Where Gwen is now...

We’ve been catching up with Dr Gwen Fernandes, who won the Cosyfeet Podiatry Award in 2007 and is now pursuing a career in clinical research. Back in 2007, Gwen used her award funding to volunteer in wound care clinics with diabetic patients in Ghana.

“Winning the Cosyfeet Podiatry Award allowed me to do something that I’d always wanted to do,” says Gwen. “Ghana is a country of such interesting cultural diversity and I felt that building my knowledge and sharing evidence-based practice with the Ghana Diabetes Association would be integral to my training as a Podiatrist”

While completing her BSc degree, Gwen realised that she was well-suited to the systematic analysis and tenacity required of a clinical researcher. She graduated from Cardiff in 2008 and applied for PhD funding, with the Research Capacity Building Collaboration (RCBC) Wales, while working in her native Bahrain.  Being only 21 at the time, she was uncertain that her application would succeed.

“The interview was really gruelling,” says Gwen. “They were unsure whether someone as young as me could actually conduct the research I was proposing. I reassured them by fine tuning the research methodology and ideas, explained my background and interests, and of course, talked about my work in Ghana with the Cosyfeet Award.”

Gwen was delighted to be granted her PhD funding in early 2009 and went on to conduct research into the lower limb biomechanics of people with medial knee osteoarthritis. This research project included a randomised control trial to determine if modified laterally wedged orthoses could relieve pain in patients with arthritis of the knee. The results, obtained rigorously over 3 ½ years, were positive and are now being written up for publication.

On completion of her PhD, Gwen has now taken up a post as a clinical researcher at Nottingham University with the department of Academic Rheumatology. The project is focussed on identifying the risk factors of hip, knee, foot and ankle arthritis in current and retired professional footballers.  She is funded by Arthritis Research UK and is working with FIFA and the University of Oxford.

“Professional footballers are likely to suffer with arthritis due to the intensity of the sport they play over a prolonged period of time. They are more likely to develop early onset arthritis compared to the general population,’’ says Gwen. “We hope that the results can better inform training methods and improve the health related quality of life of current and ex-professional footballers.”