Category: National Heart and Lung Institute

A smoke-free country: how will we get there?

The Government recently announced plans to create a smoke-free society by 2030 – Dr Nick Hopkinson outlines some of the steps towards achieving this ambition.


Tobacco smoking remains a huge public health issue. Although population smoking rates continue to fall – now down to 14.4% of adults – smoking is still responsible for around 100,000 deaths per year in the UK, and for around half the difference in life expectancy between rich and poor. Smoking rates are high in areas of deprivation, in people with mental health problems and among people who identify as LGBT.

The Government’s recent green paper, Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020’s, although in many areas light on detail, funding, delivery and ambition, does set out some important markers on smoking and some potentially interesting developments around funding tobacco control. (more…)

LGBT and the sciences: where does our pride STEM from?

LGBT and the sciences: where does our Pride STEM from?

In celebration of LGBT STEM Day, Dr Akif Khawaja shares the small things everyone can do to make STEM more LGBT-inclusive.


With the glitter of the Mighty Hoopla weekend – a LGBT-friendly pop music festival – having finally settled, all eyes are now set on Pride. For many this will mean another (hopefully sunny) weekend of short shorts, tank tops and daytime drinking. In addition to the parade, especially in London, pride month is chock-a-block of events highlighting all aspects of LGBT+ culture and history. This year, Pride in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has been helping to showcase and support LGBT+ people within the STEM fields by organising LGBT STEM Day.

So, what is Pride in STEM and what is LGBT STEM Day?

Starting with the easy one – Pride in STEM is a charitable trust run by an independent group of LGBT+ scientists and engineers. Founded in 2016, Pride in STEM was the brainchild of Dr Alfredo Carpineti, his husband Chris, and Matt Young. They aim to support all LGBT+ people spanning all of STEM and in doing so, raise their profiles and showcase their work. Now as for LGBT STEM day, this was their latest effort to promote the dissemination of work done by LGBT+ STEM staff. It falls on Friday 5 July 2019 (I’m told purposefully chosen as 507nm is the wavelength of the green stripe in the pride flag – 5.07 … get it?!) and the day before the Pride in London Parade. (more…)

Children with eczema: the link to food allergies is not clear cut

Food allergies eczema

Children’s allergy specialist, Dr Robert Boyle, unpicks the evidence behind the value of allergy tests for children with eczema.


Around one in five children have eczema – and even mild cases can have a big impact on both the child and their family. For many, symptoms will come and go before they start primary school, but for others it can indicate the beginning of a genetic tendency to develop allergic conditions such as hay fever or asthma (or both).

We also know that children with eczema are more likely to develop food allergies, especially if the condition starts in the first few months of life and is severe. Often parents will make the allergy diagnosis themselves – at the sudden onset of vomiting, diarrhoea or rash after eating scrambled egg, for example.

This can be frightening, but doctors can usually easily confirm the cause of these immediate reactions by talking to the parents and offering a confirmatory allergy blood or skin prick test.

In the absence of such obvious physical reactions however, a different question sometimes arises for parents: “Is a food allergy contributing to my child’s eczema and would an allergy test help to find out?” (more…)

What is neurodiversity and why STEM organisations should embrace it

Siena with Sally Phillips at Shine a Light Awards 2019

Siena Castellon, a 16-year-old award-winning autism advocate, makes the case for why diversity should be expanded to include neurodiversity.


Most universities have embraced diversity. They recognise that having students and faculty with diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives leads to increased creativity, innovation and productivity. However, most universities, focus their diversity initiatives on race, ethnicity and gender. Universities also prioritise initiatives that aim to improve social mobility, which is why many of the STEM work placements or summer school programs are only available to students from low-income families. Although it is important to address the under-representation of Black and Minority Ethnic students (BME), women and students from disadvantaged backgrounds, it is just as important to include people who are neurodivergent – a minority group that is often forgotten. (more…)

Bringing patients together to tackle heart disease – the Heart Hive

Many researchers study a particular disease because they have a personal connection to someone who has been affected. For researcher Dr Nicky Whiffin, it happened in reverse.


I had been researching cardiomyopathies (diseases that affect the heart muscle) for a couple of years when my mum suddenly became very ill. Even walking up the stairs was a struggle, she had to pause halfway to catch her breath. Having just been through a very tough patch at work, it was put down to stress. I remember clearly what should have been an amazing trip to Paris in March 2016 to see England’s rugby team win the six nations grand slam – instead the trip was dominated by us all worrying about my mum’s illness. (more…)

Life as a postdoc: why I personally couldn’t imagine doing anything else

Dr Elaine Fuertes provides an insight into the perks of being a postdoc, from international travel to independently developing research with potentially important public health impacts.


“Only a tiny proportion of you will become university professors” – a statistic every postdoctoral researcher has heard, and the vast majority of us choose to ignore. Indeed, despite the increasing awareness and acknowledgement that the large majority of postdocs will end up pursuing one of the many other available career paths open to this highly trained and ambitious workforce, as recently discussed during the 2019 National Heart and Lung Institute Postdoc Day, many of us cling on to what we know to be a highly implausible outcome – landing a tenured position.

I’ve often been asked – why do I do it? Why continue down this career path, one that many of my friends and family see as living in a perpetual state of “student life”. It is indeed a question I have often reflected upon, especially as I am not presently, nor have I ever been, a “die-hard must become a Professor” type of person. So why persevere? What drives me? Why do I continue to be fully inspired and motivated by a career path that entails so much uncertainty? (more…)

STEM needs to face up to its problem with LGBT diversity

Karim Boustani argues the importance of making STEM LGBT-inclusive, from improving visibility to expanding diversity initiatives to include LGBT people.

A large barrier to the creation of an inclusive workplace in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), in my experience, is the view that being out is regarded as “unprofessional” because it is seen as too “personal”, even though most of our colleagues are “out” as being straight without issue. LGBT people tend to depoliticise themselves in the workplace because there is a commonly held view that discussions about inequality are not regarded as relevant to STEM work. The term “LGBT” will be used in this post to refer to anyone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or intersex, or who does not conform to society’s expectations in terms of sexual or gender identity and expression.

The lack of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) diversity within STEM subjects is a longstanding issue that is too often left out of conversations about broadening participation in STEM. It is estimated that LGBT people are approximately 20 per cent less represented in STEM fields than expected. Additionally, male LGBT undergraduates are much less likely to stay in STEM degrees than straight men. (more…)

Why I wear the rainbow lanyard (and why hockey is the greatest sport)

Katie Stripe

Katie Stripe gives a personal account of why she wears the rainbow lanyard to make herself visible to others who may need to see gay people doing normal things.


I could start by telling you what I identify as, but I don’t think that is important. The defining features of my character are more about what I am like as a person; sarcastic, grumpy, caring, funny, and what I do; I like to lift heavy weights, play hockey, take photographs, go on holiday and I did my first triathlon at 35 and now I am hooked (or mad). I am also a learning technologist and a learning designer, I build stuff online and develop learning materials and environments for students at Imperial’s National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI). Having said all that I am writing this because as a gay member of the Imperial community I think it is important that I am visible to people who may need to see gay people doing normal things. (more…)

I can’t wait until I’m no longer waiting for the first Black scientist to win a Nobel Prize

The Wise Women

This festive period Three Wise Women from the Faculty of Medicine will be giving us the gift of their wisdom.

Our first wise woman, Dr Faith Uwadiae, highlighted success stories of Black scientists on her Twitter account every day throughout Black History Month 2018. In this post, she tells us what led to her taking action. 


The problem

I have been in the university academic system for almost a decade and in this time I have interacted with very few Black scientists. I have met a handful of Black PhD students and research assistants or technicians, one postdoctoral scientist, but sadly I’ve never been lectured by a Black scientist. When I attend scientific conferences or events I am frequently one of the few Black people in the room and often the only Black woman. In fact, Black professors are heavily underrepresented making up just 0.6% of UK professors, of which only 25 are Black female professors. Sadly, when people think about a scientist they don’t picture someone like me, i.e. Black, female and young, and instead default to the White, male and old archetype.

Scientists are much more diverse and I wanted to learn more about the stories of people like me. (more…)

World AIDS Day at 30: where are we in the fight against HIV/AIDS?

World AIDS Day 2018

Dr Kirk Taylor looks back at over 30 years of the HIV epidemic, from the advent of preventative therapy to the impact of HIV stigma that continues to plague forgotten populations.


Thirty years on from the first World AIDS Day we have seen enormous global progress towards ending the epidemic. The change that has happened within my lifetime is astonishing; HIV has gone from being a death sentence to a manageable condition with strategies to prevent transmission altogether. This World AIDS Day, I highlight the milestones achieved and where there is still work to do. (more…)