A dream of rural excellence

Claire Hawcroft, ACF in General Practice who has just returned from OOPE in South Africa

'If you don’t have a dream then how will your dreams come true?’. Claire visited Zithuele Hospital for a seminar at their innovative rural research centre.  Read her blog here 


10th anniversary NIHR trainees meeting in Leeds, 6-7 December, 2016

Last week saw the 10th anniversary NIHR trainees meeting in Leeds. Judging by the amount of activity on Twitter it was a great meeting. Ellen Nelissen, one of our O&G ACFs, attended and wrote this short blog. 

I was one of lucky NIHR trainees to attend the 10th NIHR trainees meeting in Leeds this year. It's a two day meeting with an overnight stay in the Queens Hotel in centre of Leeds - all provided for by the NIHR. It was a great opportunity to meet the NIHR family and learn about mentorship, leadership, fellowship and grant applications, PPI, use of media, and how to be a good writer. 
As it was the 10th meeting - the focus was on what has happened in the past 10 years and where are we headed in the next ten years. I was amazed by the impact the NIHR has had on the research landscape in the U.K.  It made me realise we are lucky to have the different personal fellowships, but also research grants, in such a structured way. But it was also clear from the different speakers that although career pathways seem straightforward, that is most often not the case. 
All in all it was an inspirational meeting, great to meet other trainees from around the country and do a bit of networking. I feel inspired and full of energy to continue my academic clinical career and I can recommend it to everyone!


NHS Hackday, 16th and 17th May, 2015

Barnaby Hole, ACF in Renal Medicine

The NHS Hack Day team run weekend events that bring together healthcare and technology professionals and other “geeks who love the NHS” to promote health, good practice and good science. Attendees pitch projects (think Dragon's Den) and teams organically form to try to solve them by the end of the weekend. I pitched an idea for a novel decision aid and led a team of seven other attendees (including doctors, medical students, programmers and data scientists) in realising it. Our project won a "highly commended" award. Other teams designed and created applications including an automated telephone service reminding patients to take their medicines, a map of services in the NHS and a game for children with diabetes to play as a learning tool. The atmosphere is fun, altruistic and collaborative.

NHS Hack Days provide a fantastic opportunity to rapidly prototype a technological solution. If you have a novel idea for a research tool, educational platform, data manipulative process or just about anything else, consider taking it to the next one. The site has further information including links to streams of pitches and presentations from previous Hacks.

Highly recommended!

2015 Spring Meeting for Clinician Scientists in Training at the Royal College of Physicians

Sofia Theodoropoulou, ACF in Ophthalmology

I attended the 2015 Spring Meeting for Clinician Scientists in Training at the Royal College of Physicians, to present, as a poster, my current research on the role of interleukin-33 as a potential new treatment for age-related macular degeneration. Each year the Academy of Medical Sciences organises this meeting to bring clinical academic trainees together to present their work, meet one another and network with senior scientists. I was able to meet and interact with other academic trainees, attend presentations on research being conducted in all fields of medicine, and learn about new advances in the field. Clinical scientists at pre-doctoral and post-doctoral level and senior clinicians shared their most interesting findings of cutting edge research. It was great honour that the Princess Royal attended part of the meeting. Selected delegates made oral presentations and competed for the two prestigious awards. Prof Watt from King’s College London and Prof Schafer from Weill Cornell Medical College in their keynote lectures, highlighted the role of physician scientists and the challenges they face in their role, sharing their personal experience. Poster sessions consisted of providing attendees with a research summary and answering any questions. My research was met with positive feedback and intriguing questions, prompting me to identify a variety of future studies that had not been considered beforehand. Eminent academics, who were judges for the poster competition, evaluated all candidates on their research topic and ability to clearly and efficiently answer questions. I also attended the career development workshop the day before the meeting, where we had an interactive conversation and advice on how to make engaging presentations and mastering workplace conversations. I can recommend this meeting to others in the future.

Reflection on the SSCM Systematic Reviews Short Course at Canynge Hall 13-16th Feb 2015

As a GPST1 ACF I attended this 4-day course in order to gain the necessary skills to independently undertake a well structured systematic review. Such a review is likely to be the first stage of any research project, and a necessary component of most grant applications, to evidence the need for a piece of research to be undertaken. Doing this well is therefore of high importance.

I have been hugely impressed by the breadth and quality of the material covered.
The course is very accessible, starting with introductory material on the need for systematic reviews, but building quickly to practical sessions both using STATA and group work. The course guides you through each stage of the review process from search strategies, study costing, paper selection, data extraction, meta-analysis, dealing with heterogeneity, meta-regression, and more. The course folder serves as an excellent guide to undertaking a successful study, and its weight a reminder of the breadth of material covered over the 4 days.

The faculty are excellent, knowledgeable and have an active academic interest in systematic review research methods. This depth of understanding helps to facilitate interesting discussion, but also aids one’s understanding of the topic.

This is an understandably popular course, for which places are filled well in advance. The other delegates were from a wide range of backgrounds, both internal and external to the university, which made for a motivating academic environment. I would highly recommend attendance at this course to other ACF trainees. It runs in twice a year in January and June. Details are available at the School of Social and Community Medicine - Short courses  


Academic Showcase Event 8th May, 2014

The spring showcase event for the School of Clinical Academic Training was held at Engineer’s House in Clifton. Three academic trainees from Dementia Neurology, Palliative Medicine and Psychiatry gave presentations based on their current research. Our keynote speaker, Professor Nicholas Mays, Professor of Health Policy and Director, Policy Research Unit in Policy Innovation Research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine spoke about making research and evaluation more relevant and useful in the real world.

Dr Catherine Pennington - Clinical Lecturer in Dementia Neurology
Functional cognitive disorders in the cognitive clinic

Patients are often seen in the cognitive clinic with subjective cognitive complaints which appear to have an underlying psychological cause. Such patients often perform normally on neuropsychological testing, or show a non-biological pattern of impairment. Typically neuroimaging and blood work-up is normal. Often there is a clear precipitant such as traumatic emotional events, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or anxiety. This is an emerging area of research, and how to diagnose, classify and treat such patients is unclear. I audited the database (N = 185) of the cognitive clinic, and reviewed the records of all patients with a potential psychological cause for their presentation. Those with an unclear diagnosis and ongoing investigations for neurodegenerative disease were excluded. 26 patients (14.1%) of patients on the database had features consistent with a functional cognitive disorder. 17 were female, and the average age at onset was 45.5 years. The group was heterogeneous but most had clear internal or external sources of stress. Further work is planned to review the neuropsychological profiles of these patients in detail and to draw up diagnostic criteria for this condition.

Amelia Stockley - NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow in Palliative Medicine
Medical Professionalism in the formal curriculum: 5th year medical students' experiences

The GMC’s Tomorrow’s Doctors proposes that medical professionalism be included in undergraduate curricula. In 2010, the University of Bristol introduced tutorials for fifth year medical students focusing on the learning objectives in Tomorrow’s Doctors’ Outcomes 3: the doctor as a professional. Our study sought to explore the students’ experiences of these tutorials in order to develop the currently limited evidence upon which to base best practice for teaching medical professionalism. Focus-group interviews and a course evaluation questionnaire provided data. Data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Four themes were identified: students’ aversion to ticking-boxes, lack of engagement by students, lack of engagement by tutors and students’ views on how medical professionalism should be taught. We concluded that further studies are indicated. With an ongoing drive for accountability and transparency in medical education, detailed curricula with specific learning objectives referencing GMC guidance will continue to provide the framework for teaching and learning in medical schools for the foreseeable future. As a consequence, check lists and ‘ticking-boxes’ will continue to feature and students’ acceptance and experiences of these need further consideration in order to inform practice in this area. Many students felt that they had come across teaching relevant to professionalism during their course; it may be that the teaching of professionalism needs only to be made more explicit. Other possible areas for development might include studies that address faculty development to ensure faculty consensus, attention to role-modelling and ‘buy-in’ to strengthen and standardise the quality of teaching being delivered regarding medical professionalism. Moreover, studies looking at robust induction processes that would serve to engage, motivate or ‘prime’ students as they enter medical school on learning and being taught medical professionalism would strengthen the current knowledge base. Designing the curriculum so that medical professionalism is a vertical or spiral theme would mean medical professionalism would be revisited and developed throughout medical school and research is needed to see if this deepens students’ understanding, awareness and insights into medical professionalism and its applicability.

Amy Green – Academic Clinical Lecturer in Psychiatry
Are baseline physical symptoms in depression a poor prognostic factor or a marker of depression severity? Secondary analysis of the GenPod trial.

Depression is under diagnosed in primary care. One of the reasons for this could be that physical symptoms obscure the picture. 1/3 of patients with depression give physical symptoms as their presenting complaint to their GP, and people with depression are up to 7 times more likely to develop physical symptoms. Previous research has demonstrated that those people who have depression with multiple physical symptoms have a poorer prognosis with antidepressant treatment. However, there are critical methodological issues with these studies; most importantly, baseline depression has not been adjusted for in the analysis. In our secondary analysis of GenPod RCT data, we demonstrated that those who have depression with multiple physical symptoms have a poorer response to antidepressant treatment, but not after adjustment for baseline depression (mean BDI-II score). We concluded that those with multiple physical symptoms have a more severe depression, and therefore have a worse prognosis. One explanation for the relationship between depression severity and the presence of multiple physical symptoms is that those with more severe depression may over attend to physical sensations. Patients with multiple physical symptoms and moderate/severe depression should be treated for with an antidepressant and cognitive behavioural therapy that addresses their perception of their physical symptoms.


NIHR Annual Trainees' Meeting 26-27th November, 2013

A useful meeting to attend, especially for an early-years researcher interested in applied health sciences. An inspirational introduction from Sir Iain Chalmers (founder member of the Cochrane Centre; Director of the James Lind Alliance) set the tone. Other highlights included a diverse poster presentation, allowing wide-reaching networking with doctors and allied health professionals, showcasing the breadth of work that the NIHR is involved with. High quality practical workshops were on offer, hosted by leading figures in evidenced-based medicine, such as two sessions on systematic reviews given by Martin Burton (Director, Cochrane Centre). Overall, a well paced and varied event that is recommended.  Full details and power point presentations

Academic Showcase Event 7th November, 2013

This showcase event for the School of Clinical Academic Training was held at Engineer’s House in Clifton. There was a tremendous turn out  to hear excellent presentations from three trainees who were each talking about the health services side of research.  This fitted well with the energetic and challenging talk from our keynote speaker, Dr Richard Horton, Editor of the Lancet.   Here are short summaries of the presentations from our trainees. 

Dr Ansa Akram, NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer/Senior Speciality Registrar in Orthodontics, University of Bristol
Assessment of quality of life in patients with developmentally absent teeth

This presentation detailed the development and validation of a patient reported outcome measure for children and young adults with developmentally absent teeth. This measure was developed after holding a series of focus group meetings with children and young adults with developmentally absent teeth. This is currently being used in a multi centre study across twelve sites to assess the impact of treatment on oral health related quality of life in patients with absent teeth.

Dr Kyla Thomas, NIHR Doctoral Fellow/Specialty Registrar in Public Health
Smoking cessation medicines and the risk of suicide, self-harm and depression: a prospective cohort study in the Clinical Practice Research Datalink

Smoking is a major cause of premature mortality and morbidity worldwide. Varenicline, a smoking cessation medicine, has been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as an option for smokers who want to quit. However, there have been safety concerns that this medicine may increase the risk of fatal and non-fatal self-harm. Drug regulatory agencies in the UK and US have amended the product safety information for varenicline to include these concerns. This work investigated the risk of suicidal behaviour and treated depression in adult patients prescribed smoking cessation medicines in primary care. We performed a population based cohort study using the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) and used novel and conventional methods to assess the impact of confounding by indication. We found no evidence of an increased risk of treated depression or fatal or non fatal self-harm in patients prescribed varenicline or bupropion compared to those prescribed nicotine replacement therapy. These findings should provide some reassurance for users and prescribers of varenicline and bupropion.

Dr Barry Main, NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Centre for Surgical Research and Angus McNair, Academic Clinical Lecturer in general surgery
An evidence-based and patient-centred approach to information provision for cancer surgery

Surgeons talk to patients before operating on them but what is said often does not meet the informational needs of those facing an operation. This is particularly true in surgical oncology. Legal and ethical standards require people to give their informed consent before an operation but knowing how much and what kind of information allows people to gain sufficient understanding to give this authorisation is unknown. Patient-centred care is a major doctrine in modern day healthcare delivery and the provision of information should be no different. We propose a model, the core information set, to act as a minimum amount of information that should be provided to patients to allow them to formulate their thoughts and ask questions that allow them to make an informed decision. Sometimes, this decision will be to say no to surgery. We have demonstrated the application of health services research methodologies to reach consensus about what this core information should be and illustrate with our data for oesophagectomy.

Academic Showcase Event - 11th April 2013

Our first Academic Showcase Event of 2013 was held on Thursday 11th April at Engineers' House.  The presentations, which were interesting and varied, were from Polly Duncan, ACF in Primary Care; Rachel Dommett, CL in Paediatrics (Oncology); and Philip Hamann, ACF in Medicine (Rheumatology).  Dr Jenny King, one of the founders of Edgecumbe Consulting, who is an occupational psychologist with a doctorate from Oxford University whose work has made a significant contribution to the medical profession, was the keynote speaker.

Below are synopses of some of the presentations:

Dr Polly Duncan, GPST3 and ACF in Bristol, Perceptions of High Blood Pressure in Rural South Africa -The Manguzi HiHi Study
Hypertension (known as ‘HiHi’ in Zulu) is a common problem in Manguzi, a rural town in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, affecting 21% of the adult population.  The Manguzi HiHi study is a cross-sectional study of 500 participants aged 18 years or older with hypertension prescribed at least one antihypertensive medication.  The purpose of the study was to describe the demographic characteristics; the proportion of participants with controlled blood pressure (BP<140/90); the beliefs about hypertension; the attitudes towards and compliance to medication; and the use of traditional healers and remedies.  In May to June 2012, participants were recruited from five primary health care clinics in the Manguzi district, written consent was obtained and a questionnaire was administered by local volunteers in Zulu.  The mean age of participants was 58 years; the majority had either never been to school or attended only primary school education; and the majority perceived their health to be poor.  Interestingly, 64% of participants said that they were of normal weight but in fact 60% were found to be overweight with a body mass index >25.  Two thirds of patients had poorly controlled BP (>140/90).  The most commonly reported causes of hypertension were emotions (eg. stress and sadness) followed by diet, social factors (eg. poverty and unemployment) and physical symptoms (eg. insomnia and lethargy).  Most participants agreed to statements relating to the necessity of medication but they also reported concerns about taking long term medication.  80% agreed with the statement that ‘doctors place too much trust in medicine’.  Participants reported good compliance to medication and only 4% reported seeing a traditional healer or taking a traditional remedy in the past 12 months for their blood pressure. In response to the findings of this study, the Principal Investigator, Dr Polly Ducnan, returned to Manguzi in March 2013 to run a series of teaching workshops and patient group education sessions to improve nurse-led management of hypertension.  Feedback from nurses and patients was positive and it is hoped the group education sessions for patients will continue.

Rachel Dommett, CL Paediatrics (Oncology), Risk of Childhood Cancer with Symptoms in Primary Care
Childhood cancer is rare and presents significant diagnostic challenges. This work has investigated the risk of cancer in children presenting to primary care. We conducted a population based case control study using the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD, formerly GPRD). This is the first study of childhood cancer to use primary care data collected prospectively. We have confirmed an association between NICE alert symptoms and increased consultation frequency with a diagnosis of cancer. In a second study we have identified 12 symptoms that increase the probability of a cancer diagnosis tenfold and even more when children presented multiple times in 3 months.

Academic Showcase Event - 22nd Oct 2012

The Academic Showcase Event held at Engineers' House on Monday 22nd October was a great success with excellent presentations from Anna Simpson, academic clinical fellow in Anaesthetics; Michael Parry, clinical lecturer in Trauma and Orthopaedics; and Lei Liu, academic clinical fellow in Ophthalmology.  Professor Andrew Hattersley was the guest speaker whose presentation, 'Bringing Genetics into the Clinical Care in Diabetes', was truly inspirational and thought-provoking.

Below are short synopses of some of the presentations:

Michael Parry, The Indirect Effects of Orthopaedic Metal Debris
The research comprised utilising an in vitro model of the human placenta to test the potential genotoxic effects of metallic debris generated by modern hip replacements on the developing embryo. It revealed a novel pathway of indirect intercellular signalling within the multilayered placenta which resulted in the development of chromosomal and genotypic abnormalities within the test cells seperated by the model placental barrier.

Lei Liu, The Role of TLRs in Angiogenesis
TLRs have recently been shown to not only act as defencing receptors to pathogen, but also play roles in angiogenesis. We aim to identify a new therapeutic target through TLR pathways for ocular vascular diseases. So far, we have shown that a range of TLRs could regulate VEGF production in macrophages and TLR9 activation suppressed vessel ingrowth in mouse cornea. 

Anna Simpson, Developmental Programming and Obesity
We know that the environment the fetus experiences in utero can have significant effects in later life. Example of this include fetal alcohol syndrome, thalidomide and congenital rubella syndrome. Observational studies in human populations also suggest that the nutritional environment experienced in utero can have implications in later life.  Children born of obese mothers may be more likely to develop obesity and the metabolic syndrome in later life.  These effects have also been demonstrated in animal models, which allow us to control possible confounding factors.  However, it is unclear whether the effects are primarily related to maternal obesity, or to the diet the animals are given.  We are in the process of developing a model of high fat diet in non obese mice, to allow us to investigate this further.  Early results suggest animals are fatter in early life, with resolution on weaning, but glucose homeostasis remains deranged.

BMA Clinical Academic Trainees’ Conference - BMA House, London Saturday 3rd November, 2012

The BMA Clinical Academic Trainees’ Conference held at BMA House on Saturday 3rd November was an excellent opportunity to meet other academic trainees from different disciplines and compare notes and experiences.

There were some inspiring talks from senior clinical academics including Professor Morris Brown, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology and Professor Sadaf Farooqi, Professor of Metabolism and Medicine and a number of small group sessions and workshops to discuss issues around a career in academic medicine.

The conference format was exceptionally well-thought out allowing academic trainees at all levels to maximise the opportunities available.  In the morning session, delegates were divided into three discussion groups depending on their level of academic training (academic foundation doctors, academic clinical fellows and clinical lecturers/post-doctoral fellows).  Tailored talks from three of the main research funders (MRC, Wellcome Trust and the Association of Medical Research Charities) concentrated on opportunities appropriate for career stage and the opportunity to ask questions provided valuable insights on the funders’ perspective.  The facilitators in the clinical lecturers’ group were both senior clinical academics who were happy to share their personal experiences of grant writing and give ‘hints and tips’ regarding the process.  This was followed by an informative (if slightly concerning) talk about the NHS Pension and University Superannuation schemes and the pros and cons of each.

Lunch was good and an excellent opportunity to speak to other trainees and empathise with the highs and lows of clinical research in different areas.

In the afternoon, delegates were encouraged to select two of eight different workshops covering a range of topics including mentoring; organising and funding sabbaticals; managing people and projects; less than full-time training; getting noticed and getting published; research design and ethics; medical education and pharmaceutical medicine.  The ones on getting published and managing people were particularly popular and well-received.  The meeting concluded with a drinks reception and further opportunities to network and catch up with new friends made during the day.

For someone coming to academia later in their training, the conference provided an interesting insight into a research career and the challenges and opportunities that may arise.  At £25, it was good value for money and the venue, organisation and catering were excellent.  There would probably have been little new for established or more senior academic trainees, but for me, it was a day well spent!       

Shelley Potter, CL General Surgery

BMA Academic Trainees' Conference - 5th November 2011

On Saturday 5th November the BMA House hosted a conference for clinical academic trainees entitled ‘Paths to Success: sources of inspiration and support.’ This was well attended and well-received by a strong complement of clinical academic trainees varying in experience from Foundation years to Senior Specialist Registrars. A keen delegation from the Severn Deanery was also present.

This informative day began with a truly inspirational talk from Dr Marcia Schofield, Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Cambridge colourfully headed ‘Sex and drugs and rock and roll’. She shared with us her life experience from a rock star in New York to reading Medicine as a mature student within the collegiate system of Cambridge University to moulding an academic career in Chronic Pain to suit her interests. Her message to the academics embarking on their careers was loud and clear ‘follow your passion’ and you will succeed.

Dr Elizabeth Sapey, Respiratory Fellow from the University of Birmingham, highlighted the importance of selecting the right mentor for the academic journey and encouraged regular interactive discussion to include not only career development but also the life challenges faced by us all. She gave an honest account of the number of prizes she had failed to achieve to illustrate the importance of not being disheartened in the pursuit of academic success. Regular teaching activities to impart knowledge to varying levels of juniors was encouraged as a pillar of academic training.

A series of breakout workshop sessions took place in the afternoon. Professor Michael Rees, Chair of the Medical Academic Staff Committee, chaired a session on Research Design. This was a revision of the principles of research: (a) Developing a clear and focused question; (b) Performing a systematic review of existing sources of evidence; (c) Identifying the aims and objectives while considering design, methodology, ethics, finance, dissemination and implementation; (d) Performing statistical analysis for sample and proposed analytical approach for results with tips for making your grant applications successful. One such tip was to consider what the grant application would mean for patient care.

The day finished with an opportunity to network with colleagues across the country and share experiences.

This has been jointly contributed to by Ishtiaq Rahman, Anna Simpson and Sarah Westbury, ST3 Clinical Academics, Severn Deanery

BMA Academic Trainees' Conference - 5th November 2011

I attended the BMA academic trainees’ conference on 5th Nov. The conference was very inspiring and encouraging. The morning speakers talked about their own career experiences through different paths. One had been an American rock band singer before she started medical school as a mature student and now she is a senior lecturer in pain medicine. The main message was it is never too late to start an academic career with a passion for research.

It was mentioned in the conference that there has been increasing pharmaceutical industry partnership with research groups in Europe. Innovative medicine initiatives fund 2 billion pounds each year with interested parties from European academia, small- and medium-sized enterprises, patient organisations, regulatory agencies, large non-EFPIA companies etc. Therefore there are huge funding opportunities for institutions with industry partnership.

In the afternoon, there were 8 workshops on pharmaceutical medicine, academic public health, less than full time training, medical education, career planning, academic training schemes, publication, and research design. I attended a career planning workshop which was hosted by Dr Michael Bannon, the Oxford postgraduate Dean. The message I found useful was the strengths needed for success in academia include good administrative skills, leadership, team working, finance, communication and effective/efficient work methods.

Lei Liu, ACF ST2 Ophthalmology

Academic Showcase Event - 31st October 2011

Halloween saw the third showcase event for the School of Clinical Academic training at Engineer’s House in Clifton. There was a tremendous turn out (standing room only by the end) to hear excellent presentations from four trainees followed by a stimulating and thought provoking talk from Sir Iain Chalmers, currently coordinator of the James Lind Initiative.

Natalie Blencowe and Holly Cole-Hawkins began the evening with a well prepared double act on now to develop a successful PhD application. Both have been successful in last year’s NIHR competition and they took us thorough the many steps of the application process offering tips for an optimal outcome.

Then we had a most interesting presentation from Dimitrios Siassakos, a clinical lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. His talk focussed on the different ways we engage users in the research process, avoiding the simply tokenistic role, using different examples form the current O&G portfolio.

Albur Mahabalashwar a clinical lecturer in Path & Micro presented data from a a series of studies focussing on serious infections in ITU patients and the role of certain bacterial products in denoting more or less favourable outcome for patients.

Finally Jonathan Rees a clinical lecturer in surgery took us through the dos and don’ts of developing and using patient reported outcomes in research using his own area of liver tumours as an exemplar.

Sir Iain Chalmers then rattled our cages asking us to define the sort of research we should be doing and publishing. His title ‘ Some aspects of avoidable waste in medical research’ made us think hard about what research questions we should be answering, who should be funding us and what are our principles regarding eventual publication.

We were well ready for supper and a glass of wine at the end.

Debbie Sharp, Head of School

Writing a Journal Article and Getting It Published – Mark Picken 22/29 July 2011

This course was held jointly with the LKSS Public Health trainees. The course is based on the principles and course content initially developed by Tim Albert who was a journalist. Since he retired a number of other people have been trained to run it. Our course was run by Mark Picken who is medically qualified.

The first day saw us thinking about the things which prevent us from writing, as well as that all important question ‘ why do we want to get something published?’. We were then taken through the process of planning our time, (it turns out you need a lot less of it than you thought!), setting a brief for the article and planning it using a mind map. After the first day, we had to write a first draft of our article. Amazingly this wasn’t hard to do based on what we had learnt on the first day!

A week later, we started the editing process of the draft we had written. This follows quite a specific process which Mark took us through. We also spent some time talking about managing tricky things like authorship and what to do when you get hundreds of corrections from other authors. The end result was a pretty good draft, a plan for how and where to get it published and lots of enthusiasm for writing.

I can’t recommend the course highly enough. The key requirement is that you have an idea for a paper and ideally some results. I had an idea but not any results which made writing the later parts of the paper a little tricky, although the principles were easy to pick up. The course addressed most of the problems people have with writing not only a paper, but writing in general.

Holly Cole-Hawkins, NHR Doctoral Research Fellow

NIHR Trainee Conference - September 2011

The 5th annual NIHR Trainees Conference was held in the Queen’s Hotel in Leeds on 19 and 20 September 2011. The first day began at lunchtime which provided a good chance to catch up with old friends and colleagues, as well as get to know some new people. The afternoon then featured talks by high-profile speakers on various aspects of academic life. A highlight was Professor Hywel Williams, who gave an entertaining and inspiring talk about his career, and how to maintain your own hobbies and interests in the midst of a busy working life. The day then ended with a three-course meal and a chance to relax with a few glasses of wine.

The second day began with workshops on a wide range of subjects including how to succeed in fellowship applications, and how to carry out a systematic review. The event finished with a final talk on building a research career, before we had lunch and then headed back home. Overall, NIHR put on another excellent event – some great talks and workshops, a chance to catch up with fellow academics, and the opportunity to get away from normal working life for a couple of days. And the best bit about the conference – it was all free!
Philip Peacock, ACF, Paediatrics

The 5th Annual NIHR Trainee Meeting took place from the 19th to the 20th September 2011 at the Queens Hotel in Leeds, where I arrived with a cracked windscreen. The hotel staff were very efficient in helping the participants register, arrange car parking (and windscreen repair!), store our luggage, and check-in for accommodation.

The first day started with presentations by senior Academics, and the one by Prof Hywel Williams on “taking the lead” was one of the most inspiring ones I have ever attended. The day continued with a workshop by Ashbridge Consulting that made every trainee reflect on the multiple pressures we face as junior Academics. My impression was that the workshop was enjoyed a lot by some but not all participants, perhaps a reflection of different learning styles. In the evening, there was a nice evening meal where awards were given to the best posters. The quality of posters was very high, but I was surprised to see many basic science and fewer clinical or translational projects.

The second day was fantastic. After another presentation, there were several breakout sessions. I attended the two Systematic Review sessions, as they are relevant to my research portfolio, and they were both exceptional. I also discussed with participants who attended other breakout sessions, and they were also extremely pleased. Perhaps future trainee conferences could have a similar format for both days, not just the second one. Overall, well worth attending, particularly for ACFs or ACLs at the first year(s) of their appointment.

Dimitrios Siassakos, CL, Obs and Gynae

Clinical Academic Pathways: Opportunities and Future Directions - January 2011-Wednesday, 12th January 2011

41 Portland Place, London

This truly excellent seminar, which was held at the Academy of Medical Sciences' new headquarters in London, brought together a group of 80 research leaders and young clinical academics to hear about the future of funding in UK biomedical research.

In the first plenary session the Director General of Research and Development, and Interim Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department of Health and NHS, Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council (MRC), Professor Sir John Savill, and the Director of The Wellcome Trust, Professor Sir Mark Walport, gave a cohesive view of interdisciplinary health research in the UK. They all highlighted the many opportunities which have arisen from the funding generated in last year’s Comprehensive Spending Review, and there was a clear message that the Government are strongly backing healthcare research and see it as fundamental to the UK economy. It was heartening to hear such a consensus of optimism in a forum which gave a selected group of young clinician scientists direct access to the heads of the UK’s leading funders of basic, clinical and applied healthcare research.

This was followed by three interactive workshops with the leads of Research Career Award Funding for each of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), MRC and The Wellcome Trust. In these sessions delegates were given an on-the-ground insight into the allocation of funding awards, coupled with advice about navigating the grant application process and the benchmarks for success.

Finally, two pioneers of the commercial application of science, Nicholas La Thangue, Professor of Cancer Biology at the University of Oxford, and Sir Gregory Winter, Deputy Director MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, gave their personal accounts of successful interactions with industry and the various strategies for academics to take advantage of private sector opportunities to further their research goals.

The event ended with a drinks and networking session with Academy Fellows which underlined the role the Academy of Medical Sciences is now playing in the mentoring and support of the UK’s next generation of clinician scientists.

Richard Lee, CL in Ophthalmology

NIHR Trainee Conference - December 2010

The 4th NIHR Annual Trainee Conference took place in Manchester this year at the Midland Hotel from 30th November to 1st December. Despite the snowy weather most people managed to attend and it was definitely worth the effort!

We received keynote speeches from Dr Russell Hamilton (Department of Health) and Sir Iain Chalmers (Editor, James Lind Library). We also participated in breakout sessions according to our level of training in order to raise and discuss important issues and had the opportunity to meet other trainees within our specialties throughout the country. Everyone had been invited to submit abstracts and those selected presented their work during the evening poster session. We were both delighted to receive prizes for our work which were presented during the evening meal.

On Day 2 there was a session explaining the NIHR Leadership Course followed by a series of workshops (successful fellowship applications, systematic reviews, mentoring, managing self) of which we were able to select two. Kyla had been selected to play the part of a successful applicant (due to her excellent performance in her interview earlier in the year) and provided us all with some extremely useful tips for both the application form and interview stages of the fellowship selection process. The day concluded with an inspiring talk by Lester Firkins from the James Lind Alliance.

After a wonderful two days the only problem we encountered was our journey back from Manchester which, due to a combination of snowy conditions and broken down trains, lasted for 6 and a half hours. Thank goodness for the buffet car and good company!

Natalie Blencowe, ACF General Surgery and Kyla Thomas, ACF Public Health

NIHR Meeting - April 2010

It was an excellent event and I would strongly encourage others to attend. The meeting provided a forum for discussion of problems facing NIHR clinical lecturers nationally including securing funding (specifically covering the NIHR schemes which are much broader that I had been aware of), on-call and clinical commitments, future career paths and the mentor scheme run by the Academy of Medical Sciences. As well as the time for open discussion there were a number of excellent, informal presentations by academics at various levels including Dr Carsten Flohr, NIHR Clinician Scientist, Honorary Consultant Dermatologist, St Thomas' Hospital, and Professor Sallie Lamb, NIHR Senior Investigator, Chair of the HTA Clinical Evaluation and Trials Board, Director of Warwick Clinical Trials Unit, Professor of Rehabilitation, University of Warwick, who both gave plenty of time for questions as well. Bottom line - it's about hard work but there is funding out there. Those at the top aren't, in general, magicians. All this, an excellent meal, and a chance to catch up with a few familiar faces over a beer at the end to boot!

Ed Clarke, CL in Paediatrics