Your path in research: A consultant urologist's journey
Dr Magda Kujawa has been a Consultant Urologist at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust since 2009. As part of the NIHR’s Your path in research campaign, Magda blogs about how she came to work in research and encourages other health professionals to consider a career in the field.
My sub-specialist interest is female and functional urology and I did pursue some research projects as a registrar, but compared to uro-oncology, there weren’t at that time many opportunities in Manchester to take on a Masters Degree in this area.
One of my mentors was Dr Chris Betts, a Consultant Urologist who was a national lead for benign urology as part of the NIHR renal portfolio. He was very keen to involve more centres in research and recruitment to NIHR trials and so asked for volunteers to set up a network in Greater Manchester (GM) during a meeting in September 2015.
I was really keen to pursue opportunities to develop functional urology in Manchester, especially as someone working in a busy District General Hospital (DGH) setting, so I thought this was a great opportunity to support projects and to see what could be achieved. I therefore volunteered to become the GM lead for benign urology.
At that time, the numbers being recruited to trials in Greater Manchester urology were dismal and we were second from bottom in the country in 2015. However, along with Joanne Collins, our Clinical Research Network Research Delivery Manager, and Hilary Prais, CRN portfolio administrator, we identified key individuals, consultants and research nurses in each trust. These were people who were enthusiastic and motivated to recruit to benign urology trials and we set up a twice-yearly meeting with them to report back after our national meeting and keep them updated. Meetings were relaxed and informal, but with key messages and engendered some competition between the units.
I had never recruited to NIHR trials before and had only a basic understanding of the organisation. Also, our local Research and Innovation (R&I) unit was not as active at that time and was very focused on uro-oncology studies, so initially I was supported by research nurses from Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust, as it was then (now known as Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust). Thankfully, Stockport appointed a new R&I manager who has transformed NIHR research activity locally and with her support I became a Principal Investigator (PI) for the Latitude trial and off I went!
Initially having felt a bit of a fraud, I felt happier chairing our GM meetings since I was active in recruiting patients and able to encourage others also. We were able to support a colleague who had done a pilot study locally to expand this as an NIHR portfolio study which did wonders for GM numbers. With continued enthusiasm we’ve seen GM come out top recruiters for 2018/19. I’ve been very proud of this rise when sat in the national meeting. Our network is described as the “gold standard” of how to facilitate and encourage recruitment. We’ve been invited to attend meetings in different regions to explain “how we did it.”
I’ve also been involved in encouraging research practices with our trainees to encourage the next generation. The INSPIRE meeting organised locally by the Surgical NIHR leads in the GM and Mersey deaneries was aimed at CT1 (first year of Core Medical Training) trainees and involved most of the sub-specialties.
I now receive a contribution to my SPAs (Supporting Professional Activities) from the NIHR as a recognition for the work done which also encouraged me to continue. I’ve now been approached by units setting up trials since they can see we’re active recruiters in Stockport. I’m looking forward to the publications of the Latitude and FUTURE trials as the findings will have direct implications for my patients and hopefully changes in practice for the better.
I’d really encourage those considering involving themselves with NIHR trials to contact their R&I department or to contact the GM Clinical Research Network team for a clinician contact for help with getting started. It will add a new dimension to your job and the networks in GM are well set up to put you in touch with a research-active clinician and for information on trials open to recruitment.
The NIHR has launched its new campaign, Your path in research, in October 2019. The campaign aims to inspire health care professionals to get more involved in research. Read how here.