2 August 2021

Throughout June and July, Bowel Research UK has been virtually hosting an intern from the US through the CAPA internship programme. Holli Acree is a student at Arizona State University, where she is studying Biomedical Sciences. Holli is also a Certified Nurse’s Assistant (CRN) at a hospital in her home state of Colorado. She plans to one day pursue a career in medical research.

Hannah, our Research and PPI Assistant, sat down with Holli to ask her some questions about her time at Bowel Research UK.

Hannah: So Holli, what led you to choose to do an international internship?

Holli: I chose to do an international internship because I originally wanted to study aboard in person, however this of course was not possible because of the ongoing pandemic. I wanted to expand my knowledge not only about research but also about other cultures. Following my initial interview with Bowel Research UK, I realised what a fantastic experience working with them would be and I am so grateful for the opportunity.

Hannah: How do you think this internship might help you in your future career?

Holli: When doing this internship I learned a lot about how to connect patients and the public with researchers. When hosting my own focus group I learned a lot of new skills, so in the future these can help me as a researcher connect with patients and the public. Additionally, doing an international internship will allow help me to connect with  different researchers and patients across the world.

Now I have a question for you. What caused you to choose to do this project?

Hannah: Something that is really important to us here at Bowel Research UK is having equality between researchers, patients and the public. Something we try to establish in focus groups and when we involve the public in research is making sure that participants and researchers start on an equal footing. We work to remove any sense of hierarchy so that people are working on a level playing field. Creating this pack of activities allows participants and researchers to get to know each other in a less formal way, helping people feel more comfortable talking about their experiences and getting rid of barriers between two groups. Also, we have found that some researchers are not necessarily comfortable with talking to large groups of patients and that this might be very new to them. Having a ready pack of activities to turn to and run a group with can help them feel more confident in running a session.

Leading on from this Holli, how did you find running your first focus group?

Holli: I was a bit nervous at first but having opportunity to meet members of Bowel Research UK’s People and Research Together network and understand why they engage with the charity’s patient and public involvement programme was extremely eye-opening. All of them were so supportive of both me and the charity’s work. Through running my own focus group, I learnt so many new skills and got good feedback on how I can improve my activities for next time. I really enjoyed the opportunity to trial the icebreakers I had designed and engage with the patient community on producing materials that Bowel Research UK can use in the future. Overall it was an amazing and hugely educational experience.

Hannah: Brilliant. I want to say from everyone at Bowel Research UK, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you with us Holli and thank you for all the hard work you have been doing. We hope that you’ll eventually have the opportunity to come and visit us in-person here in the UK.