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My journey into research

My interest in research came as a bit of a surprise.

My interest in research came as a bit of a surprise.

Clare Phillips - Hepatology Nurse Specialist, MSc Global Health

My interest in research came as a bit of a surprise.

In 2016, I started an MSc in Global Health part-time at BSMS. I had previously completed the Diploma of Tropical Nursing at London School of Health and Tropical Medicine and was working as a clinical nurse specialist in viral hepatitis at the time.

I started the MSc thinking I’d be more interested in the policy side of the course or, where it might take me from a clinical perspective. But, it was working with Prof Gail Davey’s research group, for my MSc dissertation, that was the game changer.

Prof Davey’s work in Ethiopia had shed light on the neglected tropical disease, podoconiosis, in quite a remarkable way - improving care for those living with the condition, giving a voice to the seldom heard, influencing national policy, challenging stigmatising attitudes and building research capacity (across disciplines) within Ethiopia. It was hugely inspiring and a clear example of how research had enormous scope to influence change.

Having completed my MSc, I began voluntarily joining various research projects that were going on at work – collecting data for some, writing manuscripts for others. This helped me build my CV and confirmed that a career in research was right for me.

I moved back to Southampton in summer 2019 and began working for the Alcohol Care Team at University Hospital Southampton. Inadvertently, I stepped into a research-focused team, who wanted to use research to make a difference to our patient group. And it made all the difference. In 2021, with my manger, Anya Farmbrough, and Richard Darch from Adult Safeguarding, I wrote a paper challenging perceptions of self-neglect in patients with alcohol use disorder (More than a ‘lifestyle’ choice? Does a patient's use of alcohol affect professionals' perceptions of harm and safeguarding responsibilities when it comes to self-neglect? A case study in alcohol-related liver disease | Gastrointestinal Nursing ( With support from Anya and our medical lead, Prof Julia Sinclair, I applied for the ARC Wessex Mental Health (Alcohol) Internship in 2022.

My internship focused on older adults with alcohol use disorder (AUD), analysing some pre-collected service evaluation data and working on a systematic review of AUD interventions in this cohort.

The internship gave me the time (and funds) to focus on developing gaps in my skillset e.g. I took an online statistics course and had the opportunity to work 1:1 with the ARC statistician to refresh my statistics skills.

I am not sure how or when I would have been able to do this without the internship. The internship also provided opportunities to present my work, from academic conferences to departmental meetings and PPI groups. This allowed me to get familiar with answering direct questions about my research, and how to deal with the trickier ones!

As a result of the ARC Wessex Internship, I had 2 abstracts accepted at national conferences this year (1586 OLDER AGE IS AN IMPORTANT PREDICTOR OF NON-REFERRAL TO COMMUNITY ALCOHOL SERVICES FOLLOWING AN INPATIENT EPISODE: FINDINGS FROM | Age and Ageing | Oxford Academic (, P28 Mortality and cause of death in patients aged 50–59, 12 months after review by an alcohol care team | Gut (

The internship also got me thinking about my next steps and enabled some key conversations to take place. I am certain my future career is a research-focused one and am currently working on my application for Round 11 of the NIHR Doctoral Fellowship programme.

I have an important research question that needs answering, and so its full steam ahead!

More about Clare

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