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Wednesday 15 May 2024

Double success for Southampton’s future research leaders

Two researchers on the Research Leaders Programme at University Hospital Southampton (UHS) have been awarded a new NIHR award.

Dr Jessica Bate and Dr Cathy McKenzie have each received NIHR Senior Clinical and Practitioner Research Awards (SCPRA). 

They are both part of the UHS Research Leaders Programme (RLP). This gave them the time, skills and support they needed to put together their application.

The SCPRA award will now fund the next stage of their careers as research leaders.

Springboard for success

The RLP supports healthcare professionals employed by UHS to take the next step in their research career and develop their leadership skills.

It covers salary costs for at least one day a week (20% whole time equivalent) for up to three years, providing the protected time they need to take their research to the next level.

The aim is to enable them to build a portfolio of research activity that will attract or generate funding, so that research becomes a significant and sustainable component of their role.

Applicants to the SCPRA were required to demonstrate evidence of clinical or practice leadership. The RLP therefore provided an excellent springboard from which to apply for the SCPRA.

New NIHR award

This is the first round of this SCPRA award. It aims to support the career development of research active senior clinicians or practitioners, so they can build on their track record as an academic leader.

The SCPRA is open to senior clinicians and practitioners who have previously obtained a PhD or MD, with a particular focus on supporting underrepresented professions and those applying from an ethnic minority background. It funds between 20% and 50% of protected time for research.

It does not fund research projects. Instead, it supports training and development, establishing new collaborations, and activity to support further research funding applications.

Continuing their journey

Dr McKenzie, Consultant Pharmacist in Critical Care and Honorary Associate Professor in University of Southampton, Medical School has been awarded 50% protected research time for five years, and is due to start on the 1st July.

Her focus will be on pharmacological interventions to treat and prevent delirium and iatrogenic withdrawal in patients in the intensive care unit (ICU). She will also focus on building a research culture in pharmacy, locally, regionally and nationally.

She said: “I’m delighted. I enjoyed my research time from the Research Leaders Programme so much that I didn’t want to give it up. The RLP gave me the support I needed to be able to apply. Hopefully this award will give me the training and support I need to become a chief investigator.”

Dr McKenzie’s mentorship through the SCPRA will include Southampton’s Professor Alison Richardson and Professor Mike Grocott.

She added: “In ICU, around 50 percent of our patients will get delirium – even higher when they’re mechanically ventilated – and about a third of them will develop long-term cognitive problems equivalent to mild dementia, lasting long after ICU discharge. Plus we need more pharmacy research leaders to inspire the next generation of pharmacy researchers. So this research is really important.”

Dr Bate, Paediatric Oncology Consultant, has been awarded 50% protected research time for five years, and is due to start on the 1st October 2024.

Her focus will be on finding ways to reduce and manage the side effects of chemotherapy, particularly infections, in children with cancer. Another part of her research will focus on the outcomes of children with cancer across England from different ethnic groups to better understand any health inequalities.

She said: “It’s a real privilege to have received this NIHR award. I’ve really enjoyed being part of the Research Leaders Programme, and have appreciated the mentorship and guidance I have received through the RLP.

“I’m looking forward to taking my research to the next level, and continuing on my journey as a research leader. I hope, as a leader, I can inspire and support others at UHS interested in research.”