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Spotlight: Research Champion Clara MdB

National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) CRN South London Research Champion Clara MdB talks about her drive to break down barriers through her work in advising researchers.

The aim of this monthly spotlight blog series is to celebrate, highlight, educate and inform the public about the diverse range of people who support vital research studies from within our region. We are proud of everyone who plays their part in contributing to improving the health of our population.

What do you do?

I’m a Research Champion (RC) for CRN South London. My work can involve: reviewing clinical trial applications; co-designing research studies; steering advisory groups; and even mentoring PhD students. I love the work and have always had a passion for science since a young age. I’ve been a RC for the Network since 2016.

How would you describe yourself?

I’m honest, loyal and I’ve got a good sense of humour. I love to help people and previously I was a governor at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, which enabled me to have a say in the decision making in mental health care; this is also a very important area of interest for me. My involvement in the NIHR is not therapy but it is therapeutic.

When did you become a Research Champion for CRN South London?

I became a RC for the Network by chance. I met a researcher at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and he recommended I contact CRN South London’s then Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement Lead (PPIE) Robert Pleass. The person in question told me I’d love the work, and my only regret is that I didn’t contact the CRN sooner. I’ve had brilliant support and training, and I would tell anyone looking to work with the Network as a RC to just do it, you won’t regret it!

What are you interested in?

My biggest passion and interest is in animals. I love nothing more than being able to go outside and to interact with nature. I also care very much about children. I’m a former actress, so my interests extend to a good film, TV series or theatre show. In my opinion, the British sense of humour is second to none.

Why are you involved in research?

I’m involved in research to break down barriers and to educate people about conditions. I am autistic, and my involvement in research is about finding the answers to some of the big questions. My work with the NIHR has been life changing and my involvement is centred around what I can do for others.

Why is research important?

We need to have as many people as possible involved in research from a diverse range of backgrounds to ensure study findings truly help everyone. When you love something, it is a pleasure and not a chore. There are so many different ways to get involved in research, you don’t just have to be a participant. I’d advise anyone to: do your research, speak to the NIHR CRN PPIE leads and look at the training opportunities that are available. I’ve had a truly amazing journey and I look forward to many more years of working to help people through clinical research. You can find out more about the role of a RC on the NIHR’s website, or email us directly at

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.