Dr Stephanie Lewis is a Clinical Lecturer in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London. She was a BRC Preparatory Clinician Fellow in 2016-2017. We spoke to her in August 2018.
Tell us about your career to date
I studied medicine at Imperial College London. Since graduating, I have combined clinical training with research experience on the integrated clinical academic training pathway.
First, I worked as an Academic Foundation Programme doctor in North West Thames, which included a research post at Imperial College London, gaining skills in epidemiology. Then, I was awarded an Academic Clinical Fellowship at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM), which included research posts at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London (IoPPN), building my research skills and developing my interest in child psychiatry research.
Next, I took time out of clinical training for a BRC Preparatory Fellowship at the IoPPN.
Following this, I gained a Clinical Lectureship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the IoPPN and SLaM, and have been awarded an MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship. I hope to continue to develop my career as an academic child psychiatrist.
How did you first become interested in a clinical academic career?
I first became interested in academic medicine during my intercalated BSc in Neuroscience and Mental Health at medical school. I loved learning about new research and completing my own research project to discover new information, in order to better understand and treat brain disorders. I was taught by expert clinical academics, who demonstrated the value of combined clinical academic careers, and encouraged me to follow this route. This experience motivated me to continue research during my clinical training.
What attracted you to apply to the BRC Preparatory Fellowship?
I was attracted by the opportunity to undertake research full time, in order to build a strong research foundation and plan for further research training. I was keen to access the outstanding training and support available from the NIHR Maudsley BRC and at the IoPPN. I knew this experience would provide a fantastic opportunity to develop my PhD applications, the next important step in building my clinical academic career.
What skills did you develop during the BRC Preparatory Fellowship?
I undertook a research project, studying the epidemiology of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in young people, which I presented nationally and internationally. In order to complete this work, I attended highly regarded training courses and received excellent supervision from world-leading experts at the IoPPN. This experience enabled me to develop skills in research planning, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination, in addition to gaining knowledge in this field. I also made plans to build on this work in a PhD, and applied for further research training to undertake a PhD. I really benefitted from consulting with BRC service user groups and attending IoPPN grant proposal writing workshops, which enabled me to develop proposal writing skills to inform and strengthen my PhD applications.
How has the BRC Preparatory Fellowship helped you achieve your career aspirations?
The BRC fellowship provided the time and resources needed to carry out a research project, build skills and knowledge, and make plans for my PhD project, which put me in a great position to apply for future research training. I successfully gained a Clinical Lectureship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and have been awarded an MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship, during which I will complete a PhD. The BRC Preparatory Fellowship has therefore been really important in bridging the gap between my clinical training and further research training, which will provide the ideal platform to establish my clinical academic career.
Tell us about your current role
I am a Clinical Lecturer in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the IoPPN and SLaM. I spend half my time working as a child psychiatry doctor in a community CAMHS team, caring for children with a variety of mental health problems. It is a real privilege to work with young people and their families, and this work provides an important context to inform my research. I spend the rest of my time researching child and adolescent mental health, with a view to improving psychiatric care for young people. In September 2018 I will start a full-time MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship at the IoPPN, to focus on research training, before returning to complete my clinical training.
My research focusses on understanding the mental health problems experienced by young people who have been exposed to traumatic events, such as being assaulted or being in a car accident. Traumas are strongly linked with mental health difficulties, which I’ve often seen in my clinical practice. Young people are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of traumas because they are exposed to the highest rates of traumas and are undergoing important neurobiological, emotional, and social development which might be disrupted by stressful experiences. I want to better understand how and why trauma contributes to mental health problems in young people, in order to inform and improve psychiatric care for those affected.
Do you have any career advice for clinicians starting out in research?
Take early opportunities – assisting others and completing your own small projects will help you to build valuable skills and knowledge, and help you to understand which areas of research interest you most. Think ahead – speaking to peers and seniors about academic careers will help you to consider your own career goals; then prioritise opportunities that will help you get there. Consider taking time out of clinical training to focus on research – dedicating time to research training, for example undertaking a BRC Preparatory Fellowship, will provide fantastic opportunities to start to build your research career.