I am wholly committed to a career as a clinical academic, and am very grateful for the opportunity the clinical academic pathway has given me to fully immerse myself in my field
I studied medicine at Trinity College, Cambridge and UCL. I always knew I wanted to do paediatrics (my granny was one of the first female consultant paediatricians in the UK!) and during medical school it became clear that I loved travelling and that I was fascinated by infectious diseases.
I spent my university holidays working in hospitals and orphanages in China, Cuba, Romania, South Africa and Malawi: I learnt a lot and tried hard not to get in the way. During my foundation years, I undertook a distance learning Master’s in Infectious Diseases from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). My Master’s project was studying vertical transmission of HIV in a township in Cape Town which enabled me to win an NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship with Professor Nigel Klein at the UCL Institute of Child Health. This grew into a Medical Research Council funded PhD investigating microbial translocation in children with HIV in Uganda. When the West African Ebola outbreak occurred I volunteered to work clinically in Ebola Holding Units in Freetown initially for 6 weeks…
7 months later… I came back, after having set up one of the largest and most comprehensive cohorts of children with suspected Ebola in Sierra Leone (following up both those who tested positive and negative). This study has contributed to World Health Organisation guidelines about managing suspected Ebola virus disease in children; and resulted in three high impact papers and three national level prizes (including Academy of Medical Science prizes two years in a row).
From there, I was awarded GRID subspecialty training in paediatric infectious diseases and an NIHR Academic Clinical Lectureship at UCL with Professor Klein. I’m currently based full time in Harare, Zimbabwe, and am performing preliminary pilot work for a planned complex multimodal interventional study to improve infection prevention control in the neonatal unit of Harare Central Hospital. I am increasingly convinced that my future involves antimicrobial resistance and infection prevention control in low income settings, and so am currently improving my practical and theoretical knowledge of practices in Zimbabwe. My next step (in a couple of years!) will be to apply for a Career Development Fellowship. I am wholly committed to a career as a clinical academic, and am very grateful for the opportunity the clinical academic pathway has given me to fully immerse myself in my field. Being at UCL, I have been given an extraordinary amount of freedom to pursue my own goals while knowing I have support and advice when needed. I have also benefitted from the Academy of Medical Sciences mentorship scheme, in that my mentor has given me invaluable perspective and advice from a parallel field, which has broadened my aims and ambitions.
My advice to budding academics would be to identify a mentor (whether through formal or informal channels) and build your own support network. Resilience is absolutely key to the perseverance needed for academia, so you need people around who’ve ‘got your back!’ There is no way I would have progressed past my first (and second) failed PhD interviews without my supervisors’ and mentors’ encouragement, and I feel extremely lucky to have had their guidance over nearly a decade now!