Dr. Valentín Fuster, Director General del Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III (CNIC)

After getting my degree at the University of Barcelona and following the advice of my first mentor, Dr. Pedro Farreras Valentí, author of the classic Spanish Internal Medicine textbook, I decided to spend every summer outside of Spain to learn basic science.

It was in Liverpool, where I went to study with a well-known pathologist, Professor Harold Sheehan, that I decided what I was going to do my thesis on. All because of a slide of a blood clot filled with platelets taken from the coronary artery of a patient who had died of a heart attack. When I asked why he had died Sheehan told me that no one knew, and at the same time, he suggested that I do my thesis on this topic. He wanted to know what a blood clot and platelets had to do with a heart attack. And that’s exactly what I did; I went to the University of Edinburgh to do my PhD, which I later presented in Spain.

I know very well that to be a good student, as Dr. Guillermo Oliver rightly says in this issue of CNIC Pulse, one must be curious and passionate. And this is something you are born with; you either have it or you don’t.

Not everyone can be a researcher. Then, you need the environment and the tutoring, two aspects that are closely interconnected. The next step is very stressful: it’s called a research career, and it comes with a lot of frustrations: experiments that don’t work, projects that don’t get accepted, grants that aren’t obtained, etc. All this is a crucial test that helps define who will be a researcher and who will not. If this stress test is overcome, and one continues with resilience, it can probably be achieved.


But to be a researcher you have to have something more intuitive. When I gave up tennis, I had the intuition that I was not born to do that, I was not going to be the next Rafael Nadal. But if you really are born curious about research and have the right orientation, I think you can overcome these stress tests, frustrations and setbacks. And that means you were born to do it. These setbacks help to mature, and this is very positive because it indicates that you are on the right track.