One friend once argued “Why spend years and millions on basic science research while clinical research can be cheaper, more helpful, and pays off in a shorter period of time. And why would you be interested in such thing while we have no highly-equipped labs, no fund, no mentors and no opportunities to get involved.” Unfortunately, in Syria, we get similar comments every time we declare our interest in basic science research. Frankly, we don’t have much to argue here but to explain that clinical and basic science researches are apples and oranges, and when you have a passion for something and you work hard for it wholeheartedly, an opportunity shall come eventually, and you’ll definitely reach your goal one day.
It has always amazed us the brilliance of human body creation. These precise mechanisms that tightly rule every orbiting atom in our cells, it is marvelous. The more you drink the more you get thirsty, the more you know the greater your curiosity gets. It is just that we still know nothing, and that there are too many mysteries around and very few minds to solve them. When you dive into molecular biology and try to understand the complication behind organs and organ-systems’ function, you only get motivated to swim deeper and to go a bit further. The same exact thing happens when you tell a mom that her child will live with a genetic disease that has no cure yet and might not reach his twenties, or when you break it to a non-smoker, otherwise healthy man, that he has lung cancer with no apparent explanation, or even when you stand helpless before an old lady with Alzheimer’s disease watching her memories fade away on a daily basis, in such situations you only wish you know more, you only wish to do more research and find a cure, you only wish you have the chance to do research to help these patients out.
Unfortunately, in Syria, we don’t have such a chance. We only have our one and only escape to wider knowledge and learning opportunities – Internet. One of the great contributions that caught our eyes while surfing the net digging in the field of basic science research is the work of Dr. Mina J. Bissell and her colleagues on the role of Extra Cellular Matrix (ECM) in cancer reversion. We couldn’t help it but to further study the subject in an attempt to expand our knowledge and to get able to comprehend the idea of such endeavors. We read dozens of original articles and reviews that are relevant to the topic, and we wanted to provide a shy tiny participation that we hope will help other students and scientists with their work. For the time being, we are writing a review article on the relation between “morophogenesis and embyreogenesis of system organs” and “ECM role and signals” and it’s in publication process. We’re also willing to write another review article on ECM’s role in cancer reversion of a variety of organs, and we deeply hope to transfer these ideas into real work in near future.
As medical students, we cannot dismiss the commitment we feel towards patients with illnesses that has no cure yet. It saddens us that we are way behind in the process of knowledge synthesis. Although we have no opportunities to fulfill our curiosity, or to start a research that will cure such hopeless patients in the future, although it seems like looking for a rose in a wide desert we won’t stop. We’ll keep working hard on our abilities until the right time comes and we get the chance to give a hand in a promising research.
About the Authors:
Mouhammad Al-Awad, 5th year medical student in a six-year program at Damascus university, I wanted since I’ve started studying medicine to change the way we practice medicine and to personalize it to fit every patient, and I want to work more as researches are the only way to develop and shape the medicine of tomorrow, Mouhammad can be reached at: email@example.com
Tarek Turk, fifth-year medical student in a six-year program at Damascus University, Syria. I have always seen myself as a clinician and a researcher, and have worked hard my entire life to achieve this goal. I believe that we were not meant to pass from this life without leaving a trace, and I decided to leave a trace in science. I have major interests in knowledge synthesis, Evidence-based healthcare, and linking medicine to artificial intelligence. Tarek may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mahmoud Alkhatib, 5th year medical student in a 6-year program at Damascus University. I have been graded in the top ten students in the last four years, and have been awarded from the faculty. My interest in research has emerged in the third year, and since then I have started working with my colleagues on some projects to help make the future of our faculty. I will continue on this road since my goal is to be a good researcher who will make a change and leave his imprint. Mahmoud may be reached at email@example.com
Suhaib was born in Kamishli, Syria, and earned his bachelor’s degree in May 2015 from Illinois Institute of Technology’s Armour College of Engineering, with earlier studies at Aleppo University and Damascus University. Suhaib majored in Civil Engineering with a concentration in structural engineering. Upon graduation, he accepted a position as a project engineer working on projects throughout the state of Illinois; he lives in Springfield, Illinois. Suhaib previously worked with Jasmine Baladi Studio, an NGO that works to support Syrian children in refugee camps in Turkey. Suhaib regularly writes for the Syrian Students for a Better Future Blog.
To learn more about the Syrian Student Initiative for the Advancement of Undergraduate Research Without Borders, please contact Suhaib at firstname.lastname@example.org.