Judith Young, Clinical Psychologist
NIHR/HEE Clinical Doctoral Research Fellow & Consultant Clinical Psychologist
University of East Anglia & Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust
How would you describe your current role as clinical academic?
Improving psychological well-being in paediatrics is central to my work as a clinical psychologist, lecturer and researcher. In 2018, I was awarded a NIHR/HEE Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship. I am Chief Investigator on the PANACHE Study, researching Parental ANxiety About CHild food allErgy. The study involves me carrying out qualitative research, systematic review and a clinical feasibility trial. Parents of food allergic children had told us that they wanted this research to be carried out. Working with a Parent and Carer Advisory Group helps keep patients at the heart of the project. Additionally, maintaining and developing my clinical skills is an important part of the Fellowship. I work as a Consultant Clinical Psychologist in the Addenbrookes Allergy Clinic and provide clinical research leadership in the Cambridge Psychological Medicine Service for Children, Young People and Families.
How did you get here?
When I completed my clinical psychology training, my research supervisor told me that I had ‘a PhD in me’. I was awarded a research prize and wrote up my undergraduate and masters research for publication. This sparked an interest in research early in my career. I was keen to understand how research could improve health care. Whenever possible, I supported others with their research, carried out clinical audit, service improvement and was a Site Principal Investigator on an international research study. I started to combine NHS work with lecturing at the University of East Anglia and took up opportunities to collaborate with clinical researchers and co-author publications. Then, I saw a flyer about the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Fellowship Programme. At the time, I had research questions from my clinical practice, which were not answered by the existing literature. The NIHR Fellowship offered a wonderful opportunity for me to pursue this.
What difference has your research training and experience made to your career?
Research training has made me curious. I’m always asking questions. From asking questions of the existing literature in a systematic review, to carrying out empirical research to answer novel questions. One of the challenges for clinicians is finding the time to carry out research. The joy of my NIHR Fellowship is that it is gives me the time, space and resources to carry out high-quality research. I will be submitting my research for a PhD at UEA. I am supported by NIHR to complete a training plan, equipping me with the research skills needed to carry out the research study and facilitate my professional development. Research has given me the opportunity to develop links nationally with other clinical academics. I have also disseminated work on the psychology of food allergy at national and international conference.
What are your top tips for anyone wanting to become a clinical academic?
- For me the change from clinician to clinical researcher came when I started asking others how to get there. The clinical academics I approached were busy people, so I aimed to be clear about what I was seeking help with and I prepared before approaching them. There is a lot of information online, including helpful webinars.
- My local Research Design Service gave advice on how to convert clinical research questions into a research study design, how to involve patients and how to apply for funding.
- Developing your research ideas takes time, planning and perseverance. My research supervisors and mentors have been invaluable in this regard.
- If you have clinical research questions, and you think it will make a difference to patient care, then consider becoming a clinical academic.