Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research

“My time working with the Centre has only served to increase my interest in asthma and other respiratory diseases.” | Flora

Flora, a former medical student at The University of Edinburgh, reflects on her time working with the Centre’s PPI team

I started working with the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research in early 2020, during my third year of medical school in Edinburgh. I got involved with the Centre as the Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) team was advertising a project looking into the experiences of living with asthma as an older person. I was really interested as the lived patient experience is often prioritised less in medical teaching in favour of physiology and medical management. I wanted to learn what patients that I could one day be treating were going through and hopefully be a part of finding ways to improve their quality of life. I absolutely loved the project as it gave me the chance to speak to older adults living with asthma and hear first-hand about their experiences. The PPI team of the Centre does fantastic work, and it was so interesting to hear about all the work they were doing to advocate for patients and to give them a voice and influence their healthcare.

Working during the Pandemic

This was also a really interesting time to be working in lung research as mid-way through the project, in March 2020, the COVID pandemic hit. This gave a whole new dimension to our findings. On a personal level also, while the world and my life basically shut down, I had something to continue working on which gave value and structure to my days during lockdown. Working with an experienced research team was a great opportunity for my development and learning. I was completely new to the world of academia, yet everyone was so approachable and patient. I remain so grateful for the time people at the Centre took to help teach me and help me develop the skills to conduct my own work in the future. I had opportunities to learn about data analysis, research ethics and processes, and academic writing which I otherwise would never have had. This project ignited my interest in research, and I really enjoyed collaborating with a team as friendly as at the Centre.

My second Centre project

I was lucky enough to go on to work on a second project with the Centre while still at university - this time looking into the impact of remote consulting in GP practices. This was a very topical subject and I feel it provided good insights into how the pandemic was impacting our health service. I had the chance to present this project at the Centre’s Annual Scientific Meeting in Leeds in 2022.

Preparing projects and presenting your work is such a big part of academia but because of the COVID pandemic I had struggled to find any opportunities to do this. All my university work was online and remote so to get to go to an in-person event and meet the team was fantastic. I think there are a lot of misconceptions amongst students about academia being very closed off and inaccessible - what happens at academic conferences is shrouded in mystery! I was initially so nervous to stand up and present my work. However, everyone was very supportive and encouraging. I really appreciated how keen and interested people were to learn and ask questions. The meeting was overall an incredibly positive experience. I gained a lot of confidence and I really enjoyed meeting all the Centre members from around the UK. It was so interesting to hear what everyone else had been working on and inspiring to know so much time and effort was being put into improving asthma care.

Impact on my career

I have now graduated from university and have started work as a doctor. My time working with the Centre has only served to increase my interest in asthma and other respiratory diseases. I gained a much greater understanding of patients’ experiences of living with lung conditions and how it impacts their day–to-day lives. Without the Centre and my time with the PPI researchers and partners, I don’t think I would be able to fully appreciate this. I hope it will make a better and more empathetic doctor. I want to explore respiratory medicine further as a career so I have requested (and been given) a post working in a respiratory ward in Edinburgh which I will be starting in the coming months. I am excited to have the opportunity to treat patients with asthma and other lung conditions and continue to learn more about this vast field of medicine. I know the insights I gained through my research with the Centre will be invaluable.

 

Read about the paper that Flora contributed to.

Asthma in the older generation: increased challenges