Podcast – Being a research active clinician

Hosted by Piers Kotting

Reading Time: 29 minutes

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This week our panel of NHS clinicians are in the studio to discuss their stories of becoming ‘research active’. With advise for others and details on how they are now working to support and encourage others on the front line of NHS care.

As the NIHR in the UK, and research bodies in other countries work to encourage more clinical staff to become research active. This podcast provides information for clinicians from all professions and backgrounds, hoping to inspire the next generation of Principle Investigators.

Piers Kotting is back in the hot seat with Dr Sylvie Halsey and Dr Zoe Clough from the Wessex Deanery and Dr Leonidas Chouliaras from the University of Cambridge and Cambridgeshire & Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust.

We are now hosting a bi-weekly WhatsApp discussion (the week after each new podcast is released) which includes panellists from this podcast. To talk to them, ask questions and to chat about this topic with the rest of our community join our WhatAapp group.

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Click here to read a full transcript of this podcast

Voice Over – Welcome to the NIHR dementia researcher podcast brought to you by dementiaresearcher.nihr.ac.uk in association with Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society, supporting early career dementia researchers across the world.

Piers: Hello I’m Piers Kotting and I’m pleased to be back in the hot seat hosting today’s podcast for NIHR dementia researcher. Today I’m joined by three clinicians who are here to share their stories of how they’ve become involved in dementia research and what it means in real terms, plus I think they’re hoping to make a case to persuade others who are working with people with dementia to become actively involved in research. All three of our panelists are early career researcher representatives for the UK’s National Institute for Health Research specialty group for Dementia and Neurodegeneration, so hopefully we’ll hear a little bit about that. So, hello and welcome to Dr Sylvie Halsey, Dr Zoe Clough, and Dr Leo Chouliaras.

All: Hello

Piers: So, before we begin can I ask you just to introduce yourselves, and tell us a bit about where you’re from, So Sylvie, maybe you could go first?

Sylvie: Sure, so hi, my name is Sylvie Halsey I’m currently working as a specialty registrar in old age psychiatry and I live in Southampton, so at the moment I work most of my week in the New Forest in a community mental health team for older patients, one day a week doing research and that’s at the memory assessment and research centre in Southampton, known as MARC, so there I’m a sub-investigator for various trials in dementia and more recently become a PI, so a Principal Investigator as well.

Piers: Thank you very much.

Zoe: So I’m Zoe, I’m a specialty registrar in old age psychiatry down in the Wessex Deanery as well, so near Sylvie, I live between Southampton and Portsmouth and I’m currently working in Basingstoke in a clinical role on old age and psychiatry patient ward and I spend a day a week at the memory assessment and research centre in Southampton also doing some dementia research.

Leo: And I’m Leo Chouliaras, I work as a clinical lecturer in old age psychiatry at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge and the specialty registrar in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust so I split my time between Addenbrooke’s Hospital and Fulborough Hospital.

Piers: Brilliant, thank you very much indeed. So I ‘m really pleased that we’re discussing this today as it is something that I’ve had a keen interest in the last 15 years in the National Institute for Health Research, and I realise much of what we’re going to talk about is focused on the systems here in the UK, but I know that other countries are working hard to drive the same sort of changes in getting clinicians involved in research, so hopefully this’ll be of interest of listeners from other countries too. It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that there are opportunities for people from overseas to come and study or work here in the UK, so we’ll try and post some useful links on our website when we post this podcast. Now, I know all of you have a medical background but I think it might be nice to hear a little bit about your back stories and particularly thinking about how you got from being a clinician to getting involved in research.

Sylvie: So I essentially had a very enthusiastic supervisor when I was coming to the end of my core training in psychiatry, so when you go into higher training you have one day a week that you can use as a special interest day, so researching for example could be used in that time, I didn’t really know what to do with my special interest day at the time and this supervisor who’s a consultant psychiatrist suggested checking out the local memory research centre, which I did, so I went and did some shadowing, had a look around, found out what the work was like and that kind of evolved into me doing a bit more shadowing, having an induction and then they supported me to do some training to get started working in research so things like GCP training, good clinical practice, with the NIHR and then various different training depending on the study I was going to be working on. And yeah, I started doing that in my special interest day once I started higher training so I’m very much doing that alongside my kind of usual clinical role.

Piers: And the trust supports that and allows that time?

Sylvie: Yeah, yeah, very much so, so the amount of time you get as special interest does depend on whether you’re full time, so you get one day a week if you are full time, if you’re 80% you might get one day a week for three weeks out of the month for example so you can negotiate depending what fits.

Piers: Ok, that all makes sense. Zoe?

Zoe: So I suppose I started to become interested in dementia research when I was a medical student, my grandmother sadly had dementia and so I had this experience of seeing it in my own family, what that condition can do to people and seeing my grandad trying to care for her and, and how hard that was for him at times and that really sparked my interest in this area, so as a medical student I did a little research project looking at dementia with Lewy Bodies and I found it really interesting, I liked the kind of scientific aspect of it and also just started to meet these fantastic patients and carers who were volunteering to take part in studies and just thought were fantastic group of people to be working with. So I then went into psychiatry training and I applied for an academic clinical fellow post in old age psychiatry which gave me sort of 9 months of research time in my first three years in psychiatry training and, and that gave me a bit more time to have a taste of research really. Which I did a bit of, a project in mild cognitive impairment and I, again I enjoyed that, I’ve now gone into higher training in old age psychiatry and I’m spending a day a week doing more of the clinical trials at the memory assessment and research centre so again I’ve been trained in GCP etc and I’ve been working as a sub investigator on some commercial trials and just taken on my first PI role and non-commercial trial as well and I’m hoping to do a PhD at some point in the future.

Leo: My path was a little different, so I came from Greece originally when I finished medical school I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do but I knew I was very interested neurosciences and the brain so I moved to the Netherlands and I took up a PhD post studying basic neurosciences and there I got interested into what, how the brain works and what really happens in people who get dementias so I studied the epigenetic aspect of that in aging and Alzheimer’s Disease. And after that I decided that I wanted to go back to clinical practice train in psychiatry and I benefited from the NIHR opportunities, I went for a ACF post in Oxford and then there was an opportunity for an NIHR clinical lecturer post in Cambridge and I went for it, and I now work in Cambridge with John O’Brien studying Lewy Body dementia and my focus is on epigenetic mechanisms in Lewy Body dementia. So I spend half of my time doing research and half of my time doing clinical work as registrar.

Piers: Ok, that makes sense. So maybe just to ask Sylvie and Zoe, it’s interesting, you’re both very similar stages coming through a higher training, what proportion of your sort of contemporaries, in your training programme are doing the same sort of thing, spending that day a week on research, is that a very common choice or what are the other choices that people make to do with that time?

Zoe: I think it is becoming increasingly common, fortunately in our areas we’ve had a lot of people showing an interest recently actually, so I would day probably a third of trainees?

Sylvie: Yeah, we’ve had a bit of an influx you’re right, which is really nice.

Zoe: Which is great, I think sometimes people use their sessions medical education and masters or some people have, will just spend time with geriatricians getting some more physical healthcare updates and things like that or if they’ve got particular interest in imaging or something like that they might use that time to do that, but certainly we’ve had more interest and I think that’s because we’re making a programme that is a bit more structured and supportive of trainees and sort of trying to get people involved bit earlier. And to show them that there are some really good benefits in taking part in research.

Piers: We’ll come back to the benefits but Sylvie, I’m interested in so, you’ve clearly you’ve mentioned supervisors and sort of mentors, people taking through into the research process, I know some of the guys down in Southampton, worked with them previously. How important, not how important is that supervision, but how does flow across to other clinicians, so post-trainees, so consultants in the service in the memory clinics and in the CMH teams, what sort of, is there broad acceptance that the trainees are out there spending their time on research or is research seen as a sort of rarefied specialised activity of a few of the consultants in the service?

Sylvie: I think, similar to what Zoe was saying, I think it is changing and it is becoming more accepted the more we talk about it and spread the word essentially, I think from my point of view, before I started doing research I had absolutely no experience for whatsoever and didn’t think it was necessarily for me, that I would be suitable or have the kind of qualifications, because I haven’t gone down an academic route, so I’m hoping by kind of encouraging other people that you don’t necessarily have to do that, you can go in and be supported to get some training and do it on a kind of part-time basis as special interest, it can look more easily, you can fit it in to your job a lot more easily and it will become more widely accepted I hope.

Piers: Do you see, I guess to all of you, as, as trainees, do you see your consultant colleagues also taking these steps and stepping into research or do you think this is your experience and the types of route into research are very specific to early career researchers in this sense.

Zoe: Well my experience is that there are a few consultants in our trust who actively work in research and most of them don’t and I think that there probably isn’t that much involvement of the consultants actually to be honest, I think people feel like, I don’t know, when they get into consultant job it can be more difficult sometimes to have the time to come and do that bit of training or to go somewhere new and feel like I’m a consultant I should know what I’m doing which you might not do initially! So I think, it’s been really good to have, you know, to try and encourage people to do during their training because then hopefully we will become consultants who already have that experience. But also, you know, there’s no reason why new consultants can’t join in [laughing]. But yeah, I think it is, it’s a bit mixed, I think a lot of people have never really thought about doing it.

Piers: It’s interesting, my last experience in a clinical job working at a CMHT ran right alongside one of the big research centres in London, was very much our sort of modus operandi not to particularly refer our patients through to the studies that were happening at that centre because there was a sense that there was just a burden on the CMHT, and people went into research they got the research piece done but the fallout then came back other CMHT team. Is that? I mean, this is 15 years ago or so, but I mean is that still your experience or do you find the CMHTs more broadly or the other teams around, more broadly supportive of efforts?

Sylvie: I think it is quite variable depending on the CMHT, I don’t know if you guys would agree?

Leo: I think I work with the local clinical research networks, I think the CMHTs are making research and referring patients to research studies as part of the routine clinical work. For example, one someone gets diagnosed particularly with dementia we have the post-diagnostic support session and talking about research along other things signing up people to Join Dementia Research or getting their details is part of the routine nowadays, and I think it is a really important for dementia because we don’t have any disease modifying treatments at the moment, only way to find them is by recruiting patients in research and in studies, so we can, we can work towards that.

Piers: So your feeling is that in Cambridge that, the role of talking about research to patients and signing people up to Join Dementia Research has been sort of distributed amongst the team, not just the research active?

Leo: It is certainly, we’re doing a lot of work on that, we’re trying very hard to get research embedded in, in the, in the clinics they spend time in, in memory clinics informing people, giving all of the materials and also reminding the clinics that they are there and they can refer people to research and how important that is and I think, as long as we keep doing that people will, it will be embedded.

Piers: So Zoe you mentioned benefits, so this might be the most the moment, as in if you’re faced with a team member of a consultant colleague who’s a little bit sceptical about research and the benefits, how do you, how do you sell the benefits of research both from a clinician and a patient perspective?

Zoe: I think, I think actually educating people about that will really help to get more referrals through, certainly when I worked in a CMHT recently, you know, everyone’s busy, there’s a lot of time pressure and I think sometimes that question about ‘would you be interested in taking part in research’ almost doesn’t become a priority to the clinician at that time. But I think there are huge benefits for patients, I mean some of the patients that you might see in a memory clinic, certainly in our service if you have a mild cognitive impairment diagnosis then the service is not actually commissioned to follow those people up but if they come into that research project then they kind of do get that follow up as part of being in project and so people like that they get a lot of psychosocial support from being part of studies and also I think it gives the patients and the carers and you as a clinician a kind of sense of hope that things might improve and that you each might be able to contribute in some way to finding a cure or helping in some way to treating dementia in the future and I think that message is really important to get out there because why wouldn’t you refer somebody and actually you could argue, everyone should have that opportunity.

Piers: What’s the biggest barrier you face, because we know that not everyone does refer, so what’s the sort of most common objection?

Leo: I’d say time, people need to go through what it takes getting involved in research means, how much commitment it will take and sometimes, time, time is getting less and less, there are a lot of things we have to do and I think that is the most.

Piers: Do you feel, do you feel that clinicians, I mean that broadly, I mean people that come into contact with patients and the whole sort of clinical pathway, might just not feel confident about talking about research and that that sort of I guess a training need or a general need education need, is that a, if you asked, you know, most jobbing clinicians who don’t get involved in research would, would that be a barrier, I mean are people generally just a little bit nervous about what they might get asked or what they might not know?

Zoe: I think it depends on you as a clinician, so I think some people are quite happy to just say, you know, I don’t know all the ins and outs of every trial that’s running and I don’t know if you’ll be suitable but if you like the idea of it then I can pass your details on and the research team can contact you to discuss it further. I think that’s all that’s really needed. Some clinicians have just have a higher threshold, they want to know everything about every trial before they discuss that with patients and I think there you could argue, you do need, you know, there will be a gap in knowledge, but I don’t think you actually need to have that level of information really to sow the seed of being involved in a research study for a patient so it doesn’t actually take as long as you think it might.

Piers: No, no that feels absolutely right and sometimes I wonder whether, it’s all almost not necessarily the clinicians or the senior clinicians who maybe should be asking that question because there is an assumed knowledge between the patient and the clinician which maybe if you’re discussing that with a more junior member of staff whether that presumed knowledge isn’t there that you’d feel uncomfortable. I don’t know if you have any experience of services where, where that, that interaction with the patient and the research actually happens at the front desk as it were, as early as possible or is it always a clinician to patient conversation?

Leo: I suppose it has to be clinician to patient conversation because participating in research is voluntary and we need to get the consent from people that will be sharing their details with their research who will accessing their records and I find that the, once the patient gets to know the clinician and gets to trust them and understand what is really, it’s all about then it’s much easier to recruit them to studies. But I mean, I’m interested to hear different views really.

Sylvie: We don’t, in our area, have research nurses sitting in on clinics, I think, did you say that?

Leo: We’re trying to do that as well, yeah.

Sylvie: I’ve seen it put on the bottom of letters recently – if you are interested please contact this number, but I agree, it’s, it’s gonna be effective and feel nicer to have that conversation personally with the patient absolutely.

Piers: But then it, that comes to the point of not every clinician can know every study, so, so you can, I absolutely take your point Leo, that recruiting to an individual study then there’s, you know, a very lot of knowledge to pass across and if you’re consenting someone then clearly, clearly there’s a lot of GCP and governance and all those things to be put in place but having that initial conversation and signposting as I think Zoe was talking about. So you guys all have NIHR roles, is that? National Institute for Health Research sort of formal roles, you sit on the specialty group.

Zoe: Yes so, Leo and I have recently become sort of the early career researcher representatives to the NIHR specialty group for dementia.

Piers: So that might not mean much if you’re listening from the US but if you’re up in Northamptonshire, what does that mean to jobbing clinicians?

Leo: I can answer this, my post for example is an NIHR clinical lectureship post meaning that I have the time to spend half of my time doing research and half of my time doing clinical work. The research time is funded by the NIHR so it is an opportunity really that I have to spend more time doing research.

Piers: So that’s an open programme that you applied for?

Leo: Exactly, so then I, what we call integrated clinical academic pathway that has a certain number of posts where clinicians who have an interest in research can spend part of their training doing research as Zoe said earlier, the first part of the training is usually one day a week and later on during the training to become psychiatrist or a neurologist or a geriatrician you can spend up to half of your time doing relevant studies and research studies.

Piers: Before we come on to the specialty group, just wanted to ask, so you have a PhD Leo – how, how important do you think that is in terms of pursuing a research career, because I know both of you, Zoe and Sylvie don’t have PhDs, that’s right isn’t it?

Leo: Well, there’s certainly some benefits to it, but it’s not necessary for everyone to do it. And if people are interested in basic research working in labs and doing some more biological studying biological mechanisms, yes it is important to do research and get the skills that are required for that and also someone wants to develop their own ideas and start their own research projects. Having a PhD will help with that. On the other side, when people are interested to take part in clinical studies and recruit patients to studies, assess them as part of trials, using their medical and clinical skills is not necessary at all to have a PhD for that aspect.

Piers: And Sylvie, Zoe, that’s your experience in a sense, you’re doing that work and you mentioned Zoe you hope maybe to do a PhD?

Zoe: Yeah, so I guess I’ve, just sort of a bit earlier on in my career than Leo is so I did have the academic clinical post which is kind of designed to help you potentially apply for a PhD. I have actually applied to do a PhD but I haven’t done it yet – watch this space. But I, it depends what you want to do, I don’t think it’s essential, and I think Sylvie you’d agree?

Sylvie: Yes so I’m carrying on my training to become a consultant psychiatrist in old age and it’s just something I feel very much complements that, my research role rather than going down the academic route, it just helps me in lots of ways that I think skills-wise I’ve noticed quite a lot of benefits, diagnostically I was going to mention I think those skills have improved probably because you, you end up seeing a lot of patients from the point of view of they’ve mostly been diagnosed already maybe a couple of years ago for example and you get that picture of how they were diagnosed, what the symptoms were like and perhaps in more rare types of dementia you’re going to see a few more people with unusual types close together, whereas I probably wouldn’t get that from my normal clinical practice as much so you’re kind of learning symptom patterns.

Piers: That’s really interesting, so that’s a really good message about, not necessary to early career researchers but the broader, the broader clinical community isn’t it, I think the PhD message is really important, you don’t have to go down that route this isn’t necessary, when we talk about research it’s not about necessarily becoming an academic at all, you know, the benefit to your own clinical practice that you’ll take through your career even if you don’t carry on being a researcher. So back to the specialty groups, so, so, so the National Institute for Health Research has a national specialty group that brings together a researchers or research-active clinicians from across the country, what’s the group do?

Zoe: So yes we’ve only joined this group middle of last year so we’re, it’s a learning process [laughing] but it essentially, so the NIHR has these sort of a clinical research network and there are 15 different local clinical research networks and in each of those they have a sort of specialty lead for each type of area of research so there is one for dementia and neurodegeneration and the national specialty group kind of gets together those lead researchers from all the different places across the country to meet together we have two face to face meetings a year and two teleconferences a year. And it’s, there’s a variety of things so there’s some sort of national strategic leadership about dementia research in the country and recently their big drive has been to increase the numbers of early career researchers in fact [laughing]…

Piers: By two at least.

Zoe: By two at least, so Leo and I have joined that group as early career researcher representatives to kind of give the point of view of what it is like to be an early career researcher and try to think how we might encourage other people to do the same which is partly why we are here today. And then they also look at things like, they’ll look at dementia studies that are on the NIHR portfolio and see how different sites are managing to recruit to these studies and there’s a lot of sharing of information and networking things like that.

Piers: Can I just check, the call to action to the listeners there as it were, so are you, is there an opportunity for early career researchers to join that group or become involved with that group? No?

Zoe: No [laughing], well, not until we leave [laughing].

Leo: There is the opportunity to get involved with the local networks and be part of the local studies. Most of the studies are multicentre so they are run across the different networks and we do need people to help out with the ongoing studies, help recruit patients but also be part of the study teams and that’s where we…

Zoe: So it is more about trying to, we’re trying to recruit more early career researchers into dementia research throughout the country working in the local centres rather than to join our group if you see what I mean. So that’s the drive and that’s what we’re trying to sort of spread the word about how people can do that.

Piers: So let’s assume we’re really successful and there’s lots of people who are listening to this in that target audience, what is out there, so you’ve mentioned the local networks, what other organisations, what sort of infrastructure is there for someone who’s interested in becoming involved in research? A clinician?

Zoe: So I think, I think the NIHR is the first port of call really, so I think that’s the best place to start. If you don’t know anything and you think I don’t even know what’s happening locally I would suggest you contact your, your local CRN and find out who is your lead for the dementias group and, and just get in touch with them because there will be something in all areas of the country, there is research activity everywhere, it’s just finding out what’s happening locally. You will be given a warm welcome, I’m sure [laughing]. I mean, you might want to start with just people you know in your trust, clinical educational supervisors, there’s contacting your R and D department, might help. Some places have links with their local university and that might be a way of finding out about things as well.

Piers: Now, I’m aware that this conversation has been very medically driven at the moment, I’m mean you’re all three doctors. Sylvie, how is important do you think this is that this message not just going to doctors but other members of the team, and other occupational therapists, psychologists, others, nurses obviously.

Sylvie: Well really important because like any of the team in the NHS or health and social care we’re very much multidisciplinary, we wouldn’t be able to function I suppose without our research nurses, research assistants, pharmacists, pharmacy techs all sorts. So it’s really important and I suppose what I take from that is, when I go back for, go back to my community team in the week I like to try and talk about what I’m doing at research and my own positive experiences to other colleagues in my team. And we often do things like update at MDT and talk about studies we’ve got coming out and people that are coming through our team in training as well, I think it’s important to mention research as a career option to kind of get people a bit more interested, so they can look into it more.

Piers: Leo in Cambridge, your experience, is it a fairly medically driven research endeavor or is it fairly multidisciplinary.

Leo: It is actually multidisciplinary, we have a lot of nurses who lead the local research unit and run a lot of the studies so they are very valuable. As clinical work as Sylvie said, in a multidisciplinary team – we need all of the different professions. A lot of the studies are looking into how to improve dementia care for example and that’s really where we need occupational therapists and nurses but also as part of their, a lot of their assessments we do is important we have their multidisciplinary team and not just the doctors.

Piers: And do you have a sense of, particularly Sylvie and Zoe’s experience in terms of being trainees with a protected day, do we think that other professions get that type of support or is that one of the reasons it’s, it is accessible to medical professions and maybe less accessible and more difficult for an occupational therapist for example?

Leo: It is certainly more difficult because they don’t have the protected time at least as far as I know to do that but they can do obviously recruit patients as part of their routine clinical work and that’s a drive within their NHS trusts but there are also a lot of academic posts for research nurses, research occupational therapists to have a slight, a slight turn in their career.

Zoe: Yeah, and I think in a way it is easier as a, as a doctor because you have this long period of training and sort of, once you’ve qualified and that gives us these kind of opportunities but you know, we’ve certainly had nurses on secondment to our research centres so people who have shown an interest have been able to have that opportunity before sort of taking the leap of actually maybe wanting to work there full time and certainly one of our, I know in the community mental health team I worked the most active person in referring patients was our memory nurse and it wasn’t a doctor at all. So, you know, it’s really important that everyone seeing patients and actually often other professionals would be better placed as we discussed earlier to be, to have those discussions.

Piers: So how do you think, I mean, listening to this it sounds like you all clearly because you are involved in research, get a lot of out of it personally. How can we get that message out? I mean, how do we attract more people, which I guess is why we’re here talking about this, how do we attract more clinicians to get more actively involved in research?

Zoe: The million dollar question! I think, I think, there’s, there’s a couple of ways. I think for me one of the things that really speaks most is hearing patients’ experiences of being part of research and I think when you, when you read some of the sort of articles that people have written or watch a recording of a patient that has been involved in research and seeing how much that has benefitted them and that sense of I know I am in a really bad situation and I had this diagnosis that I don’t want but I’m choosing to do something positive with that, I think that is a really compelling to want to be involved and also I think we’ve all had that sense of being in a memory clinic maybe and, and feeling I wish there was more I could offer this person and I wish there was, you know, I disease modifying treatment that I could say I can give to you and that’s only going to change by being involved in research so I think just getting that message out there might help.

Sylvie: Yeah, one thing that I think that put me off it a little bit when I didn’t know much about it, which I was wrong about, I see myself as quite a fluffy doctor and I think I thought of research as cold and clinical and maybe I wouldn’t be suited to that, and it’s really not, kind of the reasons you’ve just been saying, you can offer people hope working in it and that’s really satisfying and you spend a lot of time with patients really finding out about what’s going on with them. And I, and I always wanted to spend more time with people talking about it, really getting to the root of things, and I quite like being thorough and detailed and it’s very much that sort of work. You build up relationships with people, if someone’s in a trial for two years for example you’re seeing maybe them and their partner over that time so there’s a really nice, more human side that I didn’t realise. So I think it would be quite nice to talk about that a little bit more for people that don’t really know what it’s like.

Leo: I suppose coming back to what Zoe said, it is important research, not something separate that we just do on the side, it is part of our work and if we want to improve the current care, the current things we offer within the NHS, by doing more research and by trying to find a disease modifying treatment for dementia but also to improve how we deliver care for dementia, how we assess people, and how we do that in timely manner and all of those things are part of research and, is why we do research.

Piers: That’s really interesting, I think you’ve all brought out lots of, you know, a very rich picture of what there is to, to benefit you as individuals, you as clinicians and clearly your patients as well. So I think we’re sort of coming to the end of the podcast, so I will ask you to have a think about anything else you would like to add, or any calls to actions to our listeners.

Zoe: I would just say don’t be frightened, and don’t feel intimidated, I think sometimes there’s a sense of these rather austere academics sitting in some sort of ivory tower somewhere, I don’t think that is what the reality is. I think we’ve tried to get across that you can choose to go down that path for yourself and that’s great but you don’t have to and you can still be research active and actually there are so many benefits for both our patients, the carers and ourselves as clinicians. So just try and find out what’s happening locally and, and, and see if it’s something you could be involved in. At least sign your patients up [laughing].

Piers / Zoe: To Join Dementia Research!

Sylvie: I think you’ve articulated that much better than I was going to say it. So even if you don’t feel it’s right for you, as you say you can find out more about what’s going in your area and it doesn’t have to be hard to refer to your patients to a study, you can as you said just say this what’s going on if you’d like to find out more can I put your name on this list or ask for you to be contacted and that’s all it takes and people, you know, potentially can have some really positive experiences by taking part in research.

Leo: And it’s really fun really being part of research studies, seeing patients coming through, recruiting them, analysing results, it is very rewarding, it’s very intellectually stimulating and it’s very important.

Piers: So, do you think, would it be fair to say, I mean, we’re all probably singing from the same hymn sheet, but is it acceptable for, for clinicians not to be involved in research?

Zoe: I think, I think we live in the real world and I think we all know the clinical pressures and I’ve certainly had days at work where even, even being someone who’s really interested in research and even being someone that really wants and feels strongly about wanting to recruit I have forgotten to have that discussion with patients when we’re pressurised. Is that acceptable? It’s not ideal. I think it is reality sometimes but I, I think it’s something we should all be striving for.

Leo: And on the other hand we can’t force people to be involved in research if people, people have to have the interest and the motivation.

Piers: Yeah, I think also depends on the patient that’s in front of you and what’s happening in their lives and their sort of pathway of their disease so. Fantastic, that’s really, really interesting. So I believe there’s more opportunities for people to hear from you, Zoe you’re writing a blog?

Zoe: Yeah, that’s right, so I’m writing an article for the dementia researcher website with more of the same of this of what we’ve talked about today and some useful links so that’ll be appearing soon.

Piers: Fantastic, and Leo, I believe you’re off to talk at the Royal College of Psychiatrists?

Leo: Yes, Zoe and I are talking about how to get involved in research at the trainee conference part of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Piers: Fantastic, so when’s that?

Leo: The 20th March.

Piers: 20th March, ok , fantastic. Which means Sylvie, that means you’ve got to sign up for something extra as well [laughing].

Well, thank you very much indeed all three of you.

If any of our listeners have anything to add on the topic then please do post your comments on our website or drop us a line on twitter using the hashtag #ECRDementia. On our website you’ll also find a transcript of this podcast, so please do tell any colleagues who may not be able to listen. We’ll also ensure that we include any links to some of the information and resources that we have talked about in the podcast on the website so that if you know anyone that might need help please point them in that direction.

If you’ve any questions, we also have a busy WhatsApp community group, are you guys involved in WhatsApp community group?

Zoe: We will be [laughing].

Piers: I can tell you, we host a fortnightly themed discussion to talk about the topics that we’ve had on the podcast so hopefully you guys or one or two of you will be joining us in a fortnight’s time and details of how to join can be found on the website.

So we look forward to chatting about this some more then. Oh sorry, in a week’s time, not a fortnight’s time, and we hope that you’ll join us then.

Finally, please remember to like, please do, it’s really valuable for us and helps us get more listeners so to like, subscribe, and leave a review of this podcast through our website, through iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Podbean and Soundcloud and all other places that you find podcasts.

Thank you!

Voice Over – Brought to you dementiaresearcher.nihr.ac.uk. In association with Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society. Supporting early career dementia researchers across the world.


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Comments 2

  1. gemma.roberts

    Really interesting podcast, thank you. I did feel though that it was a bit unrepresentative having all three as old-age psychiatrists, from the whole diverse pool of clinicians working in dementia research. I think it also reinforces this idea that we want to get away from, that clinician = doctor. You did mention non-medics too, but more in the context of facilitating rather than having ownership of research. Would be good in a future edition to get a non-medical healthcare perspective as well.

    • Adam Smith

      Hi Gemma,

      We absolutely agree, the three panellists we had were self-selecting and they approached us to record this podcast as it is something they are proactively working on. We will try to record another soon, covering the same topic with other professions. We do have one coming up in a couple of weeks with a Occupational Therapist, Psychologist and Neurologist discussing how to maintain clinical skills when pursuing a career as an academic, so watch this space.



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