Record breaking number of fellowships awarded to Trust

Five members of staff have successfully been awarded a HEE/NIHR Pre-doctoral Clinical Academic Fellowship (PCAF) – a programme which supports early career researchers.

The funding allows recipients to set aside dedicated time to gain the necessary skills they need to prepare an application for a competitive, doctoral level research training fellowship.

PCAFs are extremely competitive and previously the Trust has had success in securing funding for Sian Bentley, specialist pharmacist, in 2019 and for Elizabeth Grillo, lead physiotherapist, in 2018. However, this is the first time the Trust has submitted five applications in one year and the first time all applications were successful.

Laura Henderson, research development manager, said:

“These successes are testament to the ambition and dedication of all five applicants who submitted their applications in the chaos of lockdown and redeployments. To have all of them awarded is an outstanding tribute to the support of their teams and of the Trust in nurturing and growing new research talent.”

Dr Sam Irving, chief paediatric research physiologist, is excited to see what research the successful applicants will produce.

“The PCAF scheme is extremely popular and highly competitive, so to have successful outcomes for all of our applicants is fantastic.  All five worked incredibly hard to produce really high-quality applications in a very strong field, and I’m very excited to see the work they will produce.” She said.

Read more about each of the successful applicants below:


Jamie Cheong

Jamie is a specialist pharmacist whose research will be focusing on the link between certain antibiotics (aminoglycoside) and ototoxicity (damage to the ear caused by medication). 

Aminoglycoside antibiotics are widely used for many infections, but for certain conditions they may be given for long periods of time.  This can lead to significant damage to the ears of which the health economic burden to society is unknown.

Jamie’s research will try to understand the health-economic implication of using these antibiotics and the cost-effectiveness of monitoring ototoxicity. 

She said; “I feel very honoured to be awarded this fellowship and am grateful for the people at the Trust who have supported me in getting this.”

Jamie’s plans after completing fellowship is to apply the skills and the research she’s developed into a successful PhD proposal.


Mary Anton

Mary is a paediatric nurse who will be validating a novel mathematical method that could detect deterioration of patients in paediatric intensive care earlier than conventional methods. 

Patient bedside monitors routinely capture waveforms which contains vital information about the changes that happens in the human body. Currently, there is no device available to analyse these waveforms and detect deterioration. Mary’s project aims to make better use of all the available data routinely collected by patient monitoring devices, to improve patient outcome.   

Mary said: “I feel very excited and humbled to receive this fellowship. Many individuals’ hard work and contribution has resulted in this success. I hope to use this funding to improve the care we provide to children in Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.”

Once she’s completed this project, Mary aims to apply for a clinical doctoral research fellowship.


Catherine Renwick

Catherine is a paediatric clinical nurse specialist who will be conducting a pilot study looking at heart rate and rhythm in children and adolescents with arrythmia during normal daily physical activity and comparing it to the data from controlled exercise testing.

There is currently no paediatric specific, evidenced based exercise guidance for children with inherited arrhythmias. All current guidelines are based on adults and generated via expert opinion. Catherine believes it would be beneficial to be able to prescribe tailored exercise advice to children which is age specific, relative to individual diagnoses.

Catherine said; “I am really pleased, I really thought I would not get the award at my first application. I am grateful for all the help and support I had in preparing which I think really helped strengthen my application.” 

Upon completing the fellowship Catherine hopes to apply for a doctoral fellowship and conduct a larger exercise study based on the success and outcome of the pilot study.


Jennie Balls

Jennie is a paediatric physiotherapist who will be investigating the cardiopulmonary effects of chest physiotherapy in mechanically ventilated infants with a functionally univentricular heart (a congenital heart condition where there is a lack of 2 functioning ventricles). 

Infants with single ventricle physiology require a delicate balancing of their systemic and pulmonary circulations.  After surgery, chest physiotherapy is carried out to remove any build-up of bronchopulmonary secretions and aids to lower pulmonary vascular resistance. A variety of airway clearance techniques are used but there is currently very little research investigating the efficacy or safety of these techniques within this specific patient population.

She said; “I am very excited about the PCAF award under the supervision of Professor Andrew Bush. This research fellowship will allow me to continue with my research project and also deepen my understanding and experience of research methodologies, statistics, and patient and public involvement.”

Jennie aims to publish the initial results from her research and will look to develop a competitive application for an NIHR Doctoral Fellowship.


Jessica Walsh

Jessica is a research physiotherapist and her award will see her focusing on developing her skills in behaviour change and implementation science. She will also be conducting some pilot research into the barriers and facilitators to pulmonary rehabilitation referral in primary care. 

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a highly effective intervention for people with chronic respiratory conditions, however, only a small proportion of eligible people are ever referred. Developing an intervention to increase referrals and uptake of referral in primary care is extremely important in bridging this gap.  

On receiving the fellowship, Jessica said “I am grateful to have the opportunity to develop an intervention that will hopefully give more people access to a highly beneficial treatment”

On completion of the fellowship Jessica aims to submit a competitive application for doctoral funding to develop and test an intervention to increase referrals to pulmonary rehabilitation in primary care.


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