How to get an NIHR research fellowship

Mandy WanBy Mandy Wan, Lead Paediatric Clinical Trials Pharmacist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and HEE/ NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow

I was delighted to hear just before Christmas that I was successful with an NIHR fellowship application and want to encourage more pharmacists to apply for funding and to lead research.

I have been a paediatric clinical trials pharmacist for most of the past 10 years, so am lucky to already be closely engaged in research work and have an understanding of how research can really impact day to day practice.
I applied for NIHR funding 2 years ago but I wasn’t successful. This time, I decided to apply again with a different topic. My research question came from a common query that kept coming through to the pharmacy department; what dose of Vitamin D is appropriate in children?
Children need vitamin D for various reasons. Vitamin D is important to keep our bones and teeth healthy by helping the absorption of calcium. It is a key component in lowering the risk of developing rickets. More recent evidence suggests that it may also be important in preventing other diseases and yielding other health benefits such as supporting heart function. The correct dose of vitamin D to use in children is unclear, and there is a lack of agreement between health professionals and the evidence to inform this is limited.

The HEE/NIHR Integrated Clinical Academic Doctoral fellowship award will allow me dedicated time away from my day job and a real chance to develop my research skills. Over the next 4 years, the project will aim to determine whether current prescribing strategies for vitamin D supplementation are effective, explore hypervitaminosis D, and will investigate how children respond to vitamin D supplements by measuring their blood vitamin D levels. I am hoping this will provide the evidence-base to inform vitamin D dosing strategy for the NHS to ensure optimal care for children.

There are many funding options available from medical research charities, HEE/NIHR or funding from Pharmacy Research UK (PRUK).
Although no grant or fellowship application process is easy, there is quite a lot of support out there. Expert input (and criticism!) is a vital component in getting through the process. There are plenty of opportunities to get the right support network in place such as the one to one Research Advisory service from the RPS, local NIHR Research Design Services, your local R&D office or focused training such as the PRUK/ RPS Developing a Successful Research Funding Application workshop in March.

My advice: you’ve got nothing to lose and with more so than ever support on hand, you could be leading a ground-breaking research to improve patient care.

Sign up for the 1-day Developing a Successful Research Funding Application workshop where you can get top tips and you can even go through your draft application with experts in order to ensure you’re fully prepared for submission.

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