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Florence Johnson

Career progression

1. Pharmacology BSc (+ extra-mural year in research)

2. PhD

3. Voluntary work in healthcare education, Nigeria

4. Project management

Published: 07 Sep 2017 in Project Management

Florence is a research and impact officer at Kidney Research UK.

What is your career pathway to date (including your education)?

I studied pharmacology at King’s College London, with an extra-mural year at The William Harvey Research Institute (WHRI), Queen Mary University of London. Whilst at the WHRI, I studied alongside Professor Chris Thiemermann, focusing on animal models of renal ischaemia/reperfusion injury and renal fibrosis. Prof Thiemermann very kindly asked me to return to study for a PhD in the same area: I studied the progression of acute kidney injury (AKI) to chronic kidney disease, and the inflammatory pathways promoting the development of fibrosis post-AKI. I completed my PhD in renal medicine in 2016, funded by the BPS AJ Clarke studentship. I then had a nine-month break during which I volunteered in healthcare education in Nigeria for three months with Voluntary Services Overseas. It was then that I realised I would like to work in the NGO sector in the future. By chance, when job hunting, an advert for a position at Kidney Research UK for Research and Impact Officer appeared (kidneys and charity, two areas I am very passionate about!), which desired a candidate with a PhD. I was fortunate enough to be successful and have now been working at Kidney Research UK since June 2017.

What do you do? What does a typical week look like to you?

The major part of my role is project managing the National Unified Renal Translational Research Enterprise (NURTuRE). NURTuRE is the first renal biobank covering England, Scotland and Wales, collecting samples from 3,000 patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and over 800 patients with nephrotic syndrome (NS) across 14 NHS trusts. NURTuRE is a huge collaborative project, involving multiple parties including charity (Kidney Research UK), industry and academia, and eventually, the wider research community who may apply to access samples.

My role is to ensure NURTuRE is delivered on time, via communication with the two cohort project managers (CKD/NS) who oversee the running of the clinical trial sites. I also monitor risks to the delivery of the collaboration (hopefully avoiding/solving them!) and will be co-ordinating the access of the funders and core academic team to samples and data after collection. Further to this, I provide administrative and planning support to our Director of Research Operations for all NURTuRE governance meetings.

Other roles include managing aspects of other clinical trials funded by Kidney Research UK, such as PIVOTAL (investigating the optimum amount of intravenous iron that can be given to patients on haemodialysis to treat anaemia effectively and safely) and ASSIST-CKD (identifying people with chronic kidney disease at the greatest risk of disease progression and ensuring they are referred to secondary care at the right time, for the right treatment in the right care setting). I am also responsible for evaluating the impact that the research funded by the charity has, using Researchfish® and other tools.

What do you like and dislike the most about your current position?

My favourite aspect of my current position is being part of NURTuRE. It is such an ambitious and complex project for multiple reasons – we will be aiming to collect over a million aliquots of patient samples! This project is exciting to me as I know that NURTuRE is vital in advancing research in the renal field.

As I am relatively new to the position I cannot say I dislike any aspect of the job, but I do occasionally miss reading papers and frequently attending conferences as I did during my PhD.

How do you see your career further progressing in the future?

I am planning to be working on the NURTuRE project through until the end which isn’t for at least another five years. Beyond that, who knows? I’ve never really forward planned my career, just made sure I do the research into my options where appropriate, and do whatever feels right.

What 3 pieces of advice would you give someone keen on developing a career in your area of work?

Firstly – volunteer! Even if it’s not as extreme as volunteering abroad, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer all across the UK. I think this really helped me get the job as it demonstrated I was enthusiastic about the NGO sector.

Secondly – being passionate about medicine is a must, and a PhD is really handy (but not essential!). I was very fortunate to find a job so closely related to what I studied, but I think this is quite rare!

Thirdly – be personable. Project management is all about developing good relationships with people to get the best out of them. If you are enthusiastic about the project, and organised – it helps!

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