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I was thrilled to me accepted on the NIHR ARC GM Pre-Doctoral Fellowship programme, commencing in September 2020. The Fellowship has given me a wealth of experiences to support my development as a clinical academic researcher. It has provided me with both the research skills and time to develop a research study: ‘Does the implementation of an evidence-based body image intervention improve body image and psychological outcomes for young people treated for cancer?’
I have had the opportunity to conduct a systematic review: ‘Which interventions are clinically effective at improving body image for teenagers and young adults with cancer?’ with a systematic review protocol which has been submitted to PROSPERO. This has developed my skills in advance searching, developing eligibility criteria, using data management tools, data extraction processes and assessing methodological quality of included studies with the Cochrane risk of bias tool.
It is essential for my research that young people within the oncology service collaborate in the research process. I successfully applied for and received Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) funding from the Research Design Service North West to complete young people’s advisory groups. These groups have been vital for developing understanding of body mage issues for this patient group and also gaining young people’s perspectives on body image research priorities. PPI has been extremely important in developing my research proposal.
During the fellowship I have had the opportunity to complete 2 masters in research modules: Critical Appraisal, and Quantitative research methods. The masters modules have expanded my research knowledge, helping me to apply this in practice during my research study. I have actively engaged in research and academic training opportunities through NIHR Academy and University of Manchester, including: introduction to research data management, 7 steps to raising research profile, and NIHR: Developing funding proposals.
The fellowship has provided valuable time and skills to develop my academic writing skills, having the opportunity to attend regular writing groups provided by University of Manchester. This has enabled me to produce two papers, one of which has been accepted for publication: ‘Remembering Friends: Exploring the bereavement support needs of teenagers and young adults experiencing the death of a friend in the cancer setting’, Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology, and the other which is due for submission: ‘A scoping review to explore how body image changes are being addressed in the teenage and young adult cancer setting?'
I have had the opportunity to develop strong links with the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR), a leading body image specialist research team based at the University of West England. An associate professor at CAR, who is also a leading author in this research field, has been a member of my supervisory team during my Fellowship. ARC GM has provided funding to attend CAR’s ‘Appearance Matters 9’ body image conference (July 2021), where I have had a poster accepted for presentation.
ARC GM has organised regular online space to meet with other Fellowship students which has been invaluable. They have also provided advice on accessing training and development opportunities to develop my research career. I have recently submitted a draft NIHR Doctoral Fellowship application to the RDSNW mock panel in advance of a final submission in June for an NIHR Clinical Research Doctoral Fellowship, with the aim to commence the Fellowship in April 2022 if I am successful. I would not have been able to complete a Doctoral application without the research experience that the ARC-GM has provided.