How did you get into research?
As a clinician, it was through involvement with things such as audit and service improvement that I found I got the most job satisfaction. I found it really exciting to work on a project with the overall aim of making a difference to patient care in some way. This led me to apply for the HEE/NIHR MRes studentship which I then completed. During this time I learnt a huge amount about the research process and was able to complete my own research project, all of which drew me into the research world.

What do you enjoy about research?
For me it’s about stepping back, looking at the bigger picture and knowing that the overall purpose of your research is to try to improve things for patients step by step. It’s important and exciting to explore how we can develop the interventions we provide for patients.

What was the most difficult aspect of doing your PhD?
I am almost six months into my PhD so it still feels like I am at the beginning. It is quite challenging, though, when your progress seems slow and solving one problem seems to bring up several more. It is difficult to be resilient in these times, but the key is taking a longer-term view.

What difference has your research training and experience made to your career?
It has completely transformed the direction that my career is taking. I returned back to clinical work after completing my MRes and straight away I noticed the different that it made. This included the new skills that I could transfer to the practice environment such as critical thinking, my ability to not take things at face value, which was transformed. I found problem-solving tasks less daunting and I had learnt a good approach to tackling projects. I also think the skills I learnt then were excellent preparation for a successful application for the NIHR/HEE Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship. The training I completed with my MRes meant that I could broaden the scope of career possibilities available to me.

What has made a real difference to progressing your research career?
Research is always a team effort and I think it is only possible to progress if you get good support and a supervisory team around you from the start. It’s also really useful to make contact with other experts in your field to get their feedback on your ideas. These people helped me to be realistic about what can be achieved in a PhD which was essential to successfully applying for funding. A good support group also helped me to be resilient when there were inevitably set-backs and delays.

Where do you see your clinical academic career going over the next five years?
Although it seems a long way in the future, I hope to complete my PhD in the next three years and then progress along the clinical academic pathway. It would be great to carry out more research that builds on my PhD, which is relevant to and has a direct impact upon clinical practice. I would also like to be able to encourage and assist others to develop their research capacity and ideas.

Huw Woodbridge, Clinical Doctoral Fellow, Imperial College London. View Huw's professional profile

To download Huw's case study please click here: Huw Woodbridge