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Case study: Your Path In Research - Dr Samantha Forner

As part of our series for Your Path in Research, we spoke with Samantha Forner about why it is important for clinicians to be research-active from the very beginning of their careers.

When did you first get involved in research, and why?

As a Specialist Registrar in Clinical Oncology, being involved in research in many forms is an extremely important part of my role. My journey in research began at medical school. I went to St George's, University of London, where I received wonderful training from the clinicians I was shadowing and working with.

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

I'm still very much in the early phases of my research career, so I'd have to say that working on and completing the NIHR Associate Principal Investigator Scheme has allowed me to build on the experiences I had during training. Working on many trials within different oncological tumour types has given me a good foundation on which to continue my career.

Why do you believe research is important?

In medicine, our knowledge and understanding is constantly growing, and everything that we do and prescribe is based on decades of research. So whether you have a big role in research or not, it forms a fundamental pillar on which our roles are based. This ultimately gives our patients the access to the evidence-based treatments we use every day, and it provides opportunities for us to continue improving and working on the treatments of the future.

What do you love about your job?

Definitely the variety. Every patient and case is different, every conversation and email chain requires different thinking, application of critical thinking and problem-solving. Along with communication and working as a part of a team - it’s the people around you that help you to look forward to your work and enjoy your day.

Would you recommend research as a career to others?

Absolutely. Although I have a clinical role, rather than a specific research role, being a doctor in an ever-evolving field of medicine means that research is always an extremely important part of what we do.

Even if you end up doing a purely clinical role, experiences in research as part of your training, however small those roles may be, help to gain experience and increase awareness and where you see this as part of your future career.

Why did you decide to join the Associate Principal Investigator Scheme?

I joined the scheme to increase my awareness of the role of the Principal Investigator, including gaining experience on how the trials are managed locally. I appreciated the opportunity to do this to assist with preparing me for potentially leading my own study in the future.

What would you say is the most important thing you have learned on the scheme so far?

The wider role of the Principal Investigator. I had no previous experience in what the role entailed, away from direct patient involvement. But it is vital to learn about how to conduct effective research meetings, how to communicate with the trial centre, and how to manage quality assurance.

What are your plans and ambitions for the future?

As a soon-to-be Consultant Clinical Oncologist, I am looking to continue building on my research involvement, working on patient trials in my cancer centre, and hopefully becoming a Principal Investigator for many trials in the future.