DPhil student Amadea Turk reflects on her experiences—both the successes and the stumbling blocks—working as a researcher in Primary Care.
I have worked in academic primary care research since completing my master’s degree in 2016 and I am now an NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow leading work that explores how social prescribing is being implemented in socially and economically disadvantaged settings. I have a longstanding research interest on the role that primary care might play in tackling the social determinants of health and the ways in which we can design the health system to be accessible by those with the greatest need. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to work on something I have a real passion for and which at the same time is giving me the opportunity to build my career in academic research.
While it is easy to point to all the successes and showcase our achievements when we are asked to talk about our research careers, I feel it is also important to highlight the many stumbling blocks that most of us do end up facing along the way. In the last seven years I made three unsuccessful applications to PhD programmes, five unsuccessful applications to major fellowship/funding schemes, and I had two unsuccessful interviews for jobs I really wanted. I even had senior academics (both male and female) suggest that I should look elsewhere for opportunities, suggesting that Oxford was perhaps not the place for me.
In those moments of “failure” my confidence always took a huge knock and the temptation to quit and go and do something different was always very strong. What made me stick with it, however, were the various mentors I have had along the way. I have been extremely fortunate that every line manager that I have had since I started working in research, has encouraged me, mentored me, promoted me, and actively sought out opportunities that have supported my career development. Each one always very generously offered guidance, constructive feedback, networking advice, insights into career paths in academia, as well as enthusiastically celebrated even minor successes. Their reassurance that that “failure” is only a small part of the bigger picture made all the difference.
The success I have experienced in academic research so far would not have been possible without the network of mentors that I have had, or the opportunities that were made available to me. I have been the recipient of two fellowship/scholarship schemes set up in the memories of two outstanding female academics. My career in academic research was launched by a Fellowship scheme set up in the memory of Dr Ann McPherson. A scholarship set up in the memory of Dr Rosemary Stewart was what enabled me to finally embark on my DPhil journey.
And so, when asked to reflect about on my experiences of being a woman in academic research, I would say that I wouldn’t be here without the opportunities that were made available to me through the legacies of other women in academia. Nor would I be where I am without the mentorship, support and encouragement of my mentors and colleagues.