Should you join a professional society?

Throughout your 3 years on the STP you will undoubtedly see and hear about many professional bodies or societies related to your specialism who are eager for you to sign up and can seemingly do little more than take hard-earned money out of your wallet. 

Well, I’ve had a chat with Simon Ramsden, the current chair of the Association for Clinical Genomic Science, to try and clarify why signing up to professional societies can do more for you and your training experience than be just another expense. As usual, this post will have a genomics/bioinformatics heavy spin on it, purely due to my personal experience- but I know that there are societies for all the specialisms out there offering very similar benefits- and if anyone from those societies would like to get in touch we’d be more than happy to hear from you.

But, before I share what Simon had to say about why you should join the ACGS, I wanted to give my own perspective on why I’ve been a member for the past 2 years. I made the decision to sign up about half way through my first year- this was because there were a couple of conferences being run by the society coming up that I wanted to attend and members get a pretty hefty discount. Getting this discount meant that I was able to stretch my training budget over the year to cover several other conferences and events (as well as University travel and accommodation) which was well worth the membership fee in my eyes. I am hoping to attend the ACGS conference this year too and hopefully even submit an abstract to present or have a poster- and from attending in previous years, societies tend to be very supportive and encouraging of trainees who wish to do this. 

One of the biggest benefits I’ve received from being a member- and I actually didn’t know they offered this when I joined- is being awarded a travel grant to put towards my elective. Don’t get me wrong- competition for things like travel grants is often very competitive (in the ACGS and other societies), and generally priority will be given to young investigators presenting results at conferences (which is also applicable to trainees!), but as in my case, they may consider supporting a training elective if a compelling case is put forward and they have available funds. There is often some other criteria to getting awarded a travel grant such as having to have been a member for at least a year and writing a report afterwards, but that’s not a lot to ask for in exchange for some funding, in my opinion.

As much as I would champion joining a professional society, I am what I would consider an “extra-curricula person”- I don’t tend to do the bare minimum to get by (which is both a good and bad thing!). The benefits of joining generally go above and beyond what you need for your training. So, if you’re not interested in going to any conferences, applying for a travel award to do an exotic elective or attending additional training sessions then perhaps joining a society isn’t for you. But if those are things you’re interested in then from my perspective it’s definitely a good thing to do.

But, that’s enough from me, so here’s a message from Simon Ramsden, Chair of the Association for Clinical Genomic Science to all technologists, scientists, and bioinformaticians training in Genomic Science:

This is an amazing time to work in Genomics. It will offer you a rewarding career transforming people’s lives through innovative new models of healthcare. In your careers you will experience many challenges along the way, some predictable (eg exams), others less so (eg novel scientific findings). You will draw from the knowledge and experience of your local colleagues, however there will be times when you will want to benefit from a wider perspective to ensure you are both developing your own career as well as delivering the best possible patient care. 

You may already be aware of the work of the Association of Clinical Genomic Science (ACGS). We represent a body of people working in genomic science and our overriding goal is to offer the best care possible to our patients. We are a registered charity and a constituent member of the British Society of Genetic Medicine (BSGM). The ACGS currently has 780 members who practice largely in the UK and Ireland and represent people at all stages of their careers. We deliver training, scientific workshops and best practice to ensure our services are always up to date. We also support your personal career development by offering travel awards and directed training to help with your exam preparations. Our “jewel in the crown” is our two day Annual Conference where we bring together National and International experts from both within our ranks as well as elsewhere to discuss topical subjects in a friendly and inclusive environment. Last, but not least, we provide you with a collective National voice to make sure that your concerns are being listened to at the highest level. 

Take a look at our website (https://www.acgs.uk.com/) and come along to our conference to learn about our activities. Please join our ranks (£60pa for joint ACGS and BSGM membership, discounted rate of £20pa for ACGS membership for Band 5 and below) …and please do get involved – it is your society.

As usual, thanks for reading! Until next time.

Author: Jes

I am a trainee clinical bioinformatician working at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust. I am passionate about increasing awareness and discussion about healthcare science and particularly the routes into the field.

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