Summary and reflection of year 2018

As a ritual, I am writing this blog to summarize my year 2018 and reflect on it. As the second year of my PhD, I had aimed to: (1) complete data collection for my PhD research, (2) write manuscripts for publications as much as I could, and (3) and spent some time traveling to visit research labs, attend courses, and present at conferences.

As a result, I spent three months in Kathmandu to collect data for the feasibility study of a clinical trial to evaluate effectiveness of pain education in Nepalese with low back pain. I called it the PEN Trial, because a “pen” is a powerful tool to disseminate knowledge, and stands for Pain Education in Nepal. We added the suffix “-LBP” because I plan to conduct similar trials on pain conditions other than low back pain. Although the recruitment was ‘worryingingly’ very slow during the start, later, with advertisement, and generosity of other colleague’s referral, I could complete the recruitment in anticipated time.

During the recruitment time in Kathmandu, I not only tried to meet my social expectations/obligations (which is hard at times) as much as I could, but also tried to contribute back to physio community and general public by delivering lectures/workshops. Public lecture on low back pain organized by ACT Nepal was especially engaging. It provided me with different perspectives from patients with back pain, or other chronic pain conditions, which was stimulating. It provided me more sense of how overtreatment and wrong care for back pain (or other musculoskeletal pain) has adversely affected the cognition of patients with pain conditions about its diagnosis and treatment, and how I may adapt to these iatrogenic maladaptive cognitions about pain during my education sessions. Plus, it was motivating to learn that group education sessions for pain conditions could work in Nepal, and its effectiveness could be tested in future.

Other activities in the year 2018 involved visits, conferences, and courses. The clinimetrics course in the Netherlands in the beginning of the year was really useful course, which was delivered by the leaders in the field. It helped me to reinforce my understanding measurement properties after reading books/papers, and also provided opportunities to interact with the experts directly. Therefore, ultimately, helping me to write/complete clinimetrics papers. I also made two visits to Seattle in January and September, which I used to attend courses on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and Hypnosis for chronic pain, providing me with more opportunities to understand psychological therapies for chronic pain, and writing paper(s). Similarly, I visited to Marquette University to observe lectures and practical teaching sessions of Prof. Guy Simoneau, Prof. Donald Newman, and Dr. Marie Hoeger Bement, and to observe pain research being conducted at Dr. Bement’s research lab. As I tried to fit in too many activities in one week, in retrospect I wish I had spent longer time to make most out of the visit. In future, I will plan either longer time for visits in future, or focus on lesser number of activities.

I also committed myself in disseminating my research findings in 2018, therefore, presented at three different events within University of Otago, at World Pain Congress in Boston, and Nepal Physiotherapy Association Conference in Nepal. I also had the most productive year of my young research career, with 8 papers published, and additional 4 under review. As it is obvious that traveling compromises writing, but for me, it turns out that traveling helps me write more efficiently when I am back to office. It is like taking off during the weekends to have productive weekdays.

Although the year had several achievements, I had many disappointments too, which I cannot recall now. Although times of rejections and disappointments are frustrating, I tend to cope with them relatively well. I give myself some time, analyze what went wrong, and learn for the next time, and move on. I ‘generally’ focus on positive aspects, plan strategies for future, and see me all excited for the year 2019. As the final year of my PhD, I should focus on completing thesis writing of course, but I do have plans to continue completing more manuscripts, travel and present at more conferences, visit research labs for longer durations. 2019, bring it on!!!