Syncope–a transient loss of consciousness–occurs in 42% of people by the age of 70. Professor Richard Sutton, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Cardiology, discusses this common medical problem, and how he has pioneered a “true but still insufficiently small interest” in it.
I have been Emeritus Professor of Clinical Cardiology at Imperial since 2011. Prior to that, I had trained in Cardiology at St George’s Hospital, the University of North Carolina, and the National Heart Hospital in London, becoming Consultant Cardiologist at Westminster Hospital in 1976. There I focused on cardiac pacing as a subspecialty. From a clinical perspective, cardiac pacing eradicated syncope (transient loss of consciousness) in patients with conduction tissue disease of the heart. So, I sought to extend the role of pacing into related syncope conditions.
My primary interest therefore became the symptom of syncope. I began this in the late 1970s, and formed a close relationship with Worthing Hospital which carried a heavy load of older patients, many of whom presented syncope. I founded an outreach clinic at Worthing which led to the receipt of many challenging patients with syncope in whom there was no obvious cause.
Professor Sir Peter Barnes FRS FMedSci, from the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI), was made a Knight Bachelor in this year’s King’s Birthday Honours “for services to respiratory science.” Sir Peter is Professor of Thoracic Medicine at the NHLI and he was Head of Respiratory Medicine at Imperial until 2017. Here he writes about his reaction to his award and describes some of the current research projects in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
My wife opened the letter “On His Majesty’s Service” as she thought it was a tax demand – I was absolutely shocked to see I had been offered a knighthood. Of course, I was and am delighted with the award. It is very good for respiratory science and medicine, which generally receives little public attention. This is surprising as chronic lung diseases are amongst the most common in the UK, affecting one in seven people and the third ranked cause of death. I would like to dedicate this award to all the brilliant students, post-docs, research fellows, visiting scientists and colleagues that I have worked with at Imperial College London over many decades.
On the national day of France—known as ‘Bastille Day’ in English—we hear from Prof Maud Lemoine, Professor and Honorary Consultant in Hepatology at Imperial’s Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction. She completed her medical degree and PhD in Paris, France, before working in The Gambia, and then the UK
What brought you to London, and Imperial?
Initially I came a bit by chance. I was working in a teaching hospital in Paris as a full-time clinical consultant, having completed a PhD in physiopathology of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. I wanted to work abroad and was very interested in working on viral hepatitis and liver cancer in sub-Saharan Africa. I wanted to work in a non-French speaking environment and meet other cultures. In 2011, by chance, I met Prof Mark Thursz who gave me the opportunity to join his team. I spent about 2 years and a half in The Gambia where I implemented a very ambitious research programme on liver diseases in West Africa. Then, in 2014, I moved to London. I hadn’t planned to move to London, but then I discovered a different culture—where I was given so many more opportunities than I’d have in the French system. I was extremely motivated but more importantly I felt really supported by Imperial and my department to develop my ambitions and create my own research group. I do still miss the French system from which I have learnt a lot.
I was initially going to spend a year or two as a lecturer at Imperial, but then I secured more funding to expand my research activities and really enjoyed the work environment and its management based on trust and creativity—especially as it’s much more diverse here. There are so many different nationalities represented in our department, it’s really nice.
2020 was a strange year. We lived through a pandemic that took a huge toll on our economy, our mental wellbeing, and for some of us the lives of our loved ones. 2020 was also the year in which there was renewed interest in addressing social injustices that have impacted traditionally underserved communities across the world.
At Imperial College London, like many other academic institutions, there were many discussions being held about our history, curriculum, use of language to describe people, and the representation of students and staff of different backgrounds at various levels. (more…)
PhD students Salina Nicoleau & Maike Haensel outline their vision for The Elevat(Her) Podcast and share the importance of highlighting positive female role models to empower other women to achieve their full potential.
Look around you – how many women are in senior positions across your university? Lucky you if you can count more than a couple. According to a recent report by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), women account for only 28% of professors in UK universities in 2020/21 (1). This is a recurring theme within many sectors, not just higher education, where there are fewer women than men in senior positions. In 2021, the number of female Fortune 500 CEOs was only 41. Yes, out of 500 CEOs, 459 were men (2).
Dr Fouzia Haneef Khan, Teaching Fellow on the MSc Genes, Drugs and Stem Cells – Novel Therapies programme, outlines her recommendations to create an effective partnership as mentor and mentee.
Over the past seven years, I have had a variety of teaching experiences, some excellent, some awful, and some in between. Thinking about the start of my teaching journey, I remembered feeling slightly unconfident when delivering a teaching session, with a sense of doubt about whether I was reaching my potential to give the best learning experience to students. However, with the help of more experienced colleagues, I feel that I have significantly improved in these areas. These mentors have supported me on my journey by giving specific and useful recommendations about teaching strategies and general career advice.
The most important aspect of this relationship to me is that I know that I can rely on someone who is experienced in the field and has gone through similar challenges as I have. Underlying this mutual respect and trust is a feeling of genuine friendship.
Firstly, I think it is incredible that HDRUK recognises the lack of black people within health data science and has given us, interns, the opportunity to explore this sector. Why is it important to have diversity within health data science? Increasing diversity increases the ability to fight against systemic racism and discrimination. This is an ongoing battle, and it is so important that everyone plays their part in challenging it.
During these last six weeks I, have had many experiences such as listening to various talks, working on my own projects, and meeting some amazing, knowledgeable people. (more…)
Dr Francesca Conway takes us through a typical week as a clinical research fellow and how her previous time at Imperial contributed to her developing an interest in a career in clinical academia.
6am. I’m awakened by the horrifically jolly alarm tone on my phone. It’s still dark, it’s still raining, and it’s still cold. Hedgehogs have the right idea hibernating over winter, I think, as I haul myself out of bed. Must consider this hibernation proposition in my next supervisor meeting. 1 shower, 1 yoghurt and 3 smoothies later and I’m in the hospital.
Today I have a patient coming to see if she is eligible to be recruited to the clinical trial which forms part of my PhD. Mrs X has travelled from 300 miles away. She greets me with a smile and tells me how pleased she is to be here. I immediately remember why I love my job, and scrap the idea of hibernation. I offer her a coffee, she gratefully accepts and whispers, could I have an extra shot in that? I assume she means coffee. I wonder what time she woke up, but am pretty sure it was before 6am.
I am researching a potential new treatment for Chronic Cbstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) for my PhD. Mrs X suffers with COPD, a disease affecting the lungs most commonly caused by smoking. More than 3 million people die from it each year. Targeted Lung Denervation or “TLD”, is a non-surgical procedure where we deliver energy to the airways using a system made by Nuvaira, a US-based company. The idea is that the energy disrupts the nerve supply to the lungs, so the airways relax and open. With initial data looking promising, we hope that this will lead to improvements in health for patients like Mrs X. More information on the Airflow website. (more…)
As Lauren Headley-Morris nears the end of her PhD, she reflects on the experience gained and why learning won’t stop after she’s completed her terminal degree.
Terminal is a weird word. Usually heard on TV associated with cancer, you wouldn’t necessarily want a degree that is terminal. Some days I think my PhD is the best thing since the sequencing of the human genome; other days I think it might be the death of my love of science. But terminal is used in some less, erm, disastrous, melodramatic? scary? ways.
One of these less-morbid settings is travel. A PhD is, by nature, the end of the line of academic qualifications. It doesn’t mean you’ve now mastered your subject, sadly. There are post-doc positions and even professorships in the future perhaps.
I’m a third-year, Asthma UK funded, Clinical Medical Research PhD student based at the Guy Scadding Building, Royal Brompton campus. My work is focused on transcriptional regulation in asthma. While my day to day is obsessing about microRNA and things that are too tiny to see, I think it’s important to take a second now and then to sit back and reflect on the bigger picture of where my PhD fits in with my life as a whole. Maybe it’s the effect of spending so much time in isolation or maybe, coming to the end of my formal academic training, I’m getting a little philosophical. (more…)
Dr Teresa Thurston shares her experience as a relatively new PI of looking after a new-born, homeschooling and keeping in touch with her lab during lockdown.
The pressure of the pandemic has been felt particularly hard by parents juggling work and childcare, often with fewer hours available for work. In some households, the burden of care work continues to fall disproportionately on women and this may be true for academia as well; journal editors have noted that early evidence suggests fewer paper submissions from women than men whilst under quarantine.
Every one of us has been hit by lockdown and many people are struggling to juggle work with kids at home. It has been more than 50 days since my family of five begun isolation. My husband came down with a fever and cough and went to bed and I picked up the kids for the last time. After telling our afterschool nanny not to come over, panic hit. I had no idea how I was going to cope. I was still recovering from delivering a 5Kg baby who was just four weeks old and now I was solely responsible for three kids and a sick husband. This was not going to be any ordinary maternity leave. (more…)