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.
Despite major progress in treatment and prevention, being diagnosed with HIV can have a big emotional impact on individuals. People with HIV have higher rates of mental health problems than those seen in the general population. One reason for this may be HIV-related stigma, explains Professor Alan Winston from the Department of Infectious Disease.
Since the late 1990s, I have been treating people living with HIV and been involved in HIV clinical research. Many things we read about HIV are success stories, and quite rightly we should celebrate these tremendous scientific and medical advances. Life expectancy for someone with HIV is now similar to that of the general population. Antiretroviral therapy generally has manageable side effects and for most individuals, does not incur that many tablets per day. Indeed, many HIV treatments involve taking only one tablet per day. So, why then do so many people with HIV suffer from depression, other mental health conditions, and a poorer quality of life?
Experience in clinic
Most people living with HIV, once on a stable treatment, will attend their treatment centre twice per year. Often appointments rotate between a consultant or medical doctor once per year and a nurse specialist on the other occasion. As we can’t cure HIV, our patients attend for life, and we get to know them very well. At consultations, in addition to routine monitoring, we ask people how they are keeping. What stands out are the number of individuals who report symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions such as anxiety. Whilst many of us suffer from mental health complaints, the burden of these complaints in people living with HIV is very high. Thankfully, we do have help in clinic and have a specific clinic run by a psychiatry nurse specialist we can refer patients to.
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…)
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex or aseaxual (LGBTQIA+) travellers can face unique challenges when travelling abroad. That’s why, Rosie Maddren, Lucy Okell, Beth Cracknell-Daniels, Joseph Hicks and Christina Aitchison from the School of Public Health set up the LGBTQIA+ International Support Group at Imperial to help improve the overall experience of going abroad for LGBTQIA+ staff and student travellers.
“So are you married?”
I freeze. How do I respond? It seems like a simple enough question, but I’m gay (and so is my spouse). The question is being asked by a taxi driver in a country where not only is same-sex marriage illegal, but so is homosexuality in general. And it’s not just something imposed by the government. A recent poll suggested that 90% of this country’s citizens have a negative view of LGBTQ people. So how do I respond? How would you?
Travelling abroad for work is a rewarding opportunity that can come with challenges for any student or staff member. For those identifying as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, such travel can be associated with further complications. Legal restrictions and societal norms of some countries may make LGBTQIA+ staff and students feel anxious, unwelcome or unsafe. Unfortunately, in certain environments being your true self can directly impact your safety. On the other hand, presenting a censored version of yourself may negatively impact your mental health and wellbeing. There is no single correct way to navigate such situations, and there is limited guidance on this topic provided not only by Imperial, but wider networks across the globe. Last year, a group of us started working together to help build support for LGBTQIA+ staff and student travellers at Imperial.
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.
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.
When Imperial alumnus Dr Brian Wang founded In2MedSchool, he had one aim: to break down the barriers preventing students from disadvantaged backgrounds pursuing medicine. Brian shares his motivations for supporting the next generation of medics.
In the summer of 2022, before my final year of medical school, I had the opportunity to support the national efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic at Imperial College Healthcare Trust NHS hospitals. My experiences as a medical student and volunteer during this time kick-started my passion for advocating diversity within the healthcare workforce. Levelling the playing field and ensuring the diversity and representation of medical staff—in my mind at least—seems beneficial to the healthcare workforce and the communities that our healthcare system supports.
Today I am the founder of In2MedSchool, a charity that provides support for disadvantaged children with ambitions to study Medicine and healthcare-related degrees at university.
How can we foster a sense of authenticity within ethnically minoritised students? Dr Zoe Moula, Teaching Fellow at the School of Public Health, aims to raise awareness of how we can promote a more inclusive educational environment and understand the barriers which can affect a student’s sense of authenticity within higher education.
The underrepresentation of ethnically minoritised students at university, and even more so in medicine, often results in identity suppression in order to ‘fit in’. Yet, this can lead to increased anxiety, and interferes with a student’s ability to succeed academically and professionally. Societal, structural and institutional factors, such as racism, discrimination and socioeconomic inequalities may all play a part into why a student may not be able to express their true self. It is therefore crucial that any effort to promote Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) must also protect and promote a student’s sense of authenticity. (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).
Cate Goldwater Breheny, undergraduate student at the School of Medicine, reflects on their first MEdIC Masterclass and the discussions sparked around diversity and inclusivity.
When I first suggested signing up to medical education masterclasses over the summer, people were skeptical. After a long year of university, wouldn’t it be better to have some time off? Why medical education over a paying job or maybe a scientific internship?
And I confess, I was perhaps a little skeptical too. Yet, it only took five minutes to sign up, and then I had the rest of term to worry about. As it turned out, that was five minutes incredibly well spent.