Praveen Sharma

Praveen Sharma - NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow shares an insight into his career and reflections on being awarded the prestigious National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) fellowship.

I graduated as a dentist from the University of Birmingham in 2007 and returned to the Birmingham Dental Hospital in 2010 as a Senior House Officer (SHO) in restorative dentistry. It was during that post that I was approached by Mr Geoff Bateman who advised that Professor Iain Chapple was looking for “high-flying” trainees in restorative dentistry for the first Academic Clinical Fellow (ACF) post at the Birmingham Dental Hospital. This was to be in the field of restorative dentistry.

The ACF post seemed like an ideal post for me as it would afford me some formal training in research, via the University of Birmingham, as well as other courses. It would also get me involved in research, something that I had little prior exposure to. After the ACF post, I would apply for funding to do my PhD and if that worked out, that’s great and if not, I’ll just finish my clinical training. It seemed like a win-win for me.

As it happened, during my ACF post, I was under the wing of Professor Iain Chapple and Professor Thomas Dietrich and its true to say that I really caught the research bug! I was fortunate in that my research involved collaborating with the Renal team at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, headed by Professor Cockwell and the renal research team made me feel very welcome from the start. I was also fortunate in that the research that I was doing bore fruit in the form of publications and small grants. I was also fortunate in the research that I was doing was also in favour at the time, and continues to be so. My research was looking at the links between periodontitis and chronic kidney disease.

At my second attempt, I was awarded the prestigious doctoral research fellowship by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) which afforded me time out of my clinical training to focus on my PhD. With my clinical training on hold, I spent the next 3 years exclusively doing research with just one session a week of treating patients and one session a week teaching dental undergraduate students. The NIHR fellowship was generous in its training component which allowed me to get world-class training as a researcher, attending courses, summer/winter schools worldwide.

I am very grateful for all the support and mentorship I’ve received which has enabled to achieve as much as I have.