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The University of Southampton
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Charlotte Brooks

Charlotte Brooks
Charlotte Brooks

Success Story

Having graduated from the University of Southampton with a BSc in occupational therapy in June 2011, I took my first steps toward a clinical academic career later that year, embarking upon a clinical academic doctoral fellowship. Clinical academics engage in clinical practice and research concurrently, developing skills in both areas and providing clinical and research leadership. A central feature of clinical academic research is that it aims to enhance the effectiveness and quality of healthcare provision. My clinical academic fellowship was funded by Solent NHS Trust as an investment in the future workforce. The opportunity to develop my clinical and academic skills concurrently, so avoiding pursuing one career trajectory at the expense of the other, was what initially attracted me to a pioneering clinical academic career. I now find myself finalising the write-up of my clinical academic doctoral research and engaging further with clinicians to achieve tangible patient health outcomes.

As a clinical academic doctoral research fellow, my role entailed working two days a week as an occupational therapist (OT) for a community OT team within Solent NHS Trust. The remaining three days were spent undertaking doctoral-level research activity at the University of Southampton. My thesis utilised qualitative methodology to identify the facilitators and barriers to the development of health literacy in an older adult population. Health literacy (the ability to access, understand and use health information) is a clinically relevant topic which, if embraced across the board, has the potential to enhance patient and health professional interactions. As a result of our holistic and patient-centred approaches, Allied Health Professionals are in an excellent position to collaborate with patients to develop their health literacy abilities. The research topic was identified through clinical observations and experiences as an occupational therapist and consultations with clinical colleagues.

My time with the University of Southampton and Solent NHS Trust has opened up a great wealth of opportunities: I’ve worked closely with clinicians to develop clinically relevant research, disseminated my research at local, national and international conferences and published work in peer-reviewed journals. I have also been fortunate to work with leading academics in the health literacy field; having been supervised by Prof Jo Adams, Dr Claire Ballinger and Prof Don Nutbeam. I have combined my clinical and academic skills by disseminating research within clinical settings, supporting clinicians to develop research skills, delivering health literacy workshops to clinicians in a number of NHS Trusts, and providing health literacy consultancy to clinicians developing patient education resources.

I have recently commenced work as a senior research assistant within the Macmillan Survivorship Research Group at the University of Southampton. This research post will afford me the opportunity to further develop my qualitative research skills and aims to develop a decision aid for young women with breast cancer, enabling informed choices about genetic testing. The aspiration is for this tool to be endorsed by clinicians and used alongside established oncology treatment systems. I chose to apply for this research project due to its strong potential to impact clinical practice and improve the experience of breast cancer patients. My long-term goal is to continue on the clinical academic pathway, and positively influence clinical practice and policy.

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