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Mel McAulay: promoting health research

Mel McCaulay 1200 x 375

Mel McAulay is a Research Champion, where members of the public volunteer to spread the word about health and care research.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience of health research

I’ve been a Research Champion now for a couple of years. Seven or eight years ago I got approached to take part in a study as a healthy volunteer and I was quite surprised by that because I didn’t realise healthy volunteers could contribute to research. About two years ago I was asked by my GP to take part in an insomnia study to improve my sleep and I felt really pleased to be chosen. I’ve benefited from it and found my duration and quality of sleep has improved. 

What motivated you to become a Research Champion?

I saw the opportunity to become a Research Champion in the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust newsletter about two-and-a-half years ago. I read a little bit about the role and thought it sounded really interesting, particularly now that I’ve taken part in some studies myself. I felt like it would be a really good opportunity to promote research to others in the community. I felt I could be valuable and make a difference. 

What activities have you been involved with as a Research Champion and what difference do you feel they make to others and to research?

One of my first activities was going along to Healthfest at Oxford’s Warneford Hospital, where I was able to meet the public and talk to them about research. I feel this is important because many didn’t realise the impact health research could have for them. I also pointed them in the direction of studies they were interested in taking part in. I’ve also been working with my GP surgery to promote research more locally. The practice website didn’t have much information on there about research, other than particular studies, so by helping them to change the wording and add links to other parts of the NIHR, people were able to find out more. 

How has being a Research Champion benefited you and how have you been supported?

It’s been so great to meet all of the other champions. Some of whom have been doing the role for a lot longer than myself, so they’ve got a wealth of experience and I’ve learned a lot from them. I’ve really enjoyed our monthly virtual meetings held by my local Clinical Research Network where we’ve learned more about each other and about the latest research into COVID-19, so I do feel well supported in the role. It’s just been a great opportunity to do something that I’m passionate about with a group of like-minded people. 

Is there anything else you would like to say about being a Research Champion, including to others considering volunteering in this role?

All of the Research Champions are friendly and welcoming, so anybody would be welcomed into our group. It’s a great opportunity to promote the word of research. We have monthly meetings but you’re under no obligation to attend if you can’t make it and you can get involved however you wish.

For more information about the programme, visit the NIHR Clinical Research Network Thames Valley and South Midlands Research Champions website.