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Researcher speaks about how the NIHR shaped her research career

Researcher speaks about how the NIHR shaped her research career

A south London researcher has spoken about how the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has shaped her career within the profession.

Jackie Matthew, who is employed by King’s College London in The School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences, works as a Research Sonographer within St Thomas’ Hospital. Her role involves using ultrasound equipment to screen and diagnose different conditions in pregnant women.

She is encouraging others to consider a career in research, as part of the NIHR’s ‘Your Path in Research’ campaign, to help change lives for the better. Jackie said:

“My own experience has shaped my research journey. My first child, a baby girl called Dionne, died due to pre-eclampsia, a condition related to the placenta that can cause very high blood pressure in women and which can sometimes affect the baby’s growth. This year marks 20 years since I lost her. I feel that Dionne is subconsciously the reason why I’ve spent almost my entire career working with pregnant women.

“For that condition and others, there are still so many unanswered questions and research is a powerful way to deliver improvements in healthcare for the benefit of everyone, as it simply underpins everything we do. The NIHR is great in so many ways: the networking, the training and funding are all superb. I wish the NIHR training pathways for Allied Health Professionals, like me, had been created earlier on in my career, as it really has facilitated my journey into research. The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) South London has also been a fantastic source of support.

“There is so much satisfaction in growing an idea and seeing it deliver improvements in your line of work, so my message to anyone considering a research career is: just do it! Research improves lives.”

Jackie was awarded an NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship in July. The programme aims to support individuals to undertake a PhD and clinical academic training in their area of NIHR research.

The Research Sonographer was given funding by the NIHR Guy’s and St Thomas’ Biomedical Research Centre to complete a Non-Medical Health Professional Academic Training Fellowship in September 2015. This training programme also saw Jackie complete her Masters in Research.

She works on a number of studies including the ‘intelligent Fetal Imaging and Diagnosis (iFind) project.’ The project is all about improving the quality of diagnosis by using engineering developments including artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics and multiple ultrasound transducer technology, to improve the way fetal anomalies are detected.

The NIHR is the largest funder of health and social care research in England, and the organisation provides the people, facilities and technology that enables research to thrive.

The ‘Your Path in Research’ campaign gives healthcare professionals the opportunity to learn more about research that can impact their day-to-day work by highlighting a variety of ways they can take their first or next step in their research career.

CRN South London’s Workforce Development Lead Nhlanhla Mguni said: “Many healthcare professionals say they find the experience of being involved in research studies positive and rewarding.

“As a network, we are proud to play our part in supporting vital research that improves patient care, and I’d also like to encourage others to consider a career within the NIHR.”

On Sunday 4 October, Jackie took part in the virtual London Marathon in memory of baby Dionne, and to raise money for the WellChild charity. The charity helps to get seriously ill children and young people out of hospital and home to their families.

Please visit her Virgin Money Giving page if you’d like to donate. More information about the ‘Your Path in Research’ campaign can be found on the NIHR’s website.