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Your Path in Research: Sinead McDonagh, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Cardiovascular Care for Primary Care

Sinead McDonagh, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Cardiovascular Care for Primary Care

Based at the University of Exeter, Sinead has been working in research for ten years. She describes her career path, and what she loves about the job.

What is your involvement in research?

I work full time as a Research Fellow in Cardiovascular Care for Primary Care as part of the Exeter Collaboration for Academic Primary Care (APEx) team. This involves writing applications to seek funding for, and undertaking, research projects to understand more about blood pressure measurement and management and cardiovascular risk in Primary Care, access to health services and implementation of a cardiac rehabilitation programme in the NHS. I am also involved in a number of systematic reviews, where data from clinical trials around the world are collated and analysed to further understanding of inter-arm differences in blood pressure and the relationship between arm and leg blood pressure.

When did you first get involved in research?

My first official research project was my undergraduate dissertation, undertaken at Brunel University in 2011, where I investigated the role of plyometric training on bone mineral density and bone mineral content. I enjoyed the physiology element and clinical application of this work and went on to pursue an MSc in Sport and Exercise Medicine. I subsequently became interested in the role of dietary nitrate supplementation and lifestyle choices on cardiovascular health and exercise tolerance and went on to pursue a PhD in this area. On completion of my PhD, I decided to direct my career toward understanding more about cardiovascular disease from a Primary Care perspective and I’ve been working in this area since 2017.

Why did you decide to get involved?

Working in research can be extremely challenging, but it can also be very rewarding, particularly when you can see the impact of research findings on patient benefit and healthcare service provision. A career in research is also very interesting, stimulating and can have some benefits, such as travelling to, and collaborating with, research teams at other institutions across the globe.

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

I have recently had the privilege of securing a 2-year NIHR School for Primary Care Postdoctoral Fellowship to understand more about postural hypotension (a drop in blood pressure when you rise from sitting or lying to standing) practice in UK Primary Care and undertake leadership and research methods training specifically targeted toward my personal and professionals interests and goals.

Why do you believe research is important?

I believe that having the opportunity to develop and contribute to work that can support and potentially improve the lives of individuals living with chronic disease and their caregivers, and support working environments and processes for healthcare professionals is extremely important, particularly for the health and wellbeing of all involved in receiving and/or providing primary care.

What do you love about your job?

I love the working environment in APEx and supportive colleagues, the opportunities to develop as a researcher by getting involved in different projects, grant applications, training and conferences and the potential to make a real difference to care for patients, caregivers and health professionals.

Why would you recommend research as a career to others?

I would recommend research as a career to individuals who are motivated, like a challenge, and enjoy the flexibility of working in different research teams, on different projects and in different environments. The opportunity to continually learn new things every day and interact with like-minded individuals can inspire new ideas and future collaborations – no day in the office is the same!


Find out how you can be part of research on the National Institute for Health Research website.