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Health & Social Care Research Across North East & North Cumbria.

George's Research Story

George's Research Story

George Thomas says...

"Patients are enthusiastic about getting involved in research, which inspires me."

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I am a new consultant in General Internal Medicine (GIM), Older Persons Medicine (OPM) and Stroke Medicine. Interesting fact: I have never done a research degree or academic training as part of my journey to becoming a clinician and a researcher.

How did you get started in research?

I was interested in how clinical research works, which led me to organise my student-selected module (component) in my fourth year of medical school. It was about how to do research for a beginner, and I worked with a hospital-based research team. The team eased me into the research ecosystem, assigned me a mentor, and enrolled me in a Good Clinical Practice (GCP) course. These are essentials in starting your research journey.

What do you enjoy about research?

Everything! From submitting an expression of interest for a promising trial to setting it up locally, recruiting patients, collecting data and eventually publishing the results. Regardless of the outcome of the study, it will be helpful to us to change our clinical practice to improve patient care. Patients are enthusiastic about getting involved in research, which inspires me.

What training and support have you found most valuable in your career?

When I did my stroke fellowship at St George’s Hospital in London, the local team further nurtured my research interest. I was involved in various parts of some of their studies, from patient recruitment to assisting the principal investigator. The latter could include reviewing patients’ suitability and reporting any incidences. The mentorship was vital to my development, for which I am grateful. Finally, my education supervisor furthered my interest by mentoring me to conduct my first observational study. My experience at St George’s dispelled the notion that only academic trainees have such privileges and opportunities.

What people/organisations did you get in touch with to help you?

To start, choose the speciality you want to be involved in and then connect with the research team members in that field. There are national and regional networks of medical trainee, as well as non-medical practitioner groups which can also be helpful in your pursuit of this.

I chose to focus my research interest on stroke. So, when I returned to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, I immediately contacted their local stroke research team. They encouraged me to sign up for the NIHR Associate Principal Investigator (PI) Scheme for one of the stroke trials. This continued my development as a budding researcher in understanding the complexity of leading and delivering research studies. I thoroughly recommend signing up for this scheme if possible.

George Thomas's top 3 tips

This will keep you going.

There will always be roadblocks and closed doors, so do not be disheartened.

Even in research, there will be a lull period, so building this characteristic is vital to get through this.

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