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Alumni Spotlight: Harnessing health data to support practice and policy

Researcher at work

Dr Barbara Burmen is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health in the US.

As a specialist in implementation science, her work focuses on using health data to support evidence-based clinical practice and health policy.

“My current research aims to find the best possible way to facilitate the routine screening of women living with HIV for cervical cancer, in a way that is sustainable, practical and effective. It is not easy to secure research funding, especially as it’s not always clear what funders are looking for, or how to interpret their criteria. AREF’s grant-writing workshop helped me to decipher exactly what funders want from an application.

The session I enjoyed most was on the ‘black box’ of the peer review process, which covered how funders assess proposals, what helps them and what doesn’t. Using my research proposal at the time, I was able to get direct feedback from the facilitators, which I used to improve my application. It was also really beneficial to see things from the peer reviewers’ side of the table, considering you rarely get to see their feedback during a standard application process.

In the same year as the workshop, I secured funding for my current research and was also a co-recipient on a grant to determine how to screen for acute HIV infection in patients with fever symptoms. I’ve no doubt that AREF’s workshop was pivotal in helping me to secure these grants, and allowing me to continue pursuing my research interests.

Published: 25 August 2020