Asta Ratna Prajapati, Pharmacist

Consultant Pharmacist , Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT)

How would you describe your current role as clinical academic?

I am a Consultant Pharmacist at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and external pharmacist specialist advisor for Care Quality Commission. But I am currently funded by Health Education England / National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) for Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship program and PhD at the University of East Anglia (UEA). So, most of my time is spent on the research I am currently leading, a 4-year research project called “Collaborative Medication Adherence in Bipolar disorder (C-MAB)” which aims to develop a medication adherence tool for bipolar disorder. We have just completed a systematic review of modifiable determinants of medication adherence in bipolar disorder and currently writing up for publication. The next stage of my research is to conduct focus groups and interviews with patients and their carers.

I also spend 10-20% of my time attending senior clinical meetings, contributing to medication related policy decision making at NSFT and updating clinical knowledge.

How did you get here?

After completing a BPharm degree in 2000 from Kathmandu University in Nepal, I moved to the UK and qualified as a pharmacist in 2003. Since then I have worked in both hospitals and in the community settings. I also continued my education including a Certificate/Diploma and MSc in Psychiatric pharmacy. During this time, I also managed to publish around a dozen articles in various peer review journals including the BMJ Open and Bipolar Disorders.

As a mental health pharmacist, you keep seeing the same patients coming back to your ward most often due to medication non-adherence. This led me to think about research into non-adherence. So, I approached Professor Debi Bhattacharya at UEA, who supported me wholeheartedly with my NIHR application. I was also very fortunate to receive the support and encouragement from NSFT, UEA, Research Design Service and others. Without their support, it would not have been possible for me to become the first mental health pharmacist in England to receive NIHR CDR fellowship funding.

What difference has your research training and experience made to your career?

I have just started my research work, so it is too early to see its impact on my career. But I have had the opportunities to attend international conferences and disseminate findings from our systematic review. I also had a chance to attend world leading courses from leading experts in the field of behaviour change and research methodologies. It has been a steep learning curve. In addition, I continue to learn from our Collaborative Meditation Adherence in Bipolar Disorders (@C-MABresearch) research advisory board members who include clinicians, academics, patients and carers.

What are your top tips for anyone wanting to become a clinical academic?

  • You get the best of both worlds, so I would recommend any clinicians thinking of complementing their clinical work with research/academic contribution. It may seem a big jump or overwhelming at the beginning but there are lots of support out there to navigate through the journey.

  • Get in touch with your research department (if you have one), Research Design Service, Universities, leaders in your area of practice or ex-NIHR fellows.

  • You may also want to check twitter hashtag #NIHRmember if you want to get in touch with anyone who might have gone through that journey before.

February 2020