In the first of a regular series where we highlight the work of our researchers, we spoke to Mr Gulraj Matharu. Gulraj has recently completed an Arthritis Research UK clinical research fellowship, and now holds an NIHR Clinical Lectureship in Trauma and Orthopaedic surgery at the University of Bristol.
Please could you start by telling us a bit about your background and research interests?
I am a specialist trainee in Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery. I became interested in clinical research during my training, especially during my time as an NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow in Birmingham. My main research interest was in the problems related to metal-on-metal hip replacements. I subsequently took time out of clinical training to complete a PhD at the University of Oxford. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a Royal College of Surgeons of England Research Fellowship followed by an Arthritis Research UK clinical research fellowship. These prestigious fellowships allowed me to successfully complete my PhD, which was awarded recently.
What inspired you to apply for an Arthritis Research UK fellowship?
Some of my previous supervisors had made me aware of these prestigious doctoral fellowships specifically geared towards clinical academics. After doing my own research into the opportunities available and speaking to current/previous Arthritis Research UK fellows, I was in no doubt that I should apply, though was equally aware the competition would be tough. I was fortunate enough to be shortlisted for interview and subsequently awarded a clinical research fellowship.
What are your research highlights to date?
During my fellowship I have had numerous opportunities to present and publish my work. One of the registry studies I performed was selected for the “Game Changers” session at the prestigious American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Annual Meeting in San Diego. From over 8,000 abstracts submitted for presentation at the meeting the program committee selected the top six podium abstracts for the “Game Changers” session, which included the work that the committee felt would change their practice in the next two to three years.
Shortly after my fellowship ended I wrote a piece that critically appraised the new MHRA follow-up guidance for metal-on-metal hip patients, which was subsequently published in the British Medical Journal.
What has been the most challenging part of your fellowship?
The most challenging part of my fellowship was balancing my time to complete the necessary projects, as well as the write up and submission of my PhD. I certainly improved my time management skills during my fellowship and managed to complete the projects on time, but this was certainly a different type of time management compared with clinical life.
"Undertaking this fellowship and completing my PhD has driven me to continue to pursue a clinical academic career."
What are your plans for the future?
Undertaking this fellowship and completing my PhD has driven me to continue to pursue a clinical academic career. I have recently commenced an NIHR funded Clinical Lectureship in Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Bristol. This 4-year post will allow me to continue my clinical training whilst also providing me with dedicated research time to undertake work in the field of hip and knee replacement.
What doors has our fellowship funding opened?
In addition to helping me obtain my current clinical lectureship post I believe the Arthritis Research UK fellowship has allowed me to develop a collaborative network with colleagues in both the UK and Europe. This will be vital for future collaborative research studies.
Do you have any advice that you would give other early stage clinical researchers?
I would thoroughly recommend early clinical researchers consider applying for formal research fellowships such as those offered by Arthritis Research UK. Not only are they vitally important for undertaking your research and disseminating your work, but also as they are prestigious they offer a stepping-stone to subsequent grants and jobs. If anyone were considering applying for one of these fellowships I would recommend planning early, and also contacting previous fellows who can provide useful advice on the process.
Gulraj is happy to respond to any queries or speak to anyone who is interested in applying for an Arthritis Research UK clinical research fellowship. If you have a question for Gulraj, please let us know and we will put you in touch.