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Invitation to research active members - Featured Researcher: Terence Ong

As part of the BGS’s research strategy, we invite research active members to contact us. We would like to know how you became engaged in research; how you found your research project; the obstacles you had to overcome and what your research is about. Here, Terence Ong, Research Fellow at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust describes how he became an ‘accidental academic’.

I think of myself as an ‘accidental academic’. I never considered research as a particular career path, tending to focus more on my clinical training. However, a chance encounter with Prof Opinder Sahota led to him asking me if I was interested in taking time out of programme to work as his research fellow for twelve months. For me, it came at the right time as all the clinical training was leaving me a little jaded. I therefore saw Prof Sahota’s offer as a way of beefing up my CV without extending my training too much. 

During the twelve months under Prof Sahota’s supervision, I had the opportunity to participate in a range of research projects, worked on a Masters and turned a couple of research ideas into projects. While it may have added substance to my CV those twelve months gave me a different insight into what I can achieve in my career. Prof Sahota taught me to appreciate the value of research. As a geriatrician, I know that I am able provide good clinical care at the front door, but with high quality research, I can do much more to provide good clinical care on a wider scale. Hence, having had a taste of research, I decided towards the end of my time out of programme to seek further research opportunities. 

How did you choose your research/audit or was it chosen for you? 

I was encouraged to seek funding through research fellowships to pursue my research interest in bone health. I was inspired by Prof Sahota to think of orthogeriatric medicine beyond hip fracture. Hence, I wanted to explore the role of orthogeriatric medicine and its underlying principles in the management of spinal fragility fractures. My personal experience with spinal fragility fractures in hospital is that they are suboptimally managed and that the model of hip fracture care where a geriatrician and a surgeon working together putting the patient at the centre of their care is the way forward. The research call by the Dunhill Medical Trust two years ago fitted with what I wanted to do and with the advice and support of Prof Sahota and Prof John Gladman I was successful in securing one of its research fellowships. Applying for the fellowship was one of the most challenging processes I have ever experienced. 

What does the project involve (what are you testing)? At what stage are you in the project? 

My research (and PhD) will begin post-CCT in August 2015. Currently, work revolves around the getting things ready (networking, scoping review, literature reading, etc). The research will use mixed methodology to define a spinal orthogeriatric inpatient model of care. The methodology here will bring together existing scientific evidence, and current clinical practice nationally and locally, to develop a framework for managing these fractures. The research will be divided into separate phases which will contribute to the overall study. It will begin with a literature review to identify an evidence-base of care, followed by an expert panel consensus of how spinal fracture care should be, and later on with a cohort study that will identify the care processes that older people with fractures receive in hospital by different clinical teams. 

Terence Ong

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