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OUH dietitian accepted onto NIHR pre-doctoral fellowship

15/07/2022

An Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) dietitian specialising in adult cystic fibrosis has been awarded a national pre-doctoral fellowship, following career support from the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

Joanna Snowball, who works in the Oxford Adult Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Centre, is the first OUH dietitian to be accepted onto the National Institute for Health and Care Research's (NIHR) prestigious Pre-doctoral Clinical and Practitioner Academic Fellowship (PCAF) scheme.

Joanna's research focuses on how to support people with CF who are experiencing rapid weight-gain as a result of new medications.

Joanna was among the first four nurses and allied health professionals to do a five-month BRC internship working on a project on remote consultations, which also provided training and support to help them develop their research skills and knowledge and be better placed to apply for funding.

Her interest in research piqued and having published two papers as a result of the internship, Joanna applied successfully for an Oxford BRC preparatory fellowship, which has allowed her to continue her research.

She was introduced to Professor Susan Jebb, who leads the Oxford BRC's Obesity, Diet and Lifestyle Theme, and Dr Dimitrios Koutoukidis, a post-doctoral research dietitian in her team, has supervised Joanna over the last year to complete a piece of qualitative research that she intends to submit for publication by the end of her fellowship.

Joanna will be supervised during her PCAF by Professor Amanda Adler who leads the Oxford Diabetes Trials Unit (DTU) and is the Oxford Co-theme Lead for Diabetes. The DTU is planning a study using national CF registry data, and Joanna will also observe the running of an NIHR-funded closed-loop insulin pump trial in CF patients being run by DTU.

"I'm delighted to be able to take this next step on my research journey. The support I have received from the BRC, allied to my clinical expertise, put me in a strong position to apply for the PCAF," Joanna says.

"There has not been a huge amount of research in my area of expertise, so it is exciting that I'm able to build on my research skills, which will allow me to continue learning more about how we can address the issues that are important for my patients."

Professor Jebb said: "I am thrilled that Joanna has been awarded this Fellowship. It was clear to me from our first meeting that her clinical experience had sparked a keen interest in research to find solutions to the new and challenging issue of idiopathic weight gain among people with CF.

"I was delighted to welcome her into our BRC theme and the PCAF scheme will give her the time and space to be able to frame the research questions and to begin to develop the research skills that will enable her to pursue her research and improve the care of people with CF."

Dr Helen Walthall, Director of Nursing and Midwifery Research and Innovation at OUH, said: "At OUH, we are determined to see more nurses, midwives and allied health professionals pursue a clinical academic career – ultimately research in clinical practice translates into better care and treatment for our patients.

"So, we are very pleased that Joanna has been successful in this highly competitive award; she has shown huge drive and motivation in developing her research knowledge and skills and it’s really gratifying to see how BRC support at different stages has allowed Joanna to take great strides on her clinical academic path."

The PCAF scheme, which is open to early career researchers from the health and care professions, funds dedicated time to prepare an application for a competitive, peer-reviewed doctoral-level research training fellowship and personalised programmes of training that will equip awardees with the skills and experience to access doctoral level funding.