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Case study: Norfolk doctor achieves career ambition to lead major COVID-19 study at East of England hospital

Norfolk doctor achieves career ambition to lead major COVID-19 study at East of England hospital

Along with caring for patients through the pandemic, Dr Jean Patrick, a renal consultant, took a career-defining opportunity to lead the search for vital COVID-19 treatments as a Principal Investigator for the RECOVERY study at the James Paget University Hospitals (JPUH) NHS Foundation Trust.

Early in the pandemic, as research into COVID-19 grew, Dr Patrick answered a call for clinicians to help lead recruitment for the RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy) trial - the world’s largest urgent public health study - as part of the NIHR’s Associate Principal Investigator Scheme. Under the Scheme, clinicians who have never led research before are given the opportunity to play this key role in helping patients.

The RECOVERY Trial, funded by the NIHR, is investigating treatments for people hospitalised with COVID-19. Since starting, the study has discovered that dexamethasone, a steroid used to treat a wide range of health conditions, can help reduce deaths by one third among the sickest patients and that tocilizumab, an immunosuppressive drug, can further reduce the risk of death from severe COVID-19.

Dr Patrick said: “This was a great opportunity to partake in a landmark study and I had no hesitation in getting involved. I think if something like this comes your way you should seize the moment.”

Prior to the RECOVERY Trial, Dr Patrick was just beginning his career in clinical research. 

In 2019, he was awarded funding through the NIHR Clinical Research Network East of England’s Greenshoots Awards Scheme, which provides funding for health and social care professionals interested in taking on the role of Principal Investigator for the first time. Dr Patrick had hoped to use this opportunity to oversee studies in renal research.  

In early 2020, he was set to be the local Principal Investigator for the Survival Improvement with Cholecalciferol in Patients on Dialysis (SIMPLIFIED) study , investigating the use of Vitamin D to increase survival of dialysis patients in the UK. However, due to the pandemic, many non-urgent public health studies, including SIMPLIFIED, were paused.

Dr Patrick said: “Usually, when you become a Principal Investigator for the first time, you should try to take on a smaller study. So, when I became the Principal Investigator of the RECOVERY Trial I felt like I had dived into the deep end. However, the study was well set up and I had a lot of support from my team and mentor.

“My message to other healthcare professionals interested in taking on research is to not think twice about it as it’s a real opportunity to make a difference, find answers to important questions, and make an impact on your patients.”

In the future, Dr Patrick hopes to continue his clinical work as a Renal physician as well as continue to take on research projects in renal medicine, as he believes ”research is as important as seeing patients”.

The RECOVERY trial has recruited over 30,000 participants nationwide and is now considered the world’s largest clinical trial for COVID-19 treatments. To find out more, visit the RECOVERY trial website.