Helen Johnson, Communications and Marketing Manager at the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) discusses her recent project ‘Making Waves’, which set outtoupdate the Department’s imagery across their buildings to better reflect the diversity of NHLI’s community and inspire the next generation.
“Sometimes our stories make us stronger”
This is what one of our contributors said to me during her interview, and I couldn’t have summed up ‘Making Waves’ any better. This project set out to showcase the people behind the great science and teaching that the NHLI is known for.
We don’t always think about it on a daily basis but when you actually look at who is celebrated in the imagery on our walls, it tends to be people who no longer work for the Department, and they tend to also share characteristics in terms of their age and race. But, then again, it is just a portrait of that person, so we don’t necessarily know their whole story by just looking at an image. Everyone has their own story.
The founding premise of ‘Making Waves’ was that anyone should be able to look at these new portraits and see themselves. So that everyone can know they are welcome at NHLI and in science – that they belong. I was tasked with this vision by my Head of Department, Professor Edwin Chilvers, who was keen we brought our imagery more up to date to represent who NHLI is today. The leaky pipeline in science for those holding protected characteristics has been much reported, and is easy to see when you look for instance at the number of Black Professors across not just NHLI, but across the whole of Imperial. One set of portraits will not solve this, but hopefully by showing a greater variety of successful people and their journeys, others will be inspired to continue their own scientific paths.
The Simon Newell Award Recognises an outstanding young medically qualified researcher in British paediatrics. Each year, with support from GOSH Charity and Sparks, RCPCH offer the prestigious award of £2,000 to one early independent researcher in paediatrics.
I am a GP, researcher, and work at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust sport and exercise medicine clinic. Part of my work is to help people become more physically active – important because it is one of the few interventions that can improve health in many different ways. If we had a similar drug or intervention that reduced the risk of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, depression, risk of falls, and several cancers, then everyone would probably be on it. The problem is that almost one-third of people in the UK are not physically active enough for good health. This is partly because barriers to being physically active exist across individual and cultural factors, such as illness, pain or different conceptions of what physical activity or exercise mean; infrastructure aspects such as safety, facilities and lighting, through to national and global policy. Therefore, this wonder medicine is not equally available to all.
Recently, the UK Government announced that offers of first and second Covid-19 vaccinations will come to an end after 30 June. Ahead of World Immunisation Week, Professor Azeem Majeed from the School of Public Health discusses this major change in national vaccine policy, and why it’s important to stay up to date with Covid-19 booster vaccinations.
The announcement from NHS England that first and second doses of Covid-19 vaccines will no longer be offered to adults after 30 June 2023 signifies a significant change in national vaccine policy. We will all remember the start of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in December 2020, the rapid rollout of vaccines by the NHS, and the enthusiasm for vaccination amongst most sections of the population. Vaccination curbed the impact of Covid-19, leading to large falls in hospital admissions and deaths, and allowing the government to end Covid-19 restrictions.
We are now though entering a new phase in which Covid-19 vaccination will be restricted to older people and those in medical problems that place them at higher risk of adverse outcomes such as hospitalisation and death. The very highest risk groups – such as the immunocompromised and people aged 75 years and over – have been offered booster vaccines every six months for the past two years. Other population groups – such as NHS staff, those aged 50 and over, and people with significant medical problems – have been offered annual booster vaccines.
Rory Cellan-Jones is an author and former BBC Technology Correspondent who, in 2019, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Rory discusses his visit to the ‘Living Lab’ at the UK DRI Care Research & Technology Centre – a unique mock apartment where scientists can monitor the behaviour of patients in a domestic environment.
My week started with quite a stressful day. For nearly five hours I was under the microscope, my every move watched by scientists. They made me walk up and down, rise from a chair without using my arms, open and close my hand rapidly. I spent half an hour staring at a computer screen trying to work out which shape fitted where on a grid, one of a number of cognition tests. They even made me make two cups of tea and four slices of toast.
It was tiring but it was all in the cause of science – and potentially faster drug trials. This all took place in Imperial College’s Living Lab, a room fitted out like a small flat on the ninth floor of a tower block in West London. The lab is equipped with video cameras and a series of sensors which provide data on its occupants’ activities.
It’s been over four years since the UK legalised the medical use of cannabis. Despite this, attitudes towards its use remains a hot topic for patients and health professionals alike. Dr Simon Erridge from the Department of Surgery and Cancer separates fact from fiction about the prescribing of medical cannabis for health conditions such as chronic pain and anxiety.
Since 2018, medical cannabis has been available legally on prescription for patients here in the UK. However, many people are not aware of this and our research in 2021 suggested that almost 50% of UK adults are unaware that medical cannabis is legal in the UK. Many more may be unsure as to what medical cannabis is, when it can be prescribed, and what the medical evidence says about its effects. Despite this, there is a lot of promise held about the potential of medical cannabis and its use in healthcare in the future.
There is nowhere in London that meets the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs). The main reason for this is road traffic. So why has the Mayor’s plan to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ; an area of London that more polluting vehicles have to pay £12.50 to enter) to include the outer London boroughs sparked so much resistance? Professor Frank Kelly who leads the Environmental Research Group at Imperial explains that there are strong health grounds for expanding the ULEZ.
An overwhelming body of evidence exists that the health effects of air pollution are serious and can affect nearly every organ of the body. Recent studies and large research programmes have also shown that these harmful health effects are not limited to high exposures but can also occur at very low concentrations. Consequently, the WHO has had to update its AQGs, which now recommend substantially lower air quality limits for PM2.5, PM10 (particulate matter less than 2.5 and 10 μm in diameter respectively), and the gaseous pollutant nitrogen dioxide. One of the most significant sources of these air pollutants in urban areas is road traffic. It is also the source that has repeatedly been shown to affect our health. In London this is particularly true because of the size of its population and the density of its road network.
The largest ever outbreak of bird flu is spilling over into mammals, including foxes and otters in the UK. Could this transmission see a jump to humans? Dr Thomas Peacock from the Department of Infectious Disease discusses.
Avian influenza virus has been featured prominently in the news again over the past few months. Headlines urge vaccine stockpiling, show images of beaches covered in dead sea birds or seals, or people in hazmat suits carrying bin bags full of dead birds or mink. Three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, is another pandemic unavoidable?
We have been in this situation before, back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, headlines spoke of ‘bird flu’ – H5N1 viruses ancestral to the ones currently circulating in Europe – as the inevitable coming pandemic. In fact, in 2009 an influenza pandemic did occur, but rather than the deadly H5N1 bird flu, it was caused by an obscure swine influenza virus that passed onto humans and caused the 2009 ‘swine flu’ pandemic.
How can we close the gender gap in STEM? Dr Ilaria Belluomo explores how a new network at Imperial aims to provide a safe space for women to discuss and plan their careers in leadership roles – in and outside academia.
We are all aware of the disparity between the number of men and women in senior academic positions, as well as the limited number of female mentors available to support and inspire young girls interested in pursuing a career in science. This small percentage of female representation can give the impression that a career in science and academia, in the current climate, can be difficult and hard for women to pursue. Things are slowly improving, but we are only at the beginning of initiating this change. We continue to have conversations and work on initiatives to ensure that the academic gender gap can be improved.
As well as providing vital relief to disadvantaged children and families, free school meals are essential to ensuring children reach their full potential, writes Dr Jennie Parnham from the School of Public Health.
On 19th February 2023, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, announced plans to provide free school meals to all primary schoolchildren (ages 4-11 years) in London.
In England only infant schoolchildren (4-7 years) are given universal free school meals (UFSM). For older children, free school meals are means-tested and are only available to households receiving Universal Credit (with incomes <£7,400/year). The remaining children must pay for school meals.
This policy will dramatically expand the current free school meal provision in London, reaching 270,000 children at a cost of £130 million. But what will this unprecedented policy announcement mean for children, their families, and our wider society?