MRI radiographer wins prestigious national doctoral fellowship

Eric Onwuharine has been award the NIHR’s clinical and practitioner academic doctoral fellowship, beating out hundreds of other applicants

Published: 26 February 2024 Awards

An MRI radiographer at University Hospital North Midlands has beaten hundreds of other applicants in efforts to achieve the National Institute for Health and Care Research's (NIHR) Clinical and Practitioner Academic Doctoral Fellowship (DCAF).

Eric Onwuharine is an MRI radiographer at the Royal Stoke University Hospital who participated in the award by developing a strong research proposal and undergoing an interview as part of the DCAF process.

Mr Onwuharine will begin his three-year research as part of his PhD into improving prostate cancer pathways in the spring, and was awarded £283,000 towards his research from the NIHR.

He will continue his role at University Hospitals North Midlands (UHNM) during this period.

Improve patient experience and save NHS costs

On his chosen subject, Mr Onwuharine explained every patient who receives a prostate MRI scan receives a contrast dye injection, but research suggests this is not always needed.

His proposal will look into whether radiographers can take on these reviewing and decision-making tasks in the place of radiologists. Reducing the number of contrast injection appointments will improve both patient experience and save costs for the NHS, he said.

“It feels great to have been awarded this fellowship after years of hard work. I owe my gratitude to the CeNREE team at UHNM and the academic supervisors from Keele University for their help and guidance in putting together a successful proposal," Mr Onwuharine added. 

'Develop a genuine interest in research'

The DCAF offers research training awards to healthcare and social care professionals who wish to blend research and research leadership with ongoing practice and professional development. In particular, it aids prospective academics with aspirations to pursue PhD studies.

Mr Onwuharine said: “My advice to aspiring fellows is to develop a genuine interest in research and research activities. Engage in research activities that will lead to publications. Reach out to your research and innovation team for signposting and other help, including collaborations.”

Mr Onwuharine has practised radiography for the past two decades, 16 of which have been spent at UNHM. 

He has been working towards becoming a clinical academic for several years and getting to the level of an independent researcher, which first drove him to apply for an NIHR research fellowship.

'Competitive and prestigious'

The fellowship is hosted by UHNM’s Centre for NMAHP Research and Education Excellence (CeNREE) with support from a joint supervision team from Keele University and UHNM.

Dr Alison Cooke, assistant director of nursing, research and academic development at CeNREE said: “Eric has done incredibly well to have been awarded this competitive and prestigious fellowship, succeeding against hundreds of other applicants to be one of a very small number of people nationally to receive funding into his research. 

“He has managed to find an original, clinical research question that needs answering and will benefit patients not only here at UHNM but potentially internationally. We’re really looking forward to seeing where this takes him and research in the trust.

“Eric’s success builds on from our four staff who have been awarded pre-doctoral NIHR fellowships, with CeNREE currently supporting over 100 members of staff at UHNM to develop their research to be in a position to apply for future fellowships, so we’re hopeful for further good news in the future.”

(Image: Eric Onwuharine)