Meet our Academic Training Lead – Dr Ellen Tullo

Joining our Training Team as BRC Academic Training Lead, Dr Ellen Tullo brings a wealth of experience from her background in geriatrics and medical education

The NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) aims to improves lives through world-class research in ageing and long-term conditions. We have a commitment to training the next generation of researchers and by delivering a programme of inter-disciplinary opportunities for students, researchers and healthcare professionals, we aim to grow our network of rising stars in translational ageing research.

Working as a Lecturer in Ageing Education alongside her clinical role as a Geriatrician, Ellen Tullo is also a previous BRC Clinical Fellowship Trainee. Her experience of teaching, clinical practice and research in different institutional environments means she is perfectly placed to coordinate our local initiatives in line with the wider NIHR training opportunities.

Here Ellen tells us about her own experience of the BRC Clinical Fellowship programme and the BRC training aims for the future:

Clinical and research background

I graduated from Newcastle Medical School in 2004 and as a junior doctor became involved with undergraduate teaching for medical students including medical ethics, communication skills and professional development. Although I enjoyed clinical work, I found that the opportunity to encourage and enthuse trainees was particularly fulfilling.

I made the decision to specialise in geriatric medicine and came to realise that undergraduate education does not sufficiently equip our graduates to care for older people with long-term conditions in a holistic manner. I pursued this concern through a BRC funded fellowship to explore and improve undergraduate teaching about dementia. This opportunity gave me the chance to combine my clinical experience of working with older people with my academic interest in healthcare education.

I subsequently went on to combine teaching, clinical work and educational research in my role as a university lecturer and the role of BRC Academic Training Lead will allow me to continue this further. Although our BRC themes largely relate to clinical systems or syndromes, the NIHR Newcastle BRC believes that training is important enough to stand alone as a “cross-cutting theme”. We value the input and potential of both biomedical science and clinical trainees in improving the lives of people with ageing syndromes and long-term conditions.

What was your own experience of the BRC training programme?

 My own academic interest did not fit into the traditional “model” of biomedical research, and yet the BRC training programme validated my conviction about the importance of adapting medical education to respond to the needs of older people. The translational research process (bench to bedside) is not complete until the knowledge underlying it is shared with our healthcare workforce. Educational research is one of the final parts of the translation process, and the generic research skills and collaboration I was afforded through the BRC training programme were as relevant to me as to those working in laboratories

What is the NIHR Newcastle BRC aiming to do for trainees?

In the short-term we are aiming to attract talented clinical and non-clinical trainees to collaborate with our BRC project leads to advance existing research programmes relevant to ageing syndromes and long-term conditions. We will work with other NIHR infrastructure to offer our trainees opportunities to develop generic skills, such as patient and public involvement, and to collaborate with like-minded academics in wider research networks.

In the longer term we will aim to create a network of undergraduates and postgraduates in diverse disciplines such as pharmacy, clinical science and medicine in order to widen the recruitment and support of those individuals with the potential to advance biomedical research about ageing and long-term conditions. A strength of our BRC is multidisciplinary working, and we aspire to start this process earlier by offering undergraduates from different backgrounds support to collaborate on joint projects with the shared goal of improving the lives of older people.