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Jennifer List writes about her experience of taking the IBMS Higher Specialist Diploma and how it helped to develop her career in biomedical science.
Name: Jennifer List
Job title: Chief Biomedical Scientist
Location: Colchester General Hospital, Essex
"So why are you doing this?"
I was asked this question in October 2006 as I was waiting to start the Higher Specialist Diploma in Immunology.
A very good question. As I am already a Fellow of the IBMS and a chief biomedical scientist it seemed professionally a little superfluous and let's face it - the HSD is not easy! Why should it be? Why should our professional body not set high standards for its Fellows? The exam is demanding and the preparation rigorous. It is not a taught course so self-motivation and study-organisation are essential. So why was I doing this?
In my case my original Fellowship was in Haematology after taking the Two-Part Examination in 1995. So having changed discipline to immunology I felt it appropriate to prove myself in my new area. However, what I gained from the experience of completing the diploma was far more than I had anticipated. I developed new skills, sharpened old ones, made some fantastic contacts and really got to the heart of what I do every day.
I found it important to recognise the limits of my own laboratory and seek to fill the gaps elsewhere. I spoke to so many tremendously knowledgeable and helpful people during the year prior to my exam. I visited several labs to fill in technical gaps and observe how the service is provided in other hospitals. I was also lucky enough to sit in on clinic and seeing the service from the patient perspective is very educational.
There is an overwhelming amount of information out there. I learnt to scan current literature effectively for useful key points (hint: use the internet - many journals email current contents free of charge and it is a great time saver). For the generic paper I had to understand the changes and influences affecting the profession, especially in immunology. Additionally, in this computer-age, I even had to practice hand-writing!
So the HSD is tough. Anyone who commits to taking the exam is to be admired. However, whatever happens on the day it is important that one makes the experience leading up to the exam itself worthwhile. I found it so and I'm glad that I did it.”