General Practitioner Shoba Poduval
Publication date: 22 April 2022
Shoba talks about her research experience for the Research Engagement Hub.
The best parts of clinical work include working in a community setting, supporting patients with psychosocial needs and biomedical problems. Building relationships with patients by having continuity of follow/up is also very rewarding.
Outside of work, I volunteer as a Trustee for a charity called Women’s Health & Family Services, who provide health advocacy for vulnerable women and their families in East London. I have a one-year-old son, and enjoy running, yoga, reading and cooking.
I did an intercalated BMedSci project in my third year of medical school. This didn’t stimulate my interest in research at the time, so I didn’t apply for an academic FY or ST position. I became attracted to research later as a GP trainee, after thinking more seriously about broadening my portfolio and career options.
I searched for opportunities to gain research experience while working as a First5 salaried GP. I became involved with the RCGP as a research champion for respiratory health and conducted a survey study through an RCGP email newsletter with a senior GP supervisor.
Following this, I decided to do an MSc in Public Health at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in order to be trained in research methods and get more research experience. Here, I did a systematic review and qualitative study as part of my assessments.
Through the MSc programme I took courses in epidemiology, statistics, systematic reviews, qualitative methods, and surveys. This was self-funded alongside clinical work (although if you can get a NIHR In-Practice Fellowship or SPCR GP Career Progression Fellowship, you can access funding for an MSc course).
I applied to an NIHR School for Primary Care Research Fellowship (the GP Career Progression Fellowship) at UCL and was successful. This was a 50% clinical and 50% academic fellowship. I have been at UCL ever since and have now completed a PhD. Currently, I also hold a Clinical Lecturer position.
You can find academic GPs through department websites (including UCL PCPH), the School for Primary Care Research and the Society for Academic Primary Care. Attending conferences hosted by these organisations also provide a good opportunity.
You should enjoy your project and feel passionately about the subject to stay motivated. Also start thinking early about funding. It is easy to miss opportunities and deadlines. Look for funding applications well in advance (12 months or so) and devise a timeline for planning your application. You will need at least 6 months to write an excellent application.
I only applied to the NIHR, but looking back, I could also have applied to charities who provide research funding. Talking to people doing similar research will help signpost you to relevant funding opportunities, but also think outside the box of the mainstream funders too (NIHR, MRC, Wellcome) and approach charities who you think might be interested in your work.
About the writer
Shoba Poduval is a GP at the Mildmay Medical Practice in Islington, a small urban practice with around 5,00 patients.
Academic research drew Shoba in towards the end of her GP training. An opportunity arose to apply for an academic training post in her last year as a trainee. However, this would have meant relocating, so Shoba decided to complete her standard GP training and look for opportunities thereafter in her First5 years.
To read more research case studies, visit the Research Engagement Hub.