Associate Professor Deidre De Silva, Academic Vice Chair, Clinical Services, Neuroscience Academic Clinical Programme, Head and Senior Consultant at the Department of Neurology, NNI (SGH Campus) and Programme Director of the Clinician-Investigator Development Programme (CIVDP), Duke-NUS, has been a clinician-researcher for the better part of her professional career.
Through this time, she has seen encouraging growth in support for clinician researchers in the form of programmes ranging from awareness seminars to funding programmes. As someone who had personally benefitted from initiatives supporting researchers, she was pleased to be able to play a key role in the development of SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre’s latest Clinician Investigator Advancement Programme (CIVA).
For those who may not be familiar with Clinician Investigators or CIVs, they refer to clinicians with an active interest in research work. Assoc Prof De Silva shares that unlike Clinician Scientists (CS), who typically spend 50% or more of their time on research, the research component of a CIV’s job does not exceed 50%.
Addressing the misconception that for doctors to be involved with research, they have to become a CS, Assoc Prof De Silva clarifies that clinician researchers do have the option of taking on the path of a CIV. In fact, with their clinical expertise, CIVs play a vital role in research programmes.
“CIVs can see specific gaps based on their clinical experience, and are also in a unique position to be able to put into practice and implement research findings. They are also important collaborators for our clinician scientists and basic scientists,” says Assoc Prof De Silva.
Over recent years, the career paths of CSs and CIVs have certainly become clearer, and there is a lot more support for CIVs, such as through the prestigious CIVA ¬– a programme that offers protected time to CIVs.
Assoc Prof De Silva explains that this protected time is particularly valuable because CIVs have given feedback that one of the big challenges they face is a lack of time to focus on their research goals. “They are active clinicians, many of whom also juggle leadership and teaching roles. It is difficult to manage all of that and at the same time be competitive in building up their research programme and gathering enough pilot data to secure independent funding. The CIVA is designed to give them the push to get to this stage.”
For eligible CIVs, CIVA provides protected time of 0.2 FTE (or 20% of their work time) to optimise their research platforms. This time allows them to apply for grants, work on their research outcomes, including publications and presentations, and also build collaborations within the AMC as well as at a national and international level.
Indeed, while the programme targets CIVs at a particular stage in their research journey, it is one that is expected to benefit researchers representing a wide range of interests. “These include CS collaborators, Principal Investigators in multinational clinical trials, and individuals involved in the development and innovation of novel devices or processes,” says Assoc Prof De Silva. In addition to providing much-needed protected time, CIVA’s positioning as a prestigious award also helps to raise the profile and reputation of CIVs, which is an invaluable aid when seeking funding for their programmes.
But it’s also much more than just research output, Assoc Prof De Silva says. “While the tenure of the programme is for just two years, we envision the programme’s impact to last much further down the line. CIVs can use this time to recruit new researchers into their group, and become a mentor for emerging academic clinicians… Through this programme, younger doctors can see that the path of a CIV is a viable one.”
Assoc Prof De Silva considers her research journey a fortunate one, having mentors who were willing to train and guide her when she was still a registrar. Having experienced all the different ways that she received help through her journey has pushed her to want to support others.
At the same time, Assoc Prof De Silva also recognises that having protected time was something that she could have benefitted from earlier in her research journey. “Many times, I felt that I was the rate-limiting factor in research projects. Having to balance clinical work with teaching and admin, I realise now how much more efficient it may have been if I had some protected time to focus on research.”
This is why she sees CIVA as such a meaningful programme that allows SingHealth Duke-NUS AMC to practically support its CIVs.
“Many of our CIVs have matured through their own means, and have gone on to contribute so much to our academic and research environment. Now, we need to take their inspiring examples to spur us on. We need to support up and coming CIVs to make sure that no one falls through the cracks.”
Find out more about the details of the Clinician Investigator Advancement Programme (CIVA), and learn how you can be a part of it by visiting
This article originally appeared on
SingHealth Duke-NUS Joint Office of Academic Medicine's website.