After completing a number of years as a GP in a busy practice and getting more involved in training of future GPs, I wanted to get back involved in some of the research I was discussing with my trainees every week at tutorials. I saw the advert for CLAHRC research fellows, and thought this could be a wonderful opportunity to combine my life as a GP with some work in primary care research.I started at the University of Cambridge Primary Care Unit on 1st September and was assigned to work on the’ MelaTools Apps study: Skin-Self Monitoring App Assessment by Smartphone Users’.
The overall objective of this study is to understand community user views on the usefulness and usability of skin self- monitoring smartphone applications for people at above average risk of cutaneous melanoma. This study follows on from previous MelaTools studies, including the MelaTools Q study, which calculated the prevalence of patients at increased risk of melanoma in general practices in Eastern England, research that had focused on the use of a tablet device for total skin self-examination in people previously treated for cutaneous melanoma, and a recent review paper on smartphone applications for melanoma detection by community, patient and generalist clinician users.A large proportion of my time has been dedicated to reviewing smartphone applications for melanoma detection from the recent paper, and carrying out a new systematic search of smartphone applications dedicated to skin cancer detection currently on the market. I have been involved in teleconferences with senior team members in Australia and Scotland, and contributed to cancer group meetings discussing colleagues’ studies offering my input as needed.
I have assisted in writing the protocol for the study, reviewing previous studies from the MelaTools programme and reading around other research papers to devise the background for the protocol, aims and objectives and methods, devising a criterion based table outlining the selection of apps for this study.
To develop the study, I have recruited two Mid Essex practices to be involved in patient recruitment. I have spent time discussing the research with colleagues at my surgery, reassuring and explaining the study such that all of the doctors will be proactive in recruiting patients when the study starts.
Along with other members of the team, I have written and reviewed parts of the ethics application, gaining an insight into how these applications take place, and the structure of wording that is required to ensure a successful outcome. I have learnt how much work goes into such documentation in research, and the numerous stakeholders that need to be involved in the process, including patient representative groups.
From this experience, I have relearnt how much work is involved in generating new research, and how often setbacks can occur and how to manage them. I have witnessed the importance of team work in developing the study and generating ideas and identifying problems which can be solved collaboratively.
I have particularly valued discussions in the unit with other colleagues carrying out other research, for example into oesophagogastric cancer and brain tumours, using my general practice background to give an insight into my experiences of barriers and difficulties in timely diagnosis of these conditions.
I am now joining in with lectures on the Primary Care MPhil course, which have so far been both fascinating and challenging, allowing me to explore gaps in my knowledge in Primary Care research and methods.