What does a medical researcher do?

Kyara Bergstrom gives us a glimpse into a day in the life of a medical researcher.


Quite often I get asked what my job entails. I joke and say lots of reading and staring at my computer. It’s not entirely wrong. I spend most of my time searching for articles and abstracts that have been published. I use numerous academic sites, e.g. PubMed. 

I educate myself by reading up on complementary health studies. It’s important to look for the most recent studies and not ones published from 40 years ago. There are always new developments in science and medicine. 

Trending topics

Part of my job entails staying on top of the most current talking points. Both in an academic and social setting. I’m often asked to comment on subjects trending on social media and the academic link of such subjects. Currently, there are quite a few trials and studies on cannabis and its use in medicine. 

I also spend hours looking into different supplements (alternative and complementary), their ingredients, and any potential harm to a breast cancer patient, and any interference in parts of their treatment (chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, hormone blockades). Here, 

I make use of various websites and textbooks. Supplements generally have a long list of ingredients and most of my time is spent understanding the individual ingredients’ pros and cons. 

Data collection for abstracts

Depending on the type of research being done, there are roles that are filled. There will be a principal investigator, additional investigator, a study co-ordinator and other medical staff if necessary e.g. a nurse and then administration staff. 

A database is developed to put in the necessary collected data so that statistics can be used for the study and its outcomes. From this an abstract and/or article is written. 

I assist many members of my team with their academic publications (you would be surprised at the number of people included in a single abstract) as well as write my own. 

The patient must give consent to be part of the study, or to have their clinical data used in the study. Studies are anonymised to protect the patient and their privacy. Often the study identifiers (e.g. name, surname, file number) are available only to the person collecting the data and the investigators of the study. Before any work is released or published, all study identifiers are removed. 

Best part of the job

I love what I do because I never stop learning. Plus, helping patients with the knowledge I gain is extremely rewarding. Like my boss once said to me, “When you stop learning, is when you stop practicing.” She is spot on, one can never know everything.

Kyara Bergstrom is the head of research at Netcare Breast Care Centre. She is also the COO of the Pink Parasol Project (www.pinkparasol.co.za), a website-based directory listing conventional and complementary therapists and practitioners.

MEET OUR EXPERT – Kyara Bergstrom

Kyara Bergstrom is the head of research at Netcare Breast Care Centre. She is also the COO of the Pink Parasol Project (www.pinkparasol.co.za), a website-based directory listing conventional and complementary therapists and practitioners.


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