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Case study: Mohana Ratnapalan: The NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship has helped me develop as a clinician and an early career academic

The NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship is a clinical specialty training post that incorporates academic training and can be taken part-time as long as the academic component remains at 25% whole time equivalent. 

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Mohana answers our questions about her experience of applying for an Academic Clinical Fellowship and how it helped her career

Please tell us about your career history

I completed an undergraduate degree in Genetics and Biotechnology and a Masters in Innovation Management. During this time I was involved with research on aspects of intensive care medicine that has led on to peer reviewed publication.

Following this I studied graduate-entry medicine at Imperial College and then moved to Wessex for foundation training. I am currently completing my GP specialty training in Wessex. 

Why did you apply for an NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship?

I applied for an NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship in primary care research to help address the challenge to constantly innovate in the care we provide and improve how it is delivered.

I believe in the vital importance of academic primary care to clinical excellence in the face of changing populations, disease demographics and patient expectations. Being a GP is an intellectually challenging profession where you need to be an expert generalist with a strong skill set in the art and science of medical practice.

A clinical academic career offers the opportunity to seek out and explain what and how you can become an expert generalist.

What research did you focus on?

I am working on projects looking in the areas of placebo, empathy and doctor-patient communication.

How has the NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship helped you?

I truly believe this award has helped me in my quest to achieve our Royal College of General Practitioners motto which is ‘compassion with knowledge’. In the busy modern world of primary care, a solid understanding of the science of compassionate patient care, and the art of applying evidence to practice is essential to providing holistic patient care.

The Academic Clinical Fellowship has helped me develop as a clinician and early career academic. I have learned to critically appraise evidence, develop my own research ideas and apply the learning to my everyday clinical practice.

What have been the main challenges?

A key challenge has been navigating the demands of academic and clinical training. However, anticipating and planning for these challenges with my fantastic supervisors has been incredibly helpful. 

Do you have any tips for others on embarking on a clinical academic career?

I strongly encourage anyone thinking of a clinical academic career in primary care to get involved. The world of academic primary care is an incredible network of highly motivated and passionate people who will bring a positive influence to your clinical training.

Everyone I have met from other early career trainees to professors are friendly and encouraging.

Find out more

Click here to find out more about Mohana, including her research and publications.