Dr Gemma Owens
NIHR Clinical Lecturer
Meet Dr Gemma Owens, a former Cancer Research UK Manchester Centre Clinical Research Training Fellow (CRTF) who was successfully awarded an NIHR Clinical Lectureship in 2020.
Th eNIHR Clinical Lectureship is a post-doctoral award providing a clinical and academic training environment for doctors to establish themselves as independent researchers and leaders. The post is made up of 50% clinical training and 50% academic research. Recruitment at Manchester takes place twice a year in June and October, to be in post by 31st March. Appointments are for the duration of remaining specialty training (until completion of training) or for a maximum of four years, whichever is soonest.
Dr Gemma Owens, NIHR Clinical Lecturer & ST5 in Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Previously a CRUK Manchester Centre Clinical Research Training Fellow
PhD Title: The development of tumour infiltrating lymphocytes as a therapeutic strategy in ovarian cancer
PhD Supervisor: Professor Richard Edmondson
What does your current research/role involve?
In February 2020, I was appointed as an NIHR Clinical Lecturer in the Gynaecological Oncology Group at Saint Mary’s Hospital. As a Clinical Lecturer, my time is divided equally between clinical training as a specialist registrar in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and conducting research. Following on from my PhD fellowship, which focused on the preclinical development of tumour infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy for the treatment of high-grade serous ovarian cancer, I now plan to investigate predictive and therapeutic biomarkers for TIL therapy.
What prompted you to apply for an NIHR Clinical Lectureship?
I applied for an NIHR Clinical Lectureship as I wish to pursue a career in academic Gynaecological Oncology. Upon completing my clinical training, I intend to apply for a Clinician Scientist Fellowship. The Clinical Lectureship provides protected time to construct my own research questions, set up collaborations, secure my own funding and generate pilot data for fellowship applications. Without this time, it would be very difficult to try and accomplish these goals alongside full-time clinical training.
Utilising these existing links [with research networks] has made the transition from CRTF to Clinical Lecturer seamless, by providing a wide network of mentors and potential collaborators.
Dr Gemma Owens
NIHR Clinical Lecturer
How did your experience as a CRUK Manchester Centre Clinical Research Training Fellow aid this transition?
As a CRUK Manchester Centre CRTF, I had the opportunity to work with the Clinical and Experimental Immunotherapy Group and developed techniques in T-cell isolation and expansion, T-cell characterisation by flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry and ELISA, and T-cell engineering. These are skills that I will continue to utilise as a Clinical Lecturer. I also was fortunate enough to work with members of the Manchester Immuno-oncology Network and a number of immuno-oncology companies. Utilising these existing links has made the transition from CRTF to Clinical Lecturer seamless, by providing a wide network of mentors and potential collaborators.
How does the Clinical Lectureship support your career ambitions?
My long-term goal is to establish myself as the lead of a dynamic research team carrying out translational immuno-oncology research in gynaecological cancer. The Clinical Lectureship ensures I have protected time to generate pilot data and develop my skill set, to apply for a competitive Clinical Scientist fellowship, and subsequently establish myself as an independent investigator. The Clinical Lectureship is a unique opportunity to ‘trial’ integrating research with clinical training and home life, before pursuing a career as a clinician scientist.
What advice would you give to CRTFs who might like to apply for a Clinical Lectureship in the future?
The principal challenge of a Clinical Lectureship is creating your own niche to enable you to move towards research independence. Start thinking about what direction your research might follow, who is best placed to mentor you and who you might wish to collaborate with.
Have a clear idea of where you see yourself in 5-years’ time and think careful about which institute is best suited to support your individual goals.
Remember 50% of a Clinical Lectureship is clinical training. Consider how you are going to organise your time effectively to ensure that you achieve your clinical competencies.
Sit your membership exams early and ideally before applying for the NIHR CL. It was a stipulation from my interview panel that I should have full membership of the RCOG prior to taking up my post as a Clinical Lecturer, which meant having to cram two exams into a 6-month window.