Fellows: Career Profile
Dr. Joachim H. Ix - Junior Faculty Nephrologist
In my current position, I am Assistant Professor at UC San Diego. I devote approximately 80% of my time to research, and 20% to clinical care. My clinical activities include caring for a cadre of hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis patients, in-patient renal consult attending, and in-patient medicine ward attending. In both my research and clinical activities, I have ample opportunities to mentor/teach medical students, residents, and fellows. The three features I enjoy most about my job are (i) the creativity provided by my research activities, (ii) the diversity in activities I am involved with, and (iii) the time freedom to attend to things outside of work.
Beyond the excitement of scientific discovery, research provides many unique advantages that I did not fully appreciate as a trainee. Grant support is relatively flexible and provides protected time to be creative and to attack clinically relevant problems from new angles. I find decisions such as what to study, how to study it, what to include or exclude from the experiment and subsequent papers, and the actual writing of manuscripts all to be incredibly creative pursuits. Moreover, while it is critically important to be productive as a researcher, there is considerable hour-by-hour time flexibility, unlike clinical care where a sick patient often requires attention immediately. At times when I am not on clinical service, this flexibility allows me to be home in the evenings when my young children are still awake and active, to attend a school activity or performance, etc., and to get back to work at other times when it has less impact on my family life.
The diversity of activities I am involved in is a major factor in my job satisfaction. On any given day, I might see patients, interview a medical school or fellowship candidate, attend a conference, meet with a research trainee to review data or design a new experiment, and work on writing a manuscript. On other days, I might pursue only one or two of these activities. This variety keeps me focused and interested, and avoids monotony. I also feel extremely fortunate to be able to be both a clinician and a researcher. It is quite frequent that a clinical experience brings forward a new research idea, and vice versa that a research discovery helps me consider how it might best improve patient care.
In retrospect, factors that were most important to my early success were outstanding mentorship , dedicated research training, and provision of time that was protected from patient care . My mentors shared openly with me the parts of their jobs that they most enjoyed and disliked. Their impressions were certainly important in shaping my own decisions. As a fellow, I often had ideas that I thought were terrific, where my mentors could see plainly that the projects would either not be feasible or would be unlikely to lead to productive findings. Such advice early in my fellowship helped me increase my productivity and success. I also had outstanding teaching in the methods I was using for my research, and I dedicated myself to learn as much as I could about them. This training has been invaluable later as I have become more independent and more self-reliant on these skills. While rewarding, my clinical training was also extremely busy and demanding. In the later years of fellowship, I had time that was dedicated exclusively for research. This protected time helped me be more productive than I would have been if I were caring for patients concurrently, which was critical to allow me to get to my current position.