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The opportunity to get involved in research as a medical student was very empowering. I was able to learn more about qualitative research methodologies and develop new research skills. The supervisors were very supportive and it was a great opportunity to work collaboratively with like-minded people."

2020 marks the third year of the successful and growing SPCR internship programme -  a supervised period of time during the summer months where medical students have the extraordinary opportunity to work within a team of primary care researchers. It is a real hands-on experience. Interns get involved in the design, implementation and dissemination of research, working with teams across a diverse range of specialties - medical education, epidemiology, statistics, and health economics - to name a few.

In addition, research teams benefit from the involvement of interns by being exposed to creative new ideas, energy, and insights. Interns broaden perspectives and bring an important element of diversity to the team.

Supervisors welcomed 24 enthusiastic medical students into our nine departments this year. Considering the constraints of not being able to meet research teams and supervisors in person and, in some cases, the clinical demands placed on medical students by Covid-19, this is a sign of the popularity and success of the programme.

I would definitely recommend this internship to anyone who has an interest in research. It is so valuable to be able to get involved in research whilst still in Medical School to gain more of an insight into research as a career."

Despite the barriers faced this year, interns felt welcomed and well supported, and their inputs strongly valued. The experience developed their knowledge of research methods, a curiosity of different methodologies and approaches to research, and inspired a long-term interest in academic primary care.

Dr Katie Saunders (University of Cambridge) said: “We particularly enjoyed thinking about what the key papers in a primary care research intern should be reading (we ended up with a selection of policy, mixed methods, qualitative and quantitative work and papers thinking about multimorbidity and the differences between primary and hospital care).

... [the interns] can think about slightly offbeat research topics, which otherwise maybe wouldn’t make it into a full research project. Although I (along with a surprisingly high number of COVID researchers) think that Google Trends data is really cool, our intern was a lot more sceptical – bringing a really enquiring eye to its strengths and weaknesses as a tool for primary care research. PPI perspectives broadened how we thought about interpreting the data, and when we talked to GPs about it, although some said that many patients come to see them having googled things first, others said that actually, their patients were more likely to talk to friends or family rather than to search for things on the internet."

I am incredibly grateful to have experienced this unique opportunity and appreciate all the hard work from different team members to adapt this to an online platform this year. This summer internship has highlighted a clear academic interest for me going forward in my training, which has led me to plan to continue with this project as part of an SSC in the coming academic year."

What did you find most useful about the internship?

"The opportunity to get involved in research as a medical student was very empowering. I was able to learn more about qualitative research methodologies and develop new research skills. The supervisors were very supportive and it was a great opportunity to work collaboratively with like-minded people." Ashika Dhondee.

"The internship allowed me to develop various research skills, including working with large datasets, extracting useful summary statistics and understanding the research process in a randomized controlled trial. I was also able to refine my research design skills through coming up with focused research questions and aims for the project. The guidance and advice I received from my supervisor and other researchers in the team were invaluable in allowing me to refine my research questions and adopt appropriate methods to meet the aims I had set out at the start of the project." Madhumitha Pandiaraja.

"I found having a one-to-one supervisor for the duration of the project very useful, because it was easy to ask questions and get advice on my research, and the project offered the perfect balance between managing my own work and getting support and guidance where necessary.

I came away with a strong understanding of primary care, which will help me throughout my medical career to appreciate the important role that primary care plays. I also learnt how a team of researchers work together and communicate about their various individual projects. I learnt how to conduct a rapid literature review, and how to organise a write-up in order to help make it worthy of publication." Maisie Fitzgerald.

"Gaining step by step guidance on conducting a systematic review including writing a search strategy and using the Rayyan platform. I also wrote the project protocol for submission to the PROSPERO database under the guidance of my supervisor which was a invaluable experience. These are all excellent lessons which will support my research activities throughout my career.

I enjoyed the autonomy with my project and also found working as part of an academic team a useful experience that can develop interpersonal, communication and teamworking skills." Hanad Ahmed.

"This project helped me to develop my research skillset, from creating and refining search strategies and conducting pilot searches, to confidently using a citation management software to assist in study screening. My analytical thinking skills developed as part of the study selection process, and I gained the ability to independently work towards both personal and external deadlines. Throughout the process, I gained confidence in my role within the team, using initiative to expand upon tasks set and anticipate any issues that required change." Beatrice Skene.

"I found it very useful hearing from patients how the research may directly benefit them and their own thoughts and suggestions on my study.

I think it is incredibly valuable to have patient input and the PPI meeting has shown me ways to really utilize patient and public involvement in my research studies in the future to make sure I design studies that directly benefit the patients involved." Charlotte Ford.

What would you say to any student considering this internship next year?

"It is a great opportunity to get involved in Primary Care research, learn new skills and work with passionate people! Ashika Dhondee.

"I would say definitely go for this even if you are apprehensive. A different style of research, especially early on at our undergraduate stage, enables a richer and broader view of research and its related techniques. It prevents you specializing too early and not exploring other, equally exciting and broad, opportunities which can help decide what field/area you would like to focus on in your future." Azmaeen Zarif.

"I would say that it is an amazing opportunity to gain exposure to the realm of primary care research and provides a structured platform to receive guidance  from experts in the field. The transferable  skills you will gain and refine through the internship will boost your confidence in undertaking any piece of research in the future." Madhumitha Pandiaraja.

"At the very least, it is an opportunity that will expose you to the life of a Clinical Academic and will provide you with research skills that will be useful at every stage of your career.

Additional outputs from the internship such as publications or conference presentations can also boost your career opportunities.

If you want a supportive research environment for the purposes of learning new research skills, this is definitely the right internship. You will be guided from step 1 and every question is valued as long as you show a commitment to learn. The skills you gain will support your research activities in other settings where there may not be as much guidance and a much greater expectation to learn skills on your own.

Conducting the internship as a Final Year can definitely be challenging alongside clinical commitments (shorter summer), but definitely doable with good time management, so don’t let that put you off!" Hanad Ahmed.

Partner base Medical Student Supervisor Title of project
Bristol Kiyara Fernando Rachel Johnson Understanding patient involvement in cardiovascular consultations in primary care
Bhumi Shah Rachel Johnson Understanding patient involvement in cardiovascular consultations in primary care
Cambridge Maisie Fitzgerald Katie Saunders Exploring methodological strengths and limitations of using Google Trends in primary care
Madhumitha Pandiaraja The SAFER study
Keele William Mirfin-Boukouris Charlotte Woodcock, Nicola Cornwall, Clare Jinks Applying the Theoretical Domains Framework of behaviour change to complex health intervention development
Chris Stevens Claire Burton The impact of occupation on the outcome of carpal tunnel syndrome
Manchester Oliver Wright Tom Blakeman & Aaron Poppleton

1. Qualitative meta-synthesis care home infection prevention & control.
2. SAFER discharge RAND development study 
3. Contributory factors to patient safety in care homes review 
4. Network Meta-Analysis of discharge interventions 

Paul Pascall-Jones Tom Blakeman & Aaron Poppleton 1. Qualitative meta-synthesis care home infection prevention & control.
2. SAFER discharge RAND development study 
3. Contributory factors to patient safety in care homes review 
4. Network Meta-Analysis of discharge interventions 
Newcastle Charlotte Ford Hugh Alberti Educational Research
Ashika Dhondee High Alberti Educational Research
Beatrice Skene Louise Robinson & Adam Todd Health professional views and experiences of dementia medication review and de-prescribing in people with dementia: a qualitative evidence synthesis
Nottingham Loucia Ashikkali Christine Johnson Covid-19 and the indirect impact on children
Shreeya Kotecha Christine Johnson An analysis of the epidemiology of patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection in a West Midlands based primary care practice
Chloe Smith Christine Johnson "I feel abandoned.”: A study exploring the feelings and learning needs of newly graduated doctors without current interim F1 posts
Oxford Azmaeen Zarif Simon de Lusignan & Mark Joy Clinical Informatics
Sophie Hollerbach Marta Wanat & Sarah Tonkin-Crine Rapid European SARS-COV-2 Emergency research Response (RECOVER): Qualitative interviews with patients and healthcare professionals.
Southampton Collin Chong Merlin Willcox Online survey on Covid-19
Hanad Ahmed Mark Lown & Merlin Willcox Systematic review of the literature on the effect of herbs and spices on metabolic markers in patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Zareena Rana Hajira Dambha-Miller A systemic review of studies using population segmentation in type 2 diabetes
UCL Yathavan Premadasan Sophie Park Recommendations for the facilitation of clinical Med Ed during the COVID pandemic
Anna Stevenson Sophie Park Hidden Values: A Systematic Mixed Studies Review Protocol of how Generalism is described in Physician Clinical Practice
Shrishti Agarwal Patricia Schartau 'Paternal Depression' looking at the incidence and prevalence of post-natal depression diagnoses and anti-depressant use in men in the year after becoming new fathers. 
Vinay Tailor Sophie Park Transformative learning in general practice placements