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NIHR celebrate Khyber Medical University’s bright SPARC

Khyber Medical University’s own Dr. Safat Ullah features in the latest edition of the NIHR Global Health Research Newsletter.

This month our funder, the UK National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), focuses on their strategic commitment to supporting research capacity strengthening in low and middle income countries, through Official Development Assistance. The March edition of the Global Health Research news and updates shines a spotlight on the work of the NIHR Global Health Research Academy.

In 2020, Dr. Safat Ullah, a clinician at KMU, was among the first early-career researchers awarded a NIHR Global Health SPARC award. As part of this, he undertook a six month placement at the University of York where he learned how to manage randomised clinical trials. On his return to KMU, he was able to step up to co-lead a research project on COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.

Safat is one of 15 early-career researchers globally who have benefited from the NIHR’s SPARC award scheme to date.

“My placement gave me confidence and equipped me with innovative and exciting ideas, and networking in a different culture”, he said. “I would encourage anyone who wants to take the next step in their research career to apply for a SPARC award.”

In recent years, Safat has also been developing his research with the NIHR Global Health Research Group on Addressing Smokeless Tobacco and building Research Capacity in South Asia (ASTRA).

How NIHR supports career development

The NIHR Academy strengthens capacity by supporting the career development of NIHR-funded researchers at any stage of their career and it currently offers three funding schemes for global health researchers to improve their skills:

  • SPARC (Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration) for Academy Members
  • CADA (Cohort Academic Development Award) for Training Leads (new in 2022/23)
  • Global Research Professorships for academic leaders

Anyone who is funded or supported by an NIHR Global Health Research award is eligible to become an NIHR Academy Member. Members receive training to develop their careers, supported by Training Leads within each funded project.


Safat benefited from a Global Health Research Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (GHR SPARC) award.

The SPARC scheme offers NIHR GHR Academy members actively pursuing an academic research career an opportunity to apply for up to £10,000 to design and undertake a short bespoke placement.

The scheme is designed to optimise and enhance the individuals’ research training experience as well as their networks, CVs and academic career opportunities. Further information regarding the scheme, including the eligibility criteria, funding available and application and assessment process can be found in the guidance notes on the NIHR Website.

Picture: Dr. Safat Ullah (standing right) facilitating a clinical trials data management workshop at the 3rd International public health conference, Khyber Medical University, Pakistan.

Read the NIHR Newsletter featuring Dr. Safat Ullah & KMU

Read the NIHR ‘Supporting research capacity strengthening for global health’ case study

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