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Case study: Getting Involved in Research: Jake's Journey

Junior doctor Jake McCormick tells us his journey into research and how the Associate PI Scheme gave him the tools and experience to make a career in research a reality

Over the last few months Dr Jake McCormick has been working within the Research Department at The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust doing a Research Fellow post. He has contributed an immense amount into recruiting patients into many clinical trials.

Alongside doing a great job of enrolling plenty of patients into studies, Jake has also completed the NIHR Associate Principal Investigator (PI) scheme for the UK-ROX study, and spoke with us about how the scheme went, the learnings he gathered from it, and why a opportunity to work in research is something that should not be missed.

Why get involved in research?

“Clinical Research provides answers to clinical questions: which is the best drug? What is the best dose? Can we identify a target gene? High-quality Clinical Research is what Best Practice is based upon. So why shouldn’t we get involved and help find the answers?”

Jake’s experience in Clinical research wasn’t in abundance before starting the scheme, however this was no issue. To enrol in the scheme, the only requirements are that you are a healthcare professional based in the UK that has 6 months to commit at your local site. After hearing about the scheme from a friend who had previously participated and completed it, Jake then liaised with Professor Anil Hormis, Research Director at Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, as well as the Principal Investigator for a Randomised Controlled Trial being ran in Critical Care called UK-ROX.

Jake started the Associate PI scheme in April 2022: “I was looking forward to joining the Research Team and working closely with  colleagues who have years of research experience. I knew I had much to learn about the role of an API/PI, and working within Research overall, but I was motivated to give it my all and contribute to delivering the study and ultimately  the results that make a difference for patients.”

How did the scheme go?

The scheme started with Good Clinical Practice training which demonstrated how high quality ethical research is delivered. After that, Jake learnt about the UK-ROX study itself; how the trial was being run, and how the outcomes were to be measured.

For the next 6 months, Jake worked alongside the Research team to identify, recruit, randomise and follow-up patients.Jake was also taught how to keep a site file, and discussed the trial with other investigators at various sites. A monthly checklist also guided Jake through the scheme, ensuring he met all his targets required to complete the scheme.

Jake also gave an introductory talk about the UK-ROX study to the Critical care staff, and led a training session to junior doctors so that they could identify and randomise patients themselves.

“By the end of the scheme, I felt a real sense of being part of something, a collaborator with many other key stakeholders. Over the 6 months, recruitment at the site increased and, to me, there appeared to be more interest in the  study. Rotherham is one of many sites across the country taking part in the UK-ROX study, but when the results are published, I will know I did my bit, and made a difference.”

The scheme was a huge success in the eyes of Jake, who gained a plethora of new skills and qualities that he will keep for life, and that he will aim to use in the future as he develops his career in research. Jake also recommends the scheme to anyone who has an interest in pursuing a career within research.

“Research will not appeal to everyone but I urge all to consider getting involved. For those with an interest, the Associate PI Scheme is a great way of beginning your Research Career – a foot in the door if you will. It will provide you with an understanding of how research is conducted and develop you as a professional along the way. Moreover, I could not have enjoyed my time working in the Research Team in Rotherham more and I can’t thank them enough for  the support and guidance they provided me. What’s my next step? Become a Principal Investigator…”