Mohammad Razai - NIHR In-Practice Fellow

Mohammad talks about his research experience as part of the Research Engagement Hub.

I collaborate with national and international researchers, in particular Professor Azeem Majeed at Imperial College London, Professor Aneez Esmail at University of Manchester, and Professor David Williams at Harvard University.

I work less than full time: 40% clinical and 40% academic work. I love clinical research and collaborative projects on topics that change practice, policies, and clinical outcomes for patients. I love my independence and the freedom to undertake any research I wish with the funding I have from the NIHR.

The best part about working as a GP is seeing improvement in patient care, especially at a population level. I also enjoy teaching medical students and participating in local and regional quality improvement projects, including the local COVID-19 vaccination programme.

The worst part about working as a GP is the increasing workload and frustrations that patients are not receiving the care they deserve because demand outstrips healthcare supply.

I am currently doing an MA in applied medical humanities at Birkbeck University of London. I talk to journalists about my work and other COVID-related issues regularly.

My research backgrounds

During medical school

In my fifth year of medical school, I attended a talk by the hospital charity, Addenbrooke’s Abroad, about their project on glaucoma in Botswana. I met with the professor of ophthalmology at Cambridge, Professor Martin, and an experienced public health doctor and researcher, Dr Jeremiah Ngondi.

We spent three months in Botswana and led a project on the epidemiology of glaucoma in Botswana. We had two high impact publications from this project, as well as a report for the ministry of health of Botswana. The Botswana ministry of health helped accommodate me at their hospital in Serowe, and I received funding from Addenbrooke’s Abroad as well.

After graduation

During my first foundation year, I did a survey on trainees’ perspectives on workplace based assessments. It was published on the Association for Medical Education in Europe’s online journal. I also presented the results at an international conference in Helsinki.

I did another survey on parents’ experience of having a cystic fibrosis diagnosis. I won the North Devon best audit prize and presented it at an international conference in Brussels. Furthermore, I did a case study of laser-induced eye damage and presented at an international conference in Vienna.

I was awarded travel grants by the European Cystic Fibrosis Society as well as the European Ophthalmology Congress. I took a year out after my second foundation year and became very interested in academic general practice. Professor Majeed at Imperial suggested I apply for the Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF) in primary care.

Most of what I have done came about because of chance. For example, I was having lunch at a seminar in Population Health Research Institute in January 2020 at St George’s University, and Professor Pippa Oakeshott suggested writing something about the Wuhan respiratory disease [later named COVID-19 and declared a pandemic]’. I have since published many articles, including original research, on various aspects of the pandemic.

In the last year of my ACF, I applied for and was awarded a highly competitive NIHR In Practice fellowship to undertake research into ethnic disparities in health. The project will last until 2024.

Future research

Once I finish my In-Practice fellowship, I will apply for an NIHR doctoral fellowship and hope to become a professor in primary care research in a few years’ time. The work I do on mitigating ethnic disparities in health is very important to me, and I feel passionate about contributing to the field. I look at the NIHR and other funding bodies websites, as well as attend their events on grants and funding. My current institution provides useful resources, help and advice.

Research advice

I am glad that the RCGP is doing these case studies to help future applicants get a better understanding of what life is like as an academic GP. My top tip is to go for it. If you are interested in a subject and want to work with someone, get in touch with them and they will most likely respond positively and help you out. I believe having inspirational mentors that think anything is possible are great role models. Don’t be a perfectionist, good enough is good enough. Apply for any opportunity if you are interested, even if you think you don’t have the necessary skills or fit the specifications.

I once went to a GP leadership course and one of the speakers said that whatever he has got in life came about because he applied for a grade above his qualifications and most of the time, he got it. I overcame challenges by reaching out to people for help.

About the writer

Mohammad Razai is an NIHR In-Practice Fellow in Primary Care at the Population Health Research Institute at St George's University of London. Here, Mohammad undertakes research in cardiovascular health, physical activity trials and epidemiology.

Mohammad first became interested in a career in academia in his fifth year at medical school. After his foundation years, he undertook and academic clinical fellowship in primary care.

To read more research case studies, visit the Research Engagement Hub.