COVID-19 Disrupts Critical Career Phase for Early-Career Oncologists

COVID-19 Disrupts Critical Career Phase for Early-Career Oncologists

International Perspectives

May 20, 2020

Dr. Khalid El BairiBy Khalid El Bairi, MD

The Lindau-Nobel Laureate Meeting, which began in 1951, has a highly selective multistep application for young scientists to meet Nobel Laureates.1 Outstanding young scientists across the globe have a unique opportunity to foster an exchange with Nobel laureates and advance their own careers in research.

When I received the acceptance letter to participate in the 7th Lindau-Nobel Laureate Meeting for this year, it was a milestone in my life as a young cancer scientist from a low-income country. Cancer science is my passion as well as my profession. The challenges of working in a low-income, limited-resource setting like Morocco have never driven me to renounce my ambition to develop oncology research on aggressive cancers in my country. This distinctive occasion to share my ideas with Nobel laureates in physiology and medicine, and benefit from their exceptional experience, has been unfortunately cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has left me with the bitter feeling of disappointment.

Of course, I am not the only frustrated scientist. The postponement and cancellation of scientific events, jobs, scholarships, postdoc positions, and other professional opportunities because of COVID-19 is widespread (one could almost say they’ve “gone viral”). I try to keep in mind the words of Sir Richard J. Roberts, who won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1993: “Good scientists are always open to new hypotheses and experimental opportunities. Often, a new technique applied to an old problem will reveal new features that were not predicted—again an opportunity to make a discovery.”2

I am fully aware that this pandemic is the greatest occasion to make new discoveries to secure the survival of humanity. In this critical time, young researchers worldwide are urged to come up with ideas to beat this life-threatening pandemic. Please, as Richard Roberts said, “do it for love”!

Dr. El Bairi is a member of the Cancer Biomarkers Working Group and serves on the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy at Université Mohamed Premier in Oujda, Morocco. He is a member of ASCO’s Treatment of Patients with Ovarian Cancer Consensus (Resource Stratified) Expert Panel.


  1. Lewis P, Erren TC. The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting 2018: Added value - and reflection - for participants, institutes and disciplines. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2019;40:1-4.
  2. Roberts RJ, Wagner M. Do it for love. Science. 2015;348:1394.


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