Reflections from one of our Research Training Fellows: Dr Jatinder Minhas

Last March, Jatinder Minhas contributed the below blogpost, reflecting on his fellowship.  Not only did he go on to complete his PhD in record time but this week, we were delighted to received the following message:

I wanted to let you know that I have secured one of only five UK-wide highly revered 4-year NIHR Clinical Lectureships in Older People and Complex Health Needs (the only one in the UK linked to speciality training in Geriatric Medicine). I have also had two important manuscripts accepted in the last week for publication in high impact journals

    1. Feasibility of Improving Cerebral Autoregulation in Acute Intracerebral Hemorrhage (BREATHE-ICH) Study: Results from an Experimental Interventional Study (International Journal of Stroke)
    2. Determining differences between critical closing pressure and resistance-area product: responses of the healthy young and old to hypocapnia (European Journal of Physiology)

We are now in the early stages of organising a patient-centred research event to disseminate the results of the BREATHE-ICH study (the subject of Jatinder’s research) and generate further perspectives on the next steps“.

It’s so great to hear of Jatinder’s success. When we hear stories like this, we know that the future of age-related research is in great hands !

Welcome to the first in our series of reflections from our Research Training Fellows. Dr Jatinder Minhas, who was awarded a fellowship in 2017 reflects on the journey so far…

I have been particularly grateful for the guidance received from other DMT Fellows, who have provided advice on planning and offered their reflections on their experiences

What’s been your experience of your fellowship so far?
I am currently seven months into my Dunhill Medical Trust Fellowship within the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Leicester. My programme of work is a translation of science demonstrated in a healthy control population within my National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Academic Clinical Fellowship into a stroke patient population. I have always found the initial stages of any research project a real challenge: it often requires an organised plan with goal-setting and maintenance of a timeline. The timeline during my initial period involved gaining Research Ethics Committee and Health Research Authority approval, completing initial literature reviews and beginning to refine the methodological setup required to translate the study protocol from a healthy volunteer to a patient population. I am grateful for the input from my sponsoring institution, the University of Leicester’s Stroke Trial Management Team (led by Alice Durham) and, importantly, regular guidance from my supervisory team (Professor TG Robinson and Professor RB Panerai). I have also been particularly grateful for the advice and guidance received from other DMT Fellows who have provided advice on planning and offered their reflections on their experiences. We often meet at a variety of clinical and non-clinical events and share progress and ideas.  This is important as it provides both moral support and different perspectives.

My overall reflection is the importance of acknowledging the steep learning curve that presents itself at the outset of a higher degree (MD or PhD). I recommend learning from colleagues who have experience in various aspects of study design and management and develop a greater understanding by taking time to engage with the various teams who support research within your local institution. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to develop my project with constructive input from scientific and non-scientific colleagues at each step of the way. The knowledge I have gained from the aforementioned teams is invaluable in helping me develop as an independent researcher with a broad knowledge of research processes.

Why did you choose a career in ageing-related research and how do you see it progressing?
Since finishing medical school, I have had a keen interest in research and have strived to develop academic interests throughout my clinical training. However, my current research interests in stroke, ageing and rehabilitation were prompted by my early clinical experiences as a foundation doctor. I worked in a busy job on an elderly care ward, managing unwell patients, liaising with families and dealing with uncertainty as to prognosis in many instances. I quickly realised that age related disease and co-morbidity presents a unique challenge unlike other aspects of clinical medicine. Research evidence is scarce and clinicians are required to make pragmatic decisions based on experience and the patient’s best interests. Increasingly a larger evidence base is being developed to guide decision-making though there exist several issues with study design and the fact that older patients with co-morbidities are often excluded from trials. I am therefore keen to support and promote more inclusion of this growing population in future studies and have designed my personal research with this in mind. I see this as a significant challenge and see demonstration of generalisability of interventions in younger patient populations to older people as an important issue for the next decade of research.

How is your research progressing?
I managed to achieve approvals for the BREATHE-ICH study shortly after being awarded my Fellowship and have since progressed well with data collection and literature review. I have recently started to disseminate my work for peer-reviewed publication and platform presentation. To date, I have published six peer-reviewed manuscripts since starting my Fellowship across clinical and basic science journals. From a national dissemination perspective, I was delighted to have recently been awarded the Royal College of Physicians Quincentennial Lecture 2018 award. This award represents the progress made in understanding aspects of cerebral blood flow changes in haemorrhagic stroke within our department. Further afield, internationally, I have some opportunities coming up to share my work on an international stage with oral presentations at the 23rd Meeting of The European Society of Neurosonology and Haemodynamics in Prague and the 4th European Stroke Organisation Conference in Gothenburg. This will provide a platform to project DMT-supported research to international audiences, gaining valuable feedback and engaging in discussions with potential collaborators ahead of future project results and plans.

I’d like to say how grateful I am for the Dunhill Medical Trust for supporting my research and providing me with a useful network of peers to support my professional development. I’m looking forward to the ‘Annual Distinguished Lecture’ on 17th April 2018 where I will have the opportunity to share my work and catch up with Trustees and other colleagues who are also driven to improve our understanding of age-related diseases and innovation in their treatment.