Today marks the last day of my official funding for my NIHR Doctoral Research Fellowship. It feels like a rather serious date. I have been an NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow for four whole years. During this time I have:
- Started my PhD and nearly finished writing my thesis – I will be submitting it soon all things being well! (Cross your fingers for me!)
- Created a manual for a communication partner training intervention called Better Conversations with PPA and have published it its own part of the UCL eXtend website, with a number of training modules to help people engage and learn about it. Most of this has been coproduced by people with PPA, their families and other professionals (SLTs). (We will be officially launching this at some point!)
- Published 4 peer reviewed journal articles directly related to my PhD and another 2 due to the links I have forged during the course of my PhD
- Done conference presentations, both locally, nationally and internationally and now know a lot more about how to put together a conference poster and present to an academic audience (and have incidentally visited countries I had never been to including Hong Kong, Portugal and the US)
- Lectured on the speech and language therapy training Masters here at UCL- all about dementia, and another one on ethics (and Mental Capacity!!). I have also acquired another regular lecture on the Masters of Dementia her at UCL- telling other professionals all about SLT in dementia.
- Have NOT learnt to feel more confident about ANY statistics programs. But that’s ok- because I know my limitations.
- I am not able to spell any better, nor has my grammar improved. Academic writing is a slog- requiring multiple revisions and lots and lots of editing.
- I do not feel ANY more comfortable about listing my achievements- it still feels terribly awkward and slightly wierd (I don’t know any SLTs who are comfortable with this type of thing).
- I am no cleverer than when I started.
- I still ask stupid questions.
More importantly I have had the most wonderful opportunities and experiences. I have enjoyed every minute of this experience. I honestly feel valued by all the people in the department I work, by both my supervisors, my mentor, my peers and all the students I have been working with. It feels like the work I have done here will make a difference. I can cascade the work I do and support multiple other professionals to, in turn, support people with dementia, primary progressive aphasia and their families and other communication partners.
The worst thing about coming to the end of the fellowship is that it feels like I am leaving something behind. It feels like the end of an era. I feel rather sad about the multiple goodbyes I have had to start saying. One of the hardest has actually been saying goodbye to the people with PPA and their communication partners who have worked on the steering committee for my project. These people feel like colleagues. They are as invested as I am. They feel as passionately (if not more passionately) about the work. And we have lots more ideas about how to take the work forward. Frustratingly we cannot just jump in and get on with the next stage of this work together.
Despite the hard goodbyes, I feel confident about there being opportunities for more collaboration. The fact that other people are as engaged and enthusiastic suggests that further research is warranted. That this cannot be the end of the road. I must go on. I am determined to apply for further funding to continue the work we have started.
But first let me just finish my thesis and submit it and do my viva…..and then we can apply for more funding. NIHR here we come.