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Case study: AHP campaign: "I believe a career in research requires an open mind, curiosity and resilience"

Cécile Taylor

In the latest of our pan-London and south-east series on Allied Health Professionals in research, Cécile Taylor, a specialist surgical dietitian at Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, discusses her career and the qualities needed to be a researcher.

How did you first get involved in research?

I became involved in research when the opportunity to act as a Principal Investigator on a clinical trial investigating the tolerance to, and palatability of a high protein nutritional supplement was advertised by our dietetic team lead. I helped run the trial, recruiting participants, completing case report forms, and reporting adverse events.

What has been the highlight of your research career so far?

I recently completed the NIHR Research Internship alongside my clinical work. This was an amazing opportunity to begin immersing myself into the clinical research environment. I met many people involved throughout the research process and developed my own research idea which I am hoping to build into a proposal for submission at my trust.

What skills do you think are needed for a career in research?

From my experience so far, I believe a career in research requires an open-mind, curiosity, and resilience. An open mind as you should be ready to learn from a variety of people and their perspective, especially the patients involved in your trial. Curiosity, to creatively consider alternative ways of providing care and running your service. Finally, resilience; the rigour needed for good quality research requires lots of determination!

Why do you believe research is important?

The work I’ve conducted in research so far has allowed me to connect with my patients in a completely new way, working with them to identify and explore solutions to problems together. Notably, joint patient and staff research champion meetings are being set up at the trust to improve the communication and transparency of the research work being carried out by patient groups and clinical teams. I believe research is an invaluable way of making a tangible difference to the care and services we provide.

What are your plans and ambitions for the future?

Thanks to the internship, I developed a greater appreciation for qualitative research. I hope to apply for the NIHR Pre-Doctoral Academic Fellowship scheme to develop a research proposal exploring the experiences of patients with colorectal cancer taking part in prehabilitation, a multimodal pre-operative framework consisting of physical activity, nutrition and psychological support, at my trust. In future, I would like to advise policy makers using my research findings.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I’ve found the willingness to help each other within the research community very empowering and encouraging. It has certainly helped me to overcome the daunting feelings I had about the complexity of research processes prior to starting on my research journey.