Equipping doctoral research students at King's College London to excel

Category: Training (Page 1 of 4)

Health Professional Researcher Profile: Ms Tootie Bueser

Ms Tootie (Teofila) Bueser

Ms Tootie (Teofila) Bueser, HEE/NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellow and PhD Student at King’s College London

In this blog post we introduce you to one of our Health Professional Researchers (HPRs) at King’s, Tootie (Teofila) Bueser:

Tootie, could you give us a brief summary of your route into a PhD, including previous research experience, and how this was funded?

I have always wanted to pursue a research career even as nursing undergraduate. As a nurse who trained in a different country (the Philippines), I did not find a supportive environment for this when I started working in the UK. It wasn’t until I was mentored five years down the line by a senior nurse and championed by a cardiology consultant to pursue an MSc that the pathway to a clinical academic career became a possibility for me. I was then nurtured and supported in the cardiovascular and genetics departments at King’s College Hospital and Guy’s & St Thomas’ Hospital which gave me a taster for conducting primary research. I was also becoming more advanced in my clinical practice as a cardiac genetics nurse and identifying gaps in care where evidence was sparse and where I felt I could make a difference. With the guidance of my academic supervisors at KCL, I was able to develop a successful application for the NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship.  

 What are your long-term ambitions for your clinical academic career? 

I have grand plans to set the standard for cardiac genetic nursing practice, have a research group of my own and forge international research collaborations focused on improving the care of patients and families affected by inherited cardiac conditions  maybe one day! I also want to inspire more nurses to pursue the clinical academic career pathway and be a good mentor for them. 

 What tips would you give to a clinician newly embarking on an out-of-programme research project, such as a PhD or MD(Res)? 

I think it is important to have a good balance of research and clinical time. As nurses, we are already qualified so it is key to focus on honing research skills during the PhD but we also need to keep in mind what we need to maintain, or if needed increase, our clinical skills and knowledge. Do not lose touch with your clinical team and set up a patient and public group to guide your research so you are always aware of what is important to patients. Be out there, meet a range of people from different research backgrounds who will not only enhance your academic experience but perhaps turn out to be great collaborators on future projects. On a practical note, get your ethics application in early!  

 What support has been most helpful to you in terms of navigating your clinical academic career to date? 

My academic supervisors have been great at supporting me through my PhD so choose well! It is also crucial that you get support from your clinical team/management as often as nurses, you must work with them to define your role post-PhD and how to make best use of your new skills. Also, find mentors outside your institution/profession as often they can be helpful in achieving your short-term goals and give you a broader view and opportunities for your clinical academic career 

Finally, I don’t think I could have survived this far without the support of my PhD peer group and we have helped each other navigate forms and regulations, I always have someone to lean on through all sorts of ups and downs and we cheer each other on with our successes. Doing a PhD can be quite isolating so having a peer group, alongside quality time with family and friends, counteracts this. 

 What is the most rewarding thing about being a Health Professional Researcher? 

I think being a clinical academic gives you a mindset where you are always actively looking for ways to improve patient care and I think as a nurse, I have a unique insight on how patients experience care and cope with their condition. I find it really rewarding to be able to work collaboratively with patients to design and conduct research that is pertinent to them and to be able to impact on their care more widely that goes beyond an individual consultation.  

Science Communication Fellowship at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

Blog post by Emily Prpa, PGR student in Diabetes & Nutritional Sciences

 

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology offer a range of different Fellowships to UK PhD students (in 2nd year or above) in biology and health sciences, energy and environment, physical and digital sciences, and social sciences. The Fellowships give students the chance to work with POST or other teams within Parliament, such as the House of Commons and House of Lords Libraries and the Select Committees. I carried out my 3-month POST Fellowship between September and December 2020, extending the final year of my PhD at King’s College London. Despite being part of the first intake of PhD students to participate in this scheme remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have still taken away invaluable knowledge, skills and lasting friendships.

I worked on a project researching the reformulation of food and drink products. This required me to scope the research area and conduct interviews with stakeholders in order to write a 4-page summary on the topic, known as a POSTnote. A POSTnote is an impartial, balanced and peer-reviewed analysis of new and emerging research evidence which is provided to the UK Parliament. As a POST Fellow you are immediately given a great deal of responsibility – within my first few weeks I was interviewing key stakeholders (from across academia, government, industry and the not-for-profit sector) and planning the first draft of the POSTnote. However, during my time at POST, I worked collaboratively with my supervisor, editing and redrafting the report to produce a balanced, impartial and succinct overview of the topic. The final draft was reviewed by POST scientific advisers, board members and interviewed stakeholders.

The finished POSTnote on food and drink reformulation to reduce sugar, salt and fat levels can be found here. In brief, food and drink reformulation is one tool used to promote healthier diets and reduce the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease. The POSTnote highlights that it is difficult to measure whether current UK policies encouraging product reformulation (voluntary and fiscal measures) have had a direct positive impact on public health. It also describes challenges and opportunities for reformulation such as product quality, industry engagement and consumer attitudes. Finally, it highlights that improving public health through better diet requires a number of complementary policy approaches alongside reformulation, including incentivising healthy food and creating a healthy food environment.

I am proud to be an author of this POSTnote. However, I came away from the Fellowship with so much more than this publication. Firstly, I learnt a unique style of written science communication – given that MPs and Peers are extremely busy, I crafted the skill of translating complex scientific information into concise lay terms. I was also exposed to the inner workings of Parliament and built important relationships with key stakeholders (such as Public Health England, the Food & Drink Federation and leading academic researchers). I delved into a novel and exciting topic of food science by using a range of resources including government reports, publications from the House of Commons and Lords libraries and grey literature – stepping out of my comfort zone by not solely relying on academic research.

I was worried that carrying out my Fellowship during the COVID-19 pandemic would affect the overall experience. However, I needn’t have worried. During my time at POST, I attended conferences on nutrition and policy, had a tour of Parliament and joined coffee breaks to meet other advisers and Fellows at POST – all virtual of course. The team at POST helped create a community between all the current Fellows and organised additional workshops for us, including a QnA session on policy careers.

I strongly encourage any PhD student to apply for this scheme. You can sign-up to the POST newsletter or follow @POST_UK on Twitter to stay updated on the Fellowship opportunities available at POST. These are also a great way to see newly approved POSTnote topics; if any are within your field of research, it is worth getting in touch with the lead adviser because your expertise could be valued.

 

Resources

Institute of Food Science and Technology Fellowship 2020/2021

Bridging research and policy – POST Parliament

POST Parliament resources

How to write a policy briefing

POST Parliament Fellowship

 

 

 

Health Professional Researcher Profile: Dr Sheila McSweeney

Dr Sheila McSweeney

Dr Sheila McSweeney, recent awardee of an NIHR MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship

Health Professional Researchers (HPRs) at King’s include medical doctors, dentists, nurses, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and members of the 14 allied health professions as outlined on this NHS England webpage, who are also currently engaged in a period of research training.

HPRs are also sometimes known as Clinical Academic Researchers, and this and related terms can refer to pre-doctoral, doctoral, and post-doctoral researchers on a clinical academic pathway at King’s.

In this blog post we introduce you to one of our Health Professional Researchers at King’s, Dr Sheila McSweeney:

Sheila, could you give us a summary of your route into a PhD, including your previous research experience, and how this was funded?

I undertook medical training in my home city in Ireland and was lucky to have opportunities to gain some basic research experience by undertaking laboratory-based projects at home and abroad.

I also took a year out of training to do an intercalated degree in immunology at King’s College London, which was not particularly common at that time.

These experiences gave me insights into clinical and academic medicine in different countries, and inspired me to remain active in both fields throughout my training.

Following graduation, I came to the UK and undertook training in internal medicine and dermatology. I then began to consider opportunities to further develop my research skills and ambitions.

I am very grateful to have received support from a BRC Clinical Fellowship, as this allowed me to take time out from clinical training and provided me with protected research time for 12 months to develop my research proposal and successfully apply for funding.

What are your long-term ambitions for your clinical academic career?

I hope to use my PhD to explore the pathogenesis of solar urticaria and provide insights that benefit patient care, as the currently available treatments are not particularly effective.

Thereafter, I will complete my clinical training and hope to build a post-doctoral research career exploring aspects of cutaneous allergy, including solar urticaria, other forms of physical urticaria, and contact allergy.

Ultimately, I aspire to work as both a clinician and an academic with my time divided between both aspects of medicine.

What tips would you give to a Health Professional who is starting an out-of-programme research project, such as a PhD or MD(Res)?

Perhaps I am being somewhat glib in saying this, but I think being organized is critical as you are master of your own time, while if I were to pick a second piece of advice, I would suggest that being resilient—even to the point of stubbornness—is so important. Everyone will inevitably experience setbacks and it is one’s response and persistence in the face of adversity that is most important.

What support has been most helpful to you in terms of navigating your clinical academic career to date?

Speaking to people who have blazed the trail before you: their experiences are invaluable, and you realise that research is accessible to all and that people will follow varied pathways into and through research.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a Health Professional Researcher?

I think the complementarity of clinical practice and academic research is the most rewarding aspect of being a Health Professional Researcher. Clinical practice inevitably raises unanswered questions, while academia provides you with the skills and tools to answer those questions.

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