days. This would further improve your academic research skills, including writing papers and even your communication skills in recruiting patients into randomized trials. On top of all that, you have the chance to meet keen and supportive academics and STARSurg committee members that have your best interest at heart.
What was the most challenging aspect of this role?
The time commitment to the role differed from day to day; however, an average of 1-2 hours of dedication a day would be required once the project was running. As the regional lead, we had to troubleshoot any problems that arose on the ground in the different centres – whether it may be issues with the audit registration, problems with data collection or mitigating mini-team conflicts. However, the steering committee was incredibly supportive of all regional leads to address these challenges, and we even supported each other if we had faced similar issues!
What advice would you give to incoming regional leads?
From our experience, we recommend getting audit registration process started much in advance of the project start date, as there can be many challenges in getting that off the ground initially. Audit departments each have their local requirements and need to be addressed specifically. Furthermore, we recommend having a meeting (albeit fairly informal) to go over the data collection process with all the data collectors prior to start date, in order to discuss any issues anyone may have about the study design, data collection process, getting access to the data, etc.
Would you recommend applying for regional lead?
STARSurg is a collaborative network that nurtures excellence in surgical research through support, mentorship, and guidance. We would strongly recommend all keen medical students, no matter what stage you are in, to apply for a regional lead position and join the STARSurg family. We’re looking forward to working with you all over the next year!