Health professionals at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust will take the vital first steps in their academic career after receiving a research fellowship grant from Imperial Health Charity (IHC).
Since the programme was launched in 2009, IHC awarded more than £5 million to support over 100 research fellowship projects. Many previous fellows have seen their research leading to positive changes at the Trust, helping to drive forward improvements to patient care at the hospitals.
This year IHC awarded five pre-doctoral fellowships and one post-doctoral fellowship, jointly funded by the NIHR Imperial BRC, offering a unique opportunity for staff to develop their research skills and take forward their own project. Each fellow would receive up to £85,000 to progress their research project over the next 12 months.
The projects funded this year cover a range of different fields, including an initiative to improve nutrition for patients admitted to critical care following major trauma and a study investigating the use of auditory-visual aids to reduce delirium in ICU patients after heart surgery.
The IHC fellowships enable staff to take time out from their professional role and focus solely on research, in many cases laying the foundations to progress to a PhD project.
“The fellowships funded by IHC and the BRC are a great opportunity for anyone who wants to take time out of their clinical role to explore whether research is the right path for them,” said Dr Caroline Alexander, Lead Clinical Academic for Therapies at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and a member of our Research Fellowships committee.
“The chance to take a year out to focus on research acts as a springboard for our fellows to further their career while driving forward a project that will lead to better care for patients at our hospitals.”
CASE STUDY 1- Sugha Murugesu
Sugha, an Obstetrics and Gynaecology Specialist Registrar, is among those who will receive a fellowship to support her research project this year.
Her project aims to help women who have been diagnosed with a miscarriage make informed decisions about their care using a new AI tool. Sugha will apply machine learning to develop and test the application, which will create personalised statistics for each patient to help guide their decisions around miscarriage management. The aim is to optimise the pathway for these women during this traumatising time.
The project will also include a pilot study using radiomics to identify predictors of miscarriage at 12 weeks from earlier ultrasound images.
“I’m really excited to carry out this research,” said Sugha, who is based at Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital and has worked at the Trust for the last two years. “It will give me that dedicated time away from my clinical commitments to devote myself fully to research.
“It’s a very competitive field, but I would love to develop my career path to involve research and improve clinical practice for the future.”
CASE STUDY 2- Layla Bolton
After receiving a fellowship in 2019, Layla recently completed her research project examining the barriers preventing some patients with venous leg ulcers from being referred for specialist care. These painful ulcers are open sores on the leg which can take more than a month to heal and are usually caused by problems with circulation.
Layla’s work helped to identify the main barriers that get in the way of some patients receiving timely care in the hospital and as part of her NIHR clinical doctoral fellowship, she’s now working with national wound care experts to address these issues and ensure patients receive the best possible support.
Completing her fellowship served as a springboard for Layla to pursue further study, and she has recently been appointed to the Chief Nursing Officer’s National Shared Decision-Making Council for Research as a deputy chair.
“I really enjoyed having the freedom to pursue a research project that’s important to me as a nurse and important to my patients as well” Layla said.
“A lot of the time nursing priorities are not highlighted and not researched, but the fellowship gave me the opportunity to fix a problem that’s going to be massively impactful for my patients.”
If you’re a member of staff at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust with a passion for research, you may be eligible to apply for our Research Fellowships programme. Applications open in October 2023 for our next funding round. You can find out more at imperialcharity.org.uk/research