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

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Health Professional Researcher Profile: Dr Graham Blackman

Dr Graham Blackman

Dr Graham Blackman, 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, Dr Graham Blackman:

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

I originally studied psychology at University before deciding to complete a graduate entry medicine degree. Prior to studying medicine, I had a couple of years of research experience under my belt which was really helpful in getting a flavour of what it was all about. Prior to taking time out of clinical training to complete a PhD, I was an academic clinical fellow (ACF) on the Maudsley Training Programme which provided 25% protected research time. I’ve long considered a career in research, so taking time out of clinical training when the opportunity arose felt natural. 

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

After completing my PhD, I will be returning to clinical practice to complete my training and gain my Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT). I hope to continue having some protected research time during the rest of my clinical training to further several clinical studies that I’m involved in which look at improving clinical care in patients suffering with psychosis. Ultimately, my long-term ambition is to be able to balance a career as a clinician and academic. 

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

My main advice would be to gain research experience as early as possible. The time frame to conceive, plan, execute and publish a study is quite considerable and therefore careful planning is necessary. The other piece of advice I would give a budding clinical academic would be to seek out opportunities to work alongside a research team with a track record of securing grantand publishing in high impact journals 

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

In terms of formal support, being a clinical academic within the Maudsley and IoPPN has been hugely beneficial in providing the infrastructure, training, and support to navigate a rewarding, yet challenging career path. For example, through the ACF programme I was enrolled in a postgraduate certificate in clinical research, had protected research time, and dedicated training days. Informal support has also been critical – particularly in the form of advice and mentoring from other trainees, as well as more senior colleagues. 

 What is the most rewarding thing about being a clinical academic researcher? 

This is entirely personal, but in my case it’s the opportunity to continue to learn and challenge myself – there are so many facets to research, from generating research ideas, to managing a project through to completion, to analysing the data and disseminating the results. Furthermore, the chancof making a contribution towards improving care in patients suffering a serious mental disorder is a huge privilegeFinally, my experience in clinical research has really helped improve me as a psychiatrist by gaining a much deeper understanding of the disorders I see on the wards and in clinic. 

PhDeets Podcast – Talking about all things PhD

Blog post by Carolin Oetzmann, Katie White & Nicol Bergou.

The PhD Journey can be a turbulent one – from finding the right program to navigating supervisor struggles, and all the madness in between! PhDeets is a podcast aimed at current and prospective PhD students to share experiences and help those trying to figure it out.

About the hosts

Carolin

We are three researchers working and studying at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.  Each of us are in a different stage of our PhD journey. Katie is in her second year of a part-time PhD, alongside a research assistant role. Nicol is in her first year of a 1+3 programme funded by the Medical Research Council. Carolin is due to start her MRC funded PhD in September 2021, after contemplating whether doing a PhD was the right next step for her.

 

 

Nicol

All three of us are the first in our families to do a PhD and we struggled to make sense of the different PhD programmes, funding options, application processes, career pathways and other things that are difficult to figure out without having a friend or relative who can answer your questions along the way. There is information online, but we wanted to create a platform where diverse student voices could be heard. Being avid podcast listeners, we decided to start a podcast ourselves.

 

 

 

Katie

About PhDeets

PhDeets is the podcast we wish we had when we were applying for our PhDs. Its target audience is current PhD students at all stages, as well as people who are deciding whether or not to apply, or those currently going through the ups and downs of the application process. We interview current PhD students, postdocs, lecturers, professors, people who left academia during or after their PhDs, those who are recruiting people with PhDs into industry positions, career advisers and really anyone who has any useful insights into the academic journey.

 

Previous episodes

We use our experiences to inform the topics we cover, but we also reach out to people to ask what topics they’d like to hear about. Some of our previous episodes are:

  • Neurodiversity at university – Panel discussion of neurodivergent researchers Claire, Katrina and Sheila about what being neurodivergent means to them, how it impacts their university life, what support they find helpful, diagnosis and labels, and more.
  • Luke’s journey to becoming a lecturer – We interviewed Luke Devereux, a lecturer at Middlesex University about his journey from PhD to becoming a lecturer, changing topics between undergrad ad postgrad, getting teaching experience, and balancing teaching and research responsibilities.
  • More than one way to do a PhD – Another panel discussion with PhD students Jaya, Shaheim, Victoria and Fiyory about the differences and similarities between their PhD programmes, including a partnership with the industry, self-funded PhD, 1+3 programmes, student versus supervisor driven applications, our reasons for doing a PhD, and applying for funding as an international student in the UK.

 

If you’d like to propose a topic for a future episode, or get in touch about anything to do with the podcast, you can message us on Twitter @PhDeets_podcast or you can email us at podcast@phdeets.com

 

 

 

You can find the podcast on our website phdeets.com or wherever you get your podcast.

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.  

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