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Written by Gemma Mansell, Keele University

I was delighted to be awarded the NIHR SPCR place on the 2017-2018 TUTOR-PHC (Transdisciplinary Understanding on Research – Primary Health Care) Programme. My cohort consisted of 14 trainees including myself, with participants from all over Canada and also two from Australia. We were from a wide range of backgrounds – psychology, nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy, family medicine, health services research – which made for some really interesting discussions. The course leaders and mentors were also from a wide range of backgrounds and were really knowledgeable and passionate about interdisciplinary research, and also keen to learn about our projects. The one-year programme starts with a three-day Symposium and is followed up with online workshops throughout the year.


The Symposium this year was held at the Kingbridge Centre, in King City, Ontario, Canada. This is a beautiful venue, with amazing food and scenery. The woodland walks were perfect for downtime with other trainees, and the indoor running track was very helpful for burning off all the buffet food!! The Symposium is very intense, with a lot of pre-reading and full-on days, but the mentors really do make everyone feel welcome – there were a couple of ice-breaking sessions, the most memorable being one where the non-French speaking trainees were taught to introduce themselves and their project in French by French-Canadian trainees (the Symposium is bi-lingual, with all material being available in French and English) – while I was quite daunted by the prospect of this (I speak no French whatsoever), it was really fun!

Each day of the Symposium included lectures and workshops, with lectures building on the pre-reading and covering topics such as knowledge translation, grant generation and engagement with policy makers, but very little of the teaching was didactic – “bell-ringing” sessions were included where each mentor presented for 5 minutes on what their discipline brought to interdisciplinary research (something we built on ourselves in the workshops), and a poster session was included where mentors presented their own interdisciplinary research. The discussion groups were probably the best part of the course – where we really got to showcase what each of our disciplines brings to primary healthcare research. For example, one task involved each person stating what made their project specific to their discipline, then all other group members commented on what their discipline would bring to that project. This really highlighted the similarities and differences between the disciplines and gave me a lot more confidence of the importance of my skills as a psychologist in this area. At the time of writing this, we have just completed our first online workshop (I chose one on mixed methods) which builds on the Symposium, and having met all other trainees makes it much easier to work online. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the year!