Special #GUT Blog: NIHR event and trainee network seek to enhance gastroenterology trainee’s participation in research

Professor El-Omar has agreed to a special #GUTBlog by Professor Matthew Brookes, from the University of Wolverhampton and Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust and Gastroenterology deputy national specialty group lead, along with Dr Abdullah Abbasi, Gastroenterology trainee, from the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust.  In this #GUTblog they reflect on the importance of Gastroenterology trainees being engaged in research. Professor Brookes and Dr Abbasi highlight the recent ‘BSG-NIHR introduction to trainee research’ sandpit event and the trainee led research network that enables Gastroenterology trainees to get involved in research and sign post them to useful resources.

Professor Matthew Brookes and Dr Abdullah Abbasi


“A level of involvement in research alongside clinical activities can be incredibly helpful for Gastroenterology registrars. Firstly, Gastroenterology is currently an incredibly innovative specialty with the introduction of new pharmacotherapies, interventions and identification of new molecular pathways for various disease activities – we are certainly living in exciting times. Secondly, future plans for the NHS and shape of training requires a highly trained and flexible workforce, which research is more than capable of facilitating.

There is a great need for Gastroenterology trainees to be engaged in research

One of the few silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is that registrars across the NHS got to experience research end-to-end from clinical question to final implementation of the outcome.

For me, there can be no better argument to convince trainees to join research than saving lives and improving the living standard of so many of those around us directly or indirectly.

As a speciality, Gastroenterology is rapidly evolving and is getting sub-specialised. An example of this is inflammatory bowel disease, which has had a wealth of new research published in the last decade, transforming the field. A trainee that is engaged in research would be able to implement these findings into clinical practice.

National research networks have begun to appear. These networks allow trainees to develop their portfolio expanding on their own ideas, creating a project or converting their audit into a publication. These networks are also a good place for trainees to find opportunities – such as becoming a Principal Investigator (PI).

The ‘BSG-NIHR introduction to trainee research’

There are two main types of trainee gastroenterologists who are engaged in research: those who take time out of their MD or PhD programme (OOP) to undertake formal research training and those who don’t. Those that don’t take OOP often struggle to get involved in research or have an appreciation for good research. Therefore, the ‘BSG-NIHR introduction to trainee research’ event was created to cater to those who did not take an OOP.

The ‘BSG-NIHR introduction to trainee research’ was a collaborative effort between the NIHR, BSG Research committee and BSG trainees committee. The sandpit event aimed to bring together trainees from diverse backgrounds, enable them to explore their interest in research and understand how to create resources catering to the needs of these trainees. The event also highlighted to trainees how to stay up to date with key resources. It was a unique and engaging event where both NIHR and BSG education committees worked together on academic as well as logistic issues.

Most importantly, the sandpit was an excellent opportunity for gastroenterology trainees to network and speak to colleagues and mentors from across the country to get guidance and consider collaboration.

The sandpit was trainee-led; research networks and individual trainees were invited to present their ideas and topics. Four different projects were presented ranging from use of new markers for biologics in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), assessment of post endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) infection rate and palliative care around liver disease. The winning project came from the “Spring network’’ project on end of life care. The “Spring network’’ received support designing their project and creating a grant application from the NIHR gastroenterology specialty.

The event was incredibly successful and deemed highly useful to gastroenterology trainees with 68% of attendees rating the event as excellent and 82% of attendees rating the overall event programme as excellent.

Special thanks to Prof Shaji Sebastian, Prof Tariq Iqbal, Dr Sunny Raju and Dr Oliver Tavabie for their massive contribution in producing the BSG-NIHR introduction to trainee research event.

The trainee led research network

The NIHR aims to disseminate key opportunities through this trainee led research network. The network will keep members informed of opportunities within the Clinical Research Network (CRN) Gastroenterology specialty group, NIHR academy funding or supporting opportunities, the CRN green shoots scheme and the associate PI scheme.

Trainees can sign up to the network.

Considering a career in research?

There are many ways to get involved in research:

  • Find out what research is happening in your organisation (i) via an NIHR Infrastructure event or initiative ii) through contacting your local R and D Forums.
  • Find out about research in your specialty and stay informed (i) visit the BPOR website to highlight research that is happening now ii) sign up to the Evidence newsletter/read the NIHR Evidence site and find out about relevant findings for your work/specialty through NIHR Alerts.
  • Sign up to the ‘What is health research’ MOOC.
  • Find relevant training courses on NIHR Learn.”

Social Media

Professor Matthew Brookes @GastroMJB

Dr Abdullah Abbasi @abdullahaabbasi

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