When a young patient’s life hangs in the balance, the last thing on the minds of stressed parents, families and patients would be to get involved in research. Or is it? Despite the turmoil, some brave families and children have volunteered to support clinicians in their research by taking part. Dr Padmanabhan Ramnarayan, Clinical Reader in Paediatric Critical Care in the Department of Surgery and Cancer and Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Intensive Care at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and West London Children’s Healthcare, explains why.
I have been a children’s intensive care doctor for over 20 years, and for most of that time, I have been leading research that has involved critically ill children. My patients are young, their parents and families are super-stressed, and most of the treatments are given in an emergency – all of which seem like perfectly valid reasons to not involve sick children in research. Despite this, my experience is that parents and families are overwhelmingly in support of research. Why?
The evidence gap
Since children’s intensive care is a young speciality, much of our practice is ‘borrowed’ from adult intensive care or newborn intensive care. This is not ideal because our patients range from birth to 18 years of age, with diseases as diverse as asthma, respiratory infections, accidents and trauma, sepsis and brain injury. Without high-quality research to guide care, the treatments provided to sick children may not be the best or the most effective. Doctors and nurses, and parents and families, understand this. By agreeing to include their children in research studies, parents want to improve the care provided to future patients.
Kelly Gleason introduces a guide, Navigating Digital Health, co-produced with 20 local diverse public partners (aged between 18-78, ethnicity: White, Black & Asian, 60% women and 40% men) to help the public navigate data and artificial intelligence and wider resources. Kelly is Imperial CRUK Lead Nurse and leads the Public Involvement for the CRUK Convergence Centre and the NIHR Imperial BRC Surgery and Cancer Theme. The guide and supporting resources are part-funded by the NIHR Imperial BRC.
What the public need to know about the guide:
It’s made for the public by the public (with a large and diverse group of public contributors) and supported by experts in the field.
This is a gentle introduction to data science and AI to allow anyone to begin to learn about this field.
It can be used by patients or family members to understand more about these issues generally or to contribute to public involvement programmes in research.
It can help people make informed decisions about accessing new technologies to support their health.
The guide is supported by various forms of media, including the written word, podcasts and animated videos (see links at the end of this blog). (more…)
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.
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.
For all the advancements medicine has seen in recent decades, there remains a major public health challenge: cancer. However, a new surgical tool called the iKnife has shown significant promise in improving the diagnosis of endometrial (womb) cancer. Professor Sadaf Ghaem-Maghami discusses how this new tool could transform the clinical care of thousands of patients.
Endometrial (womb) cancer is the most common gynaecological cancer in the UK, and the fourth most common cancer in women. It affects 9,300 women and people with gynae organs every year in the UK alone. It generally occurs in postmenopausal women, but up to 25% of cases are diagnosed in the pre-menopause. Its main symptom is one of abnormal bleeding. These women are usually referred to the two-week wait clinics for diagnosis or exclusion of cancer.
This is an open letter from Mr Martin Lupton, Vice-Dean of Education to taught students in the Faculty of Medicine and their loved-ones.
Dear Students and their friends and families,
My eldest son has recently returned to University in the UK and, even though I work in both the health and education sector, I have to acknowledge that I have a certain level of anxiety about him. It is very difficult to read the news about all that has happened during this time of COVID and not to worry.
I am telling you this because I want you to understand that I have some inkling of what you may be feeling right now, particularly if you come from overseas or your daughter, son or relation, has just started their university life. The first thing I want to say is “Welcome to the Faculty of Medicine”. We are very proud of what we have achieved during this global pandemic; the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College has been a key player contributing to the world’s understanding of the virus, the mapping of the virus, teaching people about the virus and developing a new vaccine. However, that is not all that we have been doing. (more…)
Kelly Gleason, CRUK Lead Nurse, explores the value of patient and public involvement in cancer research and how it can improve the quality and outcomes of research.
Patient and public involvement (PPI) is increasingly recognised as important. Funding bodies are asking for more and more from researchers in regard to patient and public involvement. They want to see evidence of authentic and ongoing relationships between researchers and the public that is informing what is being researched, how it is being researched and how findings are shared with the public. Funders want to see more co-creation between researchers and the public and for this to happen, researchers require help accessing larger patient networks and support in maintaining relationships with patients.
My journey with PPI at Imperial
I became involved in patient and public involvement almost a decade ago – it was a relatively novel concept back then. The need for cancer researchers to access patients to involve in their research was increasing. The Imperial Cancer Research UK Centre, where I work as a Lead Nurse, established a group of patients and members of the public for Imperial researchers to have easy access to the patient voice. The group served as a resource to researchers and inputted on everything from grant proposals to lay summaries. They helped us create a research culture at Imperial where patients were integral to what and how we carried out cancer research. (more…)
This festive period Three Wise Women from the Faculty of Medicine will be giving us the gift of wisdom.
Our final wise woman, Dr Amalina Bakri, provides an insight into the role of social media in fighting medical misinformation online.
Some people are often surprised to hear that I’m a General Surgeon (speciality trainee) with a significant social media presence – over one million followers across Twitter and Instagram. I use social media to communicate what I’m passionate about, and that is an evidence-based approach to lifestyle medicine and disseminating accurate health information.
As the internet has matured, social media has developed and become an intrinsic part of many people’s lives. Some commonly use social media as a trusted source of information or news. But in the current climate, fake news or misinformation spreads like wildfire on social media, making it hard for individuals to see the true picture without checking sources.
Despite this, social media is a quick and effective way to spread scientifically proven, correct health information. That’s why I think medics and other healthcare professionals have an important role on social media to provide accurate medical information and to debunk myths and fake medical news. (more…)
This festive period Three Wise Women from the Faculty of Medicine will be giving us the gift of wisdom.
Our first is Professor Gerry Thomas, a leading authority on the health impacts of radiation, who tells us why we should focus on the facts.
I was born in the 1960s and grew up believing that the word ‘radiation’ meant something that was infinitely dangerous. Back then, we were led to believe that nuclear weapons would lead to the extinction of our species, and that to be bitten by a radioactive spider would confer supernatural powers! I was therefore sceptical about the use of nuclear power. It wasn’t until 1992, when I started to study the health effects of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in 1986, that I began to question whether my understanding of the health effects of radiation came more from science fiction than scientific fact. (more…)
50 years on from the historic Apollo Moon landings, the race to Mars is on.With this in mind, Dr Matthieu Komorowski is examining how to provide medical care during long-flight space missions.
“The extension of life beyond Earth is the single most important thing we can do as a species” once said Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX.
Many other eminent minds have expressed a similar vision, including Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Buzz Aldrin and so on. They all argue that there are too many risks that can befall life on a single planet. As nicely put by Robert Heinlein: “The Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in.”
Could we possibly support such a bold idea ourselves? Is it more important to colonise Mars than to: improve our earthly existence, achieve equality and peace for all humans, protect our delicate environment, or cure diseases and world hunger? The argument is that these endeavours, as charitable as they are, all become meaningless if the following day life is wiped out from the face of the planet by a giant asteroid or a superbug. The long-term vision of space colonisation spans way beyond the blink of our existence and space advocates insist that in the long run, there are only two possible avenues: expansion into space or extinction! (more…)