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South West Funding Scheme Supports Staff in Building a Career in Health and Social Care Research

South West Funding Scheme Supports Staff in Building a Career in Health and Social Care Research
Pictured above from left to right: Lucy Pritchard, Matthew Masoli, Emma King, Hannah Oram, Madalina Chifu, Terry Gorst, Georgina Newman, Angie Foulds and Daisy Robinson  

The NIHR CRN South West Peninsula has provided funding for nine health and social care professionals to help support the development of their research careers.

The Research Associate Scheme launched in March this year and offered applicants the opportunity to bid for up to £20,000 to support their research career and to help grow research capacity locally. Professionals were invited to apply regardless of experience level and across a broad range of professions from Allied Health Professionals, Social Care, Public Health and Medicine/Nursing.

The scheme closed to applications in April and nine were chosen to receive support funds by a panel comprising CRN Clinical Leadership, University staff and local 70@70 Senior Nurse Leaders

Meet the applicants

We spoke to each of the nine successful applicants about their contributions to local research.

Lucy Pritchard

Lucy is a Specialist IBD and Gastroenterology Dietitian and a Research Dietician at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, she said:

"I am keen to build on a research protocol to nutritionally pre-optimise patients with Crohn's disease awaiting abdominal surgery. I want to test the feasibility of a novel liquid diet which may prepare patients better, improving functional outcomes and potentially reducing surgical complications. This study involves patients at the heart of it, designing and informing the feasibility protocol. I hope to apply for a competitive NIHR ICA fellowship grant this summer to provide funding for this project.

“The research associate post is a great opportunity to build on the experience I gained last year as AHP fellow, being involved in the screening and recruitment of patients to NIHR portfolio gastroenterology studies. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate the many relevant transferable skills dietitians possess which can contribute to research delivery."

Matt Masoli

Matt is a Consultant Respiratory Physician at Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital and he said:

“Over the course of my clinical career I have maintained an interest in research alongside a full time clinical workload. My particular interest has been in asthma and more recently the assessment of the impact on the lives of people with asthma. This has all been unfunded and undertaken in my own time but the research associate position has offered me the opportunity to develop my research ideas into funded research proposals.

“This award will support my development as a clinical researcher in a number of ways by affording me protected research time. I plan to undertake training in Qualitative Research Methods in Health. This will enable a greater understanding of qualitative research methods and support my development as a researcher on future research projects and grant applications.

“I plan to develop a South West asthma research network which will incorporate collaborative clinical trial involvement alongside the regional clinical asthma network so that asthma patients in the South west are given greater opportunities to participate in research. I also plan to submit a research proposal to the European Respiratory Society SHARP initiative which focuses on patient-centred research. This would investigate the burden of severe asthma on health related quality of life across European countries. The award will allow me to develop strong collaborative research links across the South West and develop the NIHR asthma portfolio of clinical trials.”

Emma King

Emma is an Administrative Assistant for a local Parkinson’s Service supported by the University of Plymouth and University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, she said:

“I have a keen interest in neurodegeneration, particularly Parkinson’s Disease. This funding will allow me to work as part of the Applied Parkinson’s Research Group developing a new pathway for patients with Parkinson’s Disease. Within this role I will be assisting with the evaluation of this new pathway, as well as helping recruit these patients for a qualitative evaluation study. I will also be working alongside Principle and Sub-Investigators remotely running non-commercial research studies while patients remain shielding. I also hope to continue my interest in anxiety interventions that can be delivered remotely, and potentially develop this into some form of research.”

Hannah Oram

Hannah is an Associate GP at Amicus Health, Clare House Surgery and said:

“I applied for the funding because I wanted to learn something new and do something new.  I feel that research is at the heart of how we practice medicine. To be able to get involved in local and national research is both exciting and interesting. My husband is a full-time Associate Professor in Type 1 diabetes research and so I have seen how research develops from an idea to a publication and change in practice - the process is completely different to my current day job but I would relish the challenge. 

“I am still formulating more finite plans for the year but the current plan is to help promote research and collaboration in the South West, starting with my own practice.  I am also keen to help support NIHR approved studies and PACT.  Particular areas of interest to me are social prescribing and multi-morbidity and I plan to connect to research active teams in these areas to support pilots/studies and ultimately, though probably not this year, I would like to design and implement my own studies.”

Dr Madalina Chifu

Madalina is a Research Doctor working in Oncology at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust and she said:

“I applied for this role as I have a Public Health background and I am keen to continue to develop my research skills not only delivering Oncology research but collaborating and designing my own research and becoming Chief Investigator. My aim is to have a full time career in Oncology/ Public Health research and to expand the research into Public Health studies, creating a bridge between Oncology and Public Health and working on research into avoiding known causes of multi-morbidity such as diet, smoking, inactivity and alcohol.

“This funding would be used to help overcome medical understaffing, in order to be able to develop new and exciting trials and cutting across the two specialties, with a huge impact on the quality of life of our patients and their life expectancy.“

Dr Terry Gorst PhD MCSP

Terry is a Senior Research Fellow for the Applied Parkinson’s Research Group in the University of Plymouth and an Honorary Research Physiotherapist at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust. He said:

“The need for non-contact care provision has never been greater and the NIHR CRN Research Associate role will enable me to lead and support the development, evaluation and dissemination of our remote care pathways for Parkinson’s disease at UHPNT.

“The NIHR CRN role also affords me greater involvement with NIHR portfolio neurodegenerative studies within UHPNT. Doing so will advance my clinical and research skills and support my aspirations of becoming a clinical research leader. My interest is in the use and application of digital technology and wearables for early Parkinson’s disease detection, personalising therapy and monitoring disease progression, as well as the use of such technologies in the development of innovative care and research pathways. I feel this is an area with huge potential to improve patient care and the NIHR CRN role will support me toward realising this.”

Georgina Newman

Georgina is a Clinical Research Fellow in Medical Mycology and Fungal Immunology at Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust and said,

“Academic clinicians are ideally placed to both develop and answer the questions most relevant to their specialty, which attracts me most to a career in academic medicine, more specifically in respiratory medicine. Fungal lung disease is an underappreciated area of pulmonary medicine, in both resource rich and lesser developed countries, and is due to increase in importance with the rise of immunosuppressant therapies.

“I am excited to start my clinical fellowship in medical mycology and fungal immunology and undertake research in this understudied field that affects so many people around the world.”

Angie Foulds

Angie is a Senior Research Nurse at Torbay & South Devon NHS Foundation Trust and she said

“Healthcare research is an amazing and exciting speciality to work in. Good quality research is fundamental for improving care by understanding, diagnosing and treating health conditions effectively. I love research and I love my job as a research nurse. I applied for the Research Associate funding to enable me to complete my MSc dissertation, gain experience as a research principle investigator on NIHR studies and develop a PhD proposal.

“The Research Associate funding facilitates the time and mentorship support I will need to succeed. It is a fantastic foundation for my research career and I can’t wait to start this new chapter as a nurse researcher and develop my own research questions.”

Dr Daisy Robinson

Daisy is GP Partner at College Surgery Partnership, Cullompton and said:

“I enjoy working as a portfolio GP and want to support GPs to develop wider interests as part of a sustainable and rewarding career. I have taken opportunities to develop interests in education, workforce development, and social prescribing, and connections and projects in these areas have led to a growing interest in how we gather evidence for and evaluate complex interventions across systems in a time of rapid change, and how health and care organisations can build and retain a motivated and connected primary care workforce.

“I applied to the NIHR CRN fellowship to develop a deeper understanding of the primary care research landscape and support current NIHR research priorities in particular where these explore the social care & social prescribing interface and complex multi-morbidity. The NHS is investing in social prescribing through primary care networks and there is real potential to connect social prescribing link workers and the people they support with clinical research. I also hope encourage greater involvement in research among early career GPs and the wider primary care team, through the PACT network in Devon and linking NIHR research opportunities to Heath Education England’s New to Practice GP Fellowship scheme. It is wonderful to have been given this opportunity and I am looking forward to working with the team.”

These successful applicants will help support the NIHR CRN South West Peninsula in continuing to offer health and research opportunities to the South West population, whilst inspiring a culture that promotes the development of our local health and social care staff.

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