Dr Véronique Azuara, Reader in Stem Cell Biology, has been working in the Department of Surgery and Cancer for over 12 years and, in that time, she has taken two career breaks in the form of maternity leave. In this blog, she discusses her experience of balancing academic and home life, improvements in return to work support and importance of female mentors.
Working with industry, government or other external parties is a great way to test the impact of your expertise, discover real world challenges and ensure your research remains relevant. Consultancy gives you the chance to network and forge new opportunities for research and funding. Plus, real-world examples and lessons can be taken back to the classroom, improving your student’s experience and satisfaction.
The HEE/NIHR Pre-doctoral Clinical Academic Fellowship is a new two-year award designed to equip clinicians with the skills and expertise required to develop a high-quality doctorate proposal, whilst remaining clinically active.
Speaking of her motivation in applying for this award Alison recalls:
“ I became a midwife to contribute to the improvement of women’s health. The ways in which we individually and collectively make big-picture contributions to improving women’s health while working clinically are not always clear. Working for several years in clinical research in the Women’s Health Research Centre, however, has connected me with the pathways and opportunities to now lead my own research.
My particular area of interest is around the transition that women make to motherhood and the way in which we support this transition as midwives, maternity care providers and as society. Bio-medical aspects of birth have become increasingly well-researched and I am keen to contribute to research on the broader anthropological issues influencing childbearing and to support women to collaboratively direct the course of maternity services through research.
In the first instance, I am interested in collaborating with women through a placement in the Patient Experience Research Centre, Imperial College. Through this I will develop my PhD project methodology seeking improvement and innovation around the wellbeing of women in childbearing. I am fortunate to have found two brilliant advisors, Professor Helen Ward here at Imperial College (Public Health and Patient Experience) and Professor Elsa Montgomery (Midwifery) at King’s College, London. I can’t wait to get started!”
This fellowship award will allow Alison to undertake a bespoke training package including; the development of her research interest around well-being and motherhood, key coursework, attend conferences, develop academic collaborations and ultimately prepare a competitive PhD application for future funding.
Around 150 people came together on Wednesday 10th October for the launch of the newly established Healthcare Professional Academic Group (HPAG). This group formed with input from the AHSC and CATO has been driven forward by Professor George Hanna of Surgery and Cancer and will be the academic hub in the Faculty of Medicine for clinical academics in the healthcare professions. Its mission is to grow the number of clinical academic leaders from across the Imperial College AHSC in nursing, midwifery, pharmacy, healthcare science and the allied health professions.
Professor Jonathan Weber, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Director of the AHSC opened up the event making it clear the importance of addressing the challenges faced for healthcare professionals in research and the importance of this newly formed group. He also made it clear that a key focus and feature of the AHSC going forwards would be nursing, midwifery and AHP research.
Professor Janice Sigworth, Director of Nursing at Imperial NHS was the first up with her talk entitled ‘A Dream Come True’, an outline of her career and the work that she has done and her hopes for the future within nursing. With nursing being the largest group in the medical field, she made a clear point that is is vitally important to have more leaders and with the formation of the HPAG, the hope is that this becomes possible and that more people can be given the support they need to progress forwards.
Professor Pernilla Lagergren, Chair in Surgical Care Sciences (S&C) and Chair of the HPAG gave a hugely inspirational outline of her career in her talk ‘From Forest Girl to Professor’. Coming from a non-academic family, Pernilla started her career as a nurse to being a specialist nurse for oesophageal cancer patients. This then led her into the academic field and in 2004 started her PHD. Research being the key to open doors as a PHD student was a key factor in Pernilla starting her own group which is still a big part of her career to this day. At the age of 34, she became Professor Pernilla Lagergren. Pernilla really stressed on the fact that research is not a ‘one person show’, the involvement of many people together makes it work and with this people need to be recognised for their contributions and successes should be shared and celebrated (especially with cake).
Caroline Alexander, Lead Clinical Academic for Therapies in the Division of Medicine and Integrated Care gave an insight into the training research opportunities available for clinical staff. through Imperial College NHS and Imperials Clnical Academic Training Office (CATO); a whole range of support available.
After a break for tea and cake which gave a great opportunity for networking, session 2 of the event was opened up by Professor Mary Wells, Professor of Practice (Cancer Nursing, S&C) who introduced four healthcare professionals who spoke of their journey pursuing Clinical Academic careers; Calendra Feather, Research Nurse, Huw Woodbridge, Physiotherapist, Dr Gillian Chumbley, Consultant Nurse and Dr Lina Johanssen, Dietician and Clinical Lecturer. All four accounts completely different and challenging in their own ways but one clear similarity was spoken off, how it was not a straight road and very often a very lonely road to be on.
With some time to grow and with support, the HPAG looks bright for the future of healthcare professionals and this group is a really good opportunity to bridge the gap and provide the much needed support and guidance to those considering furthering their careers.
For further information on the HPAG, events, and how to become a member please visit their web page for more information.
Dr Pinar Ulug Pinar Ulug of the Vascular Surgery Research Group participated in the abstract competition at the 6th International Meeting on Aortic Diseases (IMAD), which took place from 12-14th September 2018 in Liège, Belgium.
Pinar’s e-poster, titled “Should we screen women for abdominal aortic aneurysm?” was selected by the organisers to be presented as a short communication in the main programme. She was awarded the Frank Lederle prize for best short communication on epidemiology of abdominal aortic aneurysm.
The work was presented from the SWAN (Screening Women for abdominal aortic ANeurysms) study, whose aim is to assess the feasibility of population screening in women, conducted by a team of researchers from Imperial (Professor Janet Powell and Pinar Ulug) and the Universities of Cambridge, Leicester and Brunel, and funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). More information about the project, as well as the animation video used during the presentation is available from http://www.screeningaaawomen.com/
After an opening speech by Professor Lesley Regan, we welcomed award-winning radio and television broadcaster and journalist, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to give this interesting and thought-provoking lecture taking us through the history and change in equality, diversity and inclusion up to the current day.
Yasmin, exiled from her birthplace, Uganda in 1972, which had led to interests in race, identity, health, exclusion and diversity. She has written for several newspapers including The Guardian, The Observer, The New York Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek, The Evening Standard and The Mail and is now a regular columnist on The Independent. She is author of several books including No Place Like Home; Who do We think We Are?; Mixed Feelings and After Multiculturalism. Yasmin has ties with Imperial College and was co-chair of a major Imperial College/Health Trust research project on patient safety.
Closing remarks came from Professor Mark Thursz before a lunch spread allowed attendees to ask questions and discuss issues in further detail with Yasmin.
Surgery and Cancer has 19 newly promoted academics who have been recognised as part of this years Academics Promotions round. Included in the list are 10 individuals who have been made Professor in Practice across a spectrum of areas. Applications were submitted in January with interviews held in April/May before final decisions were made by the Academic Promotions Committee in June. Huge congratulations to each and every one as listed below:
- Dr. Richard Abel Senior Lecturer
- Dr. Veronique Azuara Reader in Stem Cell Biology
- Dr. Maria Kyrgiou Reader in Gynaecological Oncology
- Dr. Daniel Leff Reader in Breast Surgery
- Dr. Maud Lemoine Reader in Hepatology
- Dr. Rohini Sharma Reader in Clinical Pharmacology & Medical Oncology
- Dr. Fernando Bello Professor of Surgical Computing & Simulation Science
- Dr. Hector Keun Professor of Biochemistry
- Dr. Christoph Lees Professor of Obstetrics
- Dr. Tom Bourne Professor of Practice (Gynaecology)
- Dr. Susan Clark Professor of Practice (Colorectal Surgery)
- Dr. Omar Faiz Professor of Practice (Colorectal Surgery)
- Dr. Shahid Khan Professor of Practice (Hepatology)
- Dr. David Nott Professor of Practice (Conflict Surgery)
- Dr. Mary O’Brien Professor of Practice (Medical Oncology)
- Dr. Brian Saunders Professor of Practice (Interventional Endoscopy)
- Dr. Tiong Ghee Teoh Professor of Practice (Obstetrics)
- Dr. Catherine Urch Professor of Practice (Palliative Medicine)
- Dr. Mary Wells Professor of Practice (Cancer Nursing)
You can find detailed guidelines on all the promotional opportunities available to all staff on the Departmental Promotions and Pay webpage.
After being associated with Imperial College for more than 20 years, Professor Wendy Atkin has retired from the college and takes up the title of Emeritus Professor conferred on her recognition and appreciation of her service to the College.
Prof Atkin held honorary appointments while working at the Cancer Research UK Colorectal Cancer Unit, St Mark’s Hospital, Harrow and subsequently moved to the St Mary’s Hospital campus in 2008 to establish the Cancer Screening and Prevention Research Group (CSPRG). This is an internationally-renowned, multidisciplinary group undertaking research focusing primarily on bowel cancer with the ultimate aim of reducing the numbers of people diagnosed and dying from the disease. One of Wendy’s large trials, The UK Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Trial was integrated into the the English National Bowel Cancer screening programme.
As a very active member of many committees and advisory boards, Wendy has had significant influence on the organisation and delivery of screening programmes and the management of colorectal disease, both nationally and internationally. Wendy’s contributions have been recognized by many. Alongside being awarded the BSG President’s Medal from the British Society of Gastroenterologists in 2011 and the Bengt Medal from the Swedish Society of Medicine in 2012, Wendy was honoured with an OBE for services to bowel cancer prevention in 2013 before being made a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2015.
Words shared from Professor George Hanna, Head of Division (Surgery) ‘we are fortunate to have Professor Wendy Atkin in the Division of Surgery and the societal impact of her work will last with millions of people’. We all thank Wendy for her dedication and the enormous contributions made.
Dr Amanda Cross has taken on the role of Head of CSPRG. Amanda started working with Wendy in 2015 and continues to combine her work with the CSPRG with her on-going role in the School of Public Health. Wendy was very conscious of how all the work would be continued and how to make best use of the valuable data resource that has been collected during the running of her large clinical trials. She wanted Amanda to be part of the ‘succession plan’ for the CSPRG and as such, her recent programme grant application to Cancer Research UK and her other project grants with NIHR, were made with Amanda as Joint Lead Investigator.
New research from the International Neuroendocrine Tumour Consortium has developed a novel precision oncology framework, for the systematic prioritisation of drugs targeting mechanistic tumour dependencies in individual neuroendocrine tumour patients. The work was published in the last issue of Nature Genetics.
Imperial College is one of 18 organisations that make up the Consortium. Chair in Endocrine Surgery, Professor Andrea Frilling, who leads the European Neuroendocrine Tumor Society Centre of Excellence for Neuroendocrine Tumours at Imperial tells us more about the centre and their research.
We have a comprehensive clinical program and several basic research projects with translational aims. We see more than 150 new patients a year and about 1200 follow-up patients, with various types of neuroendocrine tumours; many of them in very advanced tumour stages.
Our research is aiming to provide personalised medicine to our patients. We are working on identification of “omic” based novel tumour markers, which would allow early and accurate tumour diagnosis, selection of treatment based on specific patient and tumour characteristics (one-to-one principle rather than one-for-all), monitoring of treatment response and early detection of disease recurrence.
We have participated in the planning and design of the study, have provided most of the bio samples (tissue, bloods), clinical information and have critically analysed the outcome.
Find out more about the research published in Nature Genetics: A precision oncology approach to the pharmacological targeting of mechanistic dependencies in neuroendocrine tumors.
Imperial’s PhD students displayed their artistic prowess at the Summer Showcase last week. Hosted by the Graduate School, the event saw 91 PhD students submit their most imaginative entries in a poster and ‘Research as Art’ competition. Judges included Imperial academics, artists, research students and individuals who were not scientists by profession.
One of the PhD students to take part was Surgery and Cancer’s Abellona U, who created an art installation for the competition. Below Abellona tells us more about why she got involved and how the piece represents her research.
One way to interpret the work is to start from the human figure and go clockwise. The figure could represent our study participants who donate samples for us to analyse and generate data depicted by the metal wires.
Together these data give us a snapshot of the metabolism of a person. Metabolic network is represented in a dream-like manner on the first side of the double-sided painting. Though seemingly abstract, each component is in fact representing certain actual metabolic pathway. This is where the intricate metabolic network is working in balance, under tight regulation.
On the other side of the double-sided painting, however, is where metabolism is not working as it should. The focus of my research is on hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). So depicted here is an impression of how metabolism goes awry in cancer cells. In contrast to the balance and tight regulation on the other side, there are random, unpredictable changes.
The goal of my research is to identify biomarkers for diagnosing HCC earlier. The circles on the canvas represent the biomarkers that I aim to identify. Each contributing a certain weight towards a statistical model, represented by the threads of different thickness, it will inform us about whether a patient needs further investigations for HCC. This brings us back to the human figure, the patient, what this is all about.
It is a circle because this cycle is repeated again and again for validation. The piece is called “A dream of metabonomics”. It is a dream in two senses: 1) dream as in distorted reality – the abstract representation of actual science; 2) dream as in a goal, as this is a goal of humanity’s.”
The submissions for the competition are currently on display in Blythe Gallery until the 18 September.
After over 29 years with Imperial, Departmental Manager, Julia Anderson retired at the end of June. To honor her time at the College, an event took place on the 21 June to celebrate her incredible contribution and dedication to Imperial.
The event drew people from across Julia’s time at the College, including those who had retired or left, coming back to say their goodbyes. These included Prof Sean Hughes, the very first head of Department after the 1997 merger, along with Nigel Buck, Jenny Higham, and Suze Farrell.
Jeremy Nicholson gave a detailed overview of Julia’s career, which all started in November 1974 at the Westminster Medical School. After a brief spell at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1984, Julia came back to the Medical School and formed part of the project team for building the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. She remained until CXWMS merged with other London Medical Schools to form the Imperial College School of Medicine (ICSM) in 1997. Since that time, Julia has been managing the Department through its many iterations over the last 21 years.
Julia played a huge role in forming and championing the Athena SWAN initiative in the Department and leaves a strong legacy in place for the next phase in the Department achieving its silver award.
The role of Departmental Manager will be taken on by Elsa Paul, who comes to us from the Faculty of Medicine at Kings College London. Elsa will be starting on the 30 July.
On 9th July 2018, members of Surgery and Cancer were among those invited to attend the Make and Create Panel Discussion, jointly organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group (APDIG), and the V&A Research Institute (VARI), held at Portcullis House, Westminster, London.
The event was opened by Barry Sheerman MP who welcomed participants from across design, arts, science, education and policy, and set the scene for the discussion. The main focus was on how to promote the broad themes of design and making, and how best to support the creative economy. Chaired by the new V&A Director Tristram Hunt, the panel discussed various attempts to promote design education, and the challenges of engaging inside and outside a taught curriculum.
The event provided an excellent forum for interdisciplinary networking for those with an interest in understanding design, making, and embodied knowledge. These are themes central to ongoing collaborative projects between VARI and Imperial, that have facilitated the formation of exploratory, innovative Design Clusters. One of these collaborations between Toby Athersuch (Lecturer, S&C Imperial), Rachel Warr (Freelance Puppeteer and Dramaturg), and Will Houstoun (Freelance Magician) – is aimed at developing a workshops that encourage participants to consider the contribution embodied knowledge (thinking with your hands) plays across multiple disciplines through a sequential process of instruction, demonstration, practice and play. As part of the APDIG Panel Discussion, Marta Ajmar (VARI Deputy Director) highlighted this work and other Design Clusters, alongside plans to further develop these interdisciplinary activities (pictured).
Concluding the session, Barry Sheerman MP indicated that the next steps for APDIG would likely include a request for a Parliamentary Group Inquiry into design, innovation, and making that would provide much-needed basis for informed future action.
Panel members included: Tristram Hunt (Director, V&A), Helen Charman (Head of Learning, V&A), Rebecca Goozee (VARI Education Resident); Brandon Matoorah (former Bridge Academy student), and Mark Miodownik (Driector, Institute of Making, UCL).
Congratulations to Research Assistant Emma Robbins, who has just been notified that she won a £250 prize for her excellent oral presentation on the “FIT for Follow-Up” study at the British Society for Gastroenterology Annual Meeting, which took place in Liverpool from the 5th- 8th June.
The Annual meeting showcases the best of British gastroenterology, hepatology and endoscopy with hundreds of abstracts being presented orally or as posters, so this was a fantastic achievement for Emma.
Members of Computational Systems Medicine traveled across the pond to scoop a bounty of awards at the latest Metabolomics 2018 Annual Conference, which took place in Seattle from the 24-28 June 2018.
Simon Cameron received one of two Waters Corporation Travel Award, for the scientific quality of his submitted abstract, which provided $750 to help cover travel costs.
Natasa Giallourou, a Postdoc working in Jonathan Swann’s research group, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation received two awards at the Meeting, for her research on the metabolic impact of early-life undernutrition and enteric infections in children from developing countries. These included the Metabolomics Society Early Career Research Award for her Oral Presentation and the Metabolomics Society Early Career Prize.
To top it off, Elaine Holmes who gave the opening plenary session of the Meeting received a Lifetime Award for her contributions to the world of Metabolomics.
A Surgical Conference Finder, developed by members of the Division of Surgery is available for surgeons globally to quickly search all surgical conferences and abstract deadlines by subspecialty, location and date.
Simon Erridge, an academic foundation trainee in General Surgery has been working in partnership with Mr Mikael Sodergren (Honorary Clinical Lecturer) to develop the resource and tells us how it came about.
“The Surgical Conference Finder was originally founded in February 2010 and the idea for the site arose from the difficulties encountered by surgeons in spending hours searching the internet for various conference locations and abstract deadlines. Today the Conference Finder houses a comprehensive database of over 500 surgical conferences and continues to grow. The aim of it to help people in trying to find interesting conferences to present their own research at or to find out more about the latest research in their field.”
“The Surgical Conference Finder is regularly updated, free to use and you can keep up to date with all the dates through the Surgical Conference Finder social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.”
Professor Vassilios Papalois, Head of Specialty for Transplant Surgery for Imperial College Healthcare Trust has recently received two prestigious awards in recognition of his contributions to research, education and clinical work.
On the 20th of June 2018, he received an Honorary Doctorate (the highest academic accolade) from the University of Thessaloniki in Greece. The award was in recognition of “his pioneering clinical, research and educational work in Transplantation Surgery in Europe and internationally”.
On the 30th of June 2018 he became an Honorary Member of the Spanish Transplantation Society (the highest honour of the Society) in recognition of his “outstanding contribution and inspirational leadership in research, education and practice of organ transplantation”. Professor Papalois is the only Transplant Surgeon who has received the Honorary Membership of the Spanish Association of Surgeons and the Spanish Transplantation Society.