Dr Helen Brotherton is a Wellcome Trust Research Training Fellow

Dr Brotherton has over 13 years clinical paediatric experience in a varietyof health care settings in UK, Ireland, Australia and West Africa. She is a visiting PhD student in the Disease Control Elimination Theme at MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM and an Honorary Consultant General Paediatrician with an interest in Paediatric Infectious Diseases, at the Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh.

Helen was inspired to pursue a research career whilst working at Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital (EFSTH), then known as Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital (RVTH), neonatal unit as a Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) volunteer and clinician from 2007 to 2009. The number and tragedy of avoidable newborn deaths and futility of clinical “fire fighting” motivated her to shift career focus to researching feasible and effective newborn interventions for low-resource settings.

Dr Helen Brotherton

After taking a break to have two children and complete her Paediatric Specialist Training at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh, Helen was awarded a Wellcome Trust Research Training Fellowship. The learning objective of this fellowship is to develop the skills and experience to work as a clinical trialist in global newborn health. Utilising research as a vehicle for development was also a motivating factor in her choice of PhD topic, which aims to investigate the clinical effects of early kangaroo mother care (KMC) for unstable, preterm hospitalised newborns and explore potential underlying mechanisms for clinical effect.

Since moving to The Gambia in January 2017, Helen has conducted a mixed methods feasibility study in preparation for a pragmatic randomised controlled trial comparing early KMC with standard care in unstable neonates <2000g, in Spring 2018 at EFSTH neonatal unit. Due to a partnership between Dr Brotherton and team, EFSTH, The Gambian Government, Ministry of Health and UNICEF, the first national KMC Training of Trainers workshop occurred in August 2017 and the first KMC unit in The Gambia was opened at EFSTH on 11th October 2017, where Helen continues to provide supportive Consultant supervision.

She is grateful for mentorship from supervisors Professor Joy Lawn and Dr Anna Roca, as well as the rest of her supervision team (Professor Simon Cousens and previously Dr Akram Zaman) and advisory committee (Dr Cally Tan, Dr Anna Seale, Dr Loveday Penn-Kakana, LSHTM). Developing these research skills would not be possible without their strong support, particularly learning how to balance clinical-research commitments and have a healthy work-life balance in the context of academic work.

Helen sees living in The Gambia with her husband and children as a fantastic opportunity to develop as a clinical researcher, learn from the vast experience present at MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM and contribute towards the improvement of newborn hospital care in the country.