All clinical specialties need to grow and develop. I suggest a paradigm to help focus on important ways of doing this. It is the VOICE paradigm, which was developed for clinical pharmacology, and is one that other specialties could tailor to their own needs.
In the early 1990s, the number of core clinical pharmacologists in the UK started to fall, mainly owing to reduced support from universities. The decline continued until 2006, but since then, mainly through the efforts of the members of the British Pharmacological Society (BPS), there has been a turnaround. The latest data show a marked increase in the number of posts in the discipline. And clinical pharmacology has been shown to offer the NHS good value for money .
As part of these instaurational efforts, 50 senior clinical pharmacologists, their junior colleagues, other medical specialists, and pharmacists gathered in Oxford in June 2011 to discuss an agenda for the future development of clinical pharmacology in the UK. In June 2012, at a similar meeting in Erice, Sicily, 30 clinical pharmacologists from 19 different EC member states discussed the future of the subject in Europe as a whole.
The outcomes on the two occasions were strikingly similar and were summarized using the acronym VOICE:
- Visibility Improving and maintaining the visibility of the specialty among clinical colleagues.
- Outreach Advertising the attractiveness of the discipline to potential trainees and creating a public image for the specialty.
- Integration with other disciplines, where relevant.
- Coverage of neglected areas.
- Emissaries Encouraging all members of the discipline, but particularly younger ones, to promote it, both within medicine and in the wider world.
Many of the efforts that the BPS has been making have been related to the VOICE paradigm, and currently the following activities are being undertaken, illustrating how the paradigm can be used:
- Leading the annual Prescribing Safety Assessment in UK medical schools; the assessment was taken by over 7000 final year medical students in 2014.
- Raising awareness of the discipline among politicians and NHS decision makers via the report “A prescription for the NHS”, which was launched in the House of Lords in 2014.
- Meetings with Health Education England and individual Trusts.
- Responding to consultation documents.
- Supporting junior doctors training in clinical pharmacology.
- Presence at RCP Medical Careers Days.
- Producing careers leaflets and other materials.
- Funding for regional postgraduate meetings and undergraduate societies.
- Using social media to highlight activities and key research.
- Providing media training.
- Liaising with the Science Media Centre.
- Supporting and organizing outreach events, communicating to the public, including schoolchildren.
- Strengthening links with learned societies and bodies with related medical and scientific interests.
- Encouraging work in experimental and translational medicine and disseminating information in the Society’s journals.
- Launching a funded Pharmacology Ambassadors scheme in 2015, including a proposed annual Pharmacology Ambassadors meeting.
- Promoting pharmacology via outreach events (talks, school visits), including outreach grants.
- Supporting undergraduate and postgraduate students.
So, use your VOICE. Shout about your specialty.