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Funding time to develop my research career – an ICA Pre-Doctoral Clinical Academic Fellowship case study

Published: 22 February 2019

Adam Galloway talks about how a Pre-Doctoral Clinical Academic Fellowship has allowed him to develop a research career while continuing his clinical work.

I am a Children’s Physiotherapist at Leeds Children’s Hospital with a special interest in paediatric orthopaedics, more specifically, a condition called Perthes Disease which is a condition where the head of the femur does not develop normally as a result of poor blood flow. My research interest is what management of children with this condition is best and as a physiotherapist I believe we play a vital role in this.

I am currently completing my HEE/NIHR ICA Pre-Doctoral Clinical Academic Fellowship (PCAF) and working as part of Leeds Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine (LIRMM), University of Leeds. I started this two-year, fully funded award in September 2018.

I applied for the PCAF after completing my ICA MSc Clinical Research Methods in 2016 at University of Leeds. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and it confirmed for me that I want to progress on the clinical academic pathway. The PCAF award specifically appealed to me as it was designed to assist awardees in their application for a doctoral fellowship - something I was fully expecting to be challenging myself to do in the coming years.

Academically, I constantly look to move on to the next stage and further myself.  Clinically, I want to provide the most effective treatment in order to to get the best outcome for the patient. Because it allowed me to develop academically and clinically, the PCAF was the perfect next step on my career pathway as a clinical academic.

In applying for the PCAF I did face some obstacles. For starters I was aware that I needed to build a whole team, design a project, and have it ready for application. This is where having a strong supervisory/mentor team around you at all times is vital. Mine came in the form of the team at LIRMM. Kind words to calm nerves as well as constructive, valuable advice from Heidi and co. empowered me to prepare an application (that along with the support of friends, family and colleagues).

The application process itself is daunting until you get started, personally I think if you believe in yourself and that your project can make a difference to the lives of patients and carers, then justifying why your work needs doing is an enjoyable experience. Again, working with my supervisory team for help with the application form and helping to make sure I got my point across in the most effective way was vital.

Since starting the PCAF in September 2018 I have been able to work on the development of what essentially was a question that I asked as a clinician: ‘are we doing the best for these patients?’

I have spent the early months of the PCAF using my existing contacts to network with a range of clinical and academic specialists that will be most suited to my research area. This has included discussing the specialist clinical condition with a number of orthopaedic specialists from across the country (and recently worldwide!). I have also designed a training and development programme that includes both clinical and academic teaching in it. This is to address development areas in my clinical setting and also build on a foundation of academic training I undertook at MSc level.

The PCAF has also allowed me to take part in a lot of academic networking at meetings and conferences such as the ICA conference early February 2019. This was a fantastic event for meeting clinical academics who are on the same pathway as you but at varying stages. Another strong platform for communicating about research and networking with a range of people that can influence your research and career has been via social media. I personally use Twitter to discuss my current research, the progress I make, and to share experiences with others.

Over the course of the next 18 months I plan to complete the training outlined in my development programme and carry out some invaluable Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) work to ensure that I have both in mind when developing my doctoral fellowship application. Ultimately the PCAF has protected 50% of my time to allow me to do these things and develop a strong application for a doctoral fellowship. I aim to submit an application for a HEE/NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship at the end of my PCAF.

Please feel free to keep up with my progress on my Twitter page @GallowayAdam

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