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BSR member Dr Charles Raine says that without our Research Funding Fellowship, it would likely have been the end of his academic career.


The trainee rheumatologist from UCL had exhausted almost all options for additional funding for his fledgling research project, which investigated the use of ultrasound in pregnant women with rheumatoid arthritis. He explains: “The BSR research fellowship helped me leverage a further two years funding to carry on with the project and that will help me register for a PhD. It’ll help get some really exciting data and could lead to further work in the field.”


He adds: “If I hadn’t had got the BSR fellowship, it may have been the end of the road for my research. It had been difficult for various reasons to get money for the project, particularly because the subject is pregnant women and there are difficulties designing studies on these patients. I had just two months of funding left, so it was a crucial time.”


Our Research Fellowship supports those in the early stages of their careers. Dr Raine was initially unsuccessful but was so passionate about his work that he applied again and was successful second time round.


“The application process was straightforward,” explains Dr Raine. “Once I was told that I’d been successful and the funding came through, it meant I could drive my project forward.”


More on Dr Raine's project

For a long time it’s been known that rheumatoid arthritis often gets better spontaneously in pregnancy, but it’s not known why. Dr Raine’s interest is in finding out the underlying causes of this, because it could eventually have significant therapeutic implications for patients.


He explains: “My specific role is using ultrasound as we know it can give a more accurate indication of disease activity than just clinically examining the patient. But it’s not been extensively studied in the pregnancy setting.”


This project is part of a wider research study being led by Professor Ian Giles. The team is creating the largest UK cohort of patients to measure disease activity and collect outcomes of rheumatic disease in pregnancy. Dr Raine’s research has shown that a subset of patients who appear to be remission can still have disease evident on ultrasound. Samples are then taken for further laboratory analysis.


“There’s an even better reason for using ultrasound in pregnancy,” explains Dr Raine, "because there are other causes of pain in pregnancy which makes rheumatoid arthritis pain harder to distinguish.”


Dr Raine has already submitted a systematic review for publication on the current understanding of the causes of remission in RA pregnancy and had several abstracts at BSR’s conference this year.


He says: “A lot of people are in my position whereby they want to do some research, but you’re so busy when you’re in full time clinical training, it can be very difficult to get preliminary data or experience. The great thing about the BSR research fellowship is that they were looking for people like me, who perhaps don’t have much of a research background but want to have the opportunity. If you have a strong motivation to do it and you find an interesting project, you’ll be a perfect candidate.”


Fellowships give members a unique opportunity to explore different areas of rheumatology, provide ongoing learning and professional development. As well as the Research Fellowship (now titled Research Funding Call), we offer a Headstart, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Transition, Peer Review and a new Research Visiting fellowship, with more to follow in the new year.


Our fellowships