Research Design Service South East

Case study 4 – fellowship application

Case study 4 – fellowship application

Gail Distefano

Case study 2, Gail Distefano, Principal Clinical Scientist, Royal Surrey County Hospital

Gail Distefano is a Medical Physicist specialising in Radiotherapy Physics at the Royal Surrey Hospital. The RDS SE Surrey team supported Gail in successfully applying for an NIHR Doctoral Fellowship. She received £243,663 for a study testing a novel method to treat lung cancer with radiotherapy.

Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy (SABR) offers major advantages over conventional radiotherapy. However, the high doses of radiation necessary means SABR must be delivered extremely accurately to avoid unwanted radiation to healthy tissue.

Gail’s study will combine SABR with new imaging approaches to design a novel method to plan delivery of SABR. It could potentially result in fewer patients developing severe side effects, allowing SABR to become a viable treatment option for patients currently excluded through high risk of complications from unwanted radiation to healthy tissue. Gail hopes her study will lead on to a future clinical trial.

Gail’s relationship with RDS SE began at one of our events which included an NIHR Fellowships overview and an introduction to Patient and Public Involvement (PPI). She then met with RDS advisers to discuss her plans.  Although Gail felt the meeting was quite overwhelming, it proved an extremely useful ‘reality check’ on what a successful application requires.

Key RDS SE support included advice on how to increase and improve on PPI, ensuring an extensive training and development plan was in place, improving the application’s readability and clarifying the justification for the Fellowship.

Gail’s application benefited from RDS SE pre-submission panel (PSP) feedback as well as a mock interview. Gail found the interview extremely helpful. It took place within a friendly environment providing an opportunity for constructive feedback. Dr Ellen Donovan (see p8) was the lead RDS SE adviser. She said: We have worked with Gail here at Surrey with her applications and interview preparation. Gail previously applied to the ICA scheme but was unsuccessful. She has shown great tenacity and we are delighted that she has now been successful now with her DRF application’.

Gail was very happy with the advice she received. ‘The RDS SE team are extremely approachable, and provide honest and constructive advice, which along with the mock interview and PSP were invaluable, and served to significantly strengthen my application – it has been a challenging, but rewarding journey’.





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