Bursary 2016

As part of the BRC Capacity Development Scheme (Bursary funding for Training Activities) trainees were offered the opportunity to apply for a bursary, read about their experience

Daniel M. Fountain

I was grateful to receive the Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre Capacity Development Scheme Bursary which enabled me to present two abstracts at the European Association of Neurosurgical Societies Annual Conference in Athens, Greece. The first oral presentation was reporting the results of a systematic review of reporting of quality of life in diffuse low-grade glioma. Our findings identified significant heterogeneity in the reporting of quality of life, providing a platform for an international consensus on quality of life outcomes in diffuse low grade glioma. The manuscript of this work has also been published in Neuro-Oncology. The second oral presentation provided the results of the largest study in the world on paediatric subdural haematoma. This prospectively collected retrospective observational study identified a significant improvement in survival for children suffering a subdural haematoma in England and Wales between 1994 and 2013. The study also identified admission to a neurosciences specialist unit as a significant prognostic factor, which is an important finding that could inform future head injury guidelines internationally. The work is awaiting submission to the British Medical Journal. The conference was an excellent opportunity to share this research for two reasons. Firstly, presenting to European colleagues facilitated discussion for further collaboration with centres across the continent to develop work these studies have begun. Secondly, on a personal level I developed skills in presenting research internationally for the first time, and presented work that will form the platform for research during my Academic Foundation Programme at the University of Cambridge which I am currently undertaking.        

Nurulamin Noor
As a result of funding from the Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, I was able to attend a two-day intensive mammalian transgenics course on the use of CRISPR technology, stem cells and application to animal models.This course took place in the excellent new conference centre on the grounds of Homerton College, University of Cambridge. During these two days, I was able to learn about the acquisition of pluripotency in the pre-implantation mammalian embryo (mouse, marmoset, human) as well as gaining experience in the generation of transgenic mice using the latest CRISPR genome editing technology.

The course programme was delivered by world-leading experts in the field of developmental biology, stem cell and genome engineering, both locally from Cambridge but also with nationally and internationally renowned guest speakers.  There was a ratio of 1:4 instructors to participants, which provided great hands on practical and theoretical training from leaders in the field.

Following attendance at the event, I feel I have a much better grasp of these key and increasingly pervasive techniques and theories. In particular, I hope to translate some of the skills learned on this course, and apply during the course of a higher research degree. 

I would like to thank the Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre for allowing me the opportunity to attend this course and for continuing to support early career researchers such as myself to develop new skills and research experiences.

Michael Bath:
I am hugely grateful to have been awarded the BRC Capacity Development Scheme Bursary, allowing me to attend the European Society of Coloproctology (ESCP) 2016 Scientific Meeting in Milan, an international conference targeted at surgical trainees and consultant.

Attending this conference meant I was able to engage in an academic programme of keynote lectures, interactive sessions, and research skills. Subject update sessions, in both the latest research of coloproctology and the new trials forums, kept me informed in the current theories and developments in this area of surgery and enabled me to network with similar like-minded trainees.

Sessions covering advice and tips on how best to approach academic writing were certainly highlights of the conference, guidance from world-leading academics in my early years as an academic trainee, and especially as an AFP, will no doubt prove pivotal in developing my academic capabilities.

However perhaps most pertinent from this grant was being able to attend the session run by the EuroSurg Collaborative, a pan-European surgical trainee collaborative, of which I am a founding member. I was able to chair a session at this conference whereby our members presented results from our latest European cohort study, alongside discussing future developments from the group and planning our next clinical study. Being able to chair at this session allowed me to gain experience in organising and leading such academic discussions, develop my skills in presenting data at international conferences, and engage with trainees in varying specialities and interests from across Europe.

I am very grateful to the Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre for this grant, allowing me to attend this conference and develop several important skills for my future academic career.

Sabrina Rossi
I would like to thank the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre for awarding me a bursary to attend the “Advanced Decision Analytic Modelling for Economic Evaluation Course” at the University of Glasgow.

Patients with stage four renal cell carcinoma (RCC) have a 6% five-year survival rate compared to 84% survival in patients with stage one disease.1 A screening program, consisting of abdominal ultrasound in a selected higher risk UK population, may improve survival outcomes through early detection of RCC. My aim is to perform an economic analysis to assess the cost effectiveness of a RCC screening program in the UK, which is an essential step and must be proven prior to proceeding to an application for a clinical trial of screening for renal cancer. This forms the basis of my academic project as an NIHR ACF and I aim to develop this research further during a PhD.

The Decision Analytic Modelling Course
This intensive course has given me the critical skills necessary to perform an economic evaluation of screening for RCC. The teaching session focused both on the broader ethical and social considerations underpinning health economics, as well as the statistical methods required to structure and analyse an economic model. I am now able to critically appraise models performed for other health technologies. Most importantly, the essential principles and skills learnt on this course will allow me to work on the screening project, which has the potential to have a significant impact on patient care and healthcare in UK.

David Thurtle 
I am very grateful to have received a BRC Capacity Development Scheme Bursary which enabled me to attend a ‘Survival Analysis Course’ at University College London. As a result of the one-day course I have a much better grasp of interpreting survival data. Particularly useful sessions covered censoring types, Cox-regression models and time-varying covariates. I aim to build on this knowledge as I develop a project on risk-prediction modelling in localised prostate cancer.

Over 47,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK each year, with the vast majority having localised disease. Deciding which men have potentially aggressive disease requiring radical treatment, and those for whom conservative management is appropriate, remains a priority in prostate cancer research.  Using high-quality, long-term, local cancer registry data we aim to build an individualised risk-prediction model for men with non-metastatic prostate cancer. This model will be built around long-term survival outcomes, therefore, a thorough understanding of survival statistics is vital.

Having attended this course I feel far more confident to start using these statistical tests and aim to build upon this foundational knowledge. It was also a pleasure to meet other researchers and clinical academics who plan to use time-to-event data in disparate ways. Thanks once again to the Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre for this grant, allowing me to develop analytical skills I will use throughout my clinical academic career.

Aamena Valiji Bharmal
Thank you for awarding me the BRC fund to attend the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET) annual international conference. Due to this generous fund I was able to attend and present my research. 

I spent my medical elective auditing the management of pre-eclampsia in a tertiary hospital in Uganda to assess if the new specialist unit was being used optimally, with the aim to help guide new protocols. It was a great opportunity to discuss my research to an international audience who had a particular interest in improving maternal health in Uganda. There were representatives from all over the world and from different professional backgrounds, including the Health Minister of Uganda. The conference was inspiring to see international multidisciplinary teamwork collaborating to improve health. We were able to share different stories, identify common problems and together create innovative ideas.

As I progress throughout my career, I hope to develop my critical and analytical skills to be able to identify areas where we can improve and develop our knowledge in health. By being able to attend conferences, such as this one, I am able to challenge myself and be inspired from others to improve international health.

James O’Donovan
I was very grateful to receive a BRC Capacity Development Scheme Award, which allowed me to present my research on the use of low cost Android Tablets to educate medical students in Kenya at the Massachusetts General Hospital Clinical Research Symposium in October.

Presenting my work to an international audience not only helped me improve my presentation skills but also allowed my research to be critically appraised by leaders in the field of global mHealth. The experience also allowed me to strengthen my relationship with my existing research group by reconnecting with them at the meeting, whilst also allowing me to meet other researchers in the field and explore potential collaborations.

I am now building on the work I have undertaken with medical students and expanding it to educate Community Health Workers in Uganda using mHealth tools. I am in the process of exploring the possibility of partnerships that could be formed between Addenbrookes Abroad, Cambridge University and my research group to establish a sustainable ‘ethical’ elective fellowship for Cambridge medical students to assist with work on this project.

Katherine Schon
Ataxia-Telangiectasia Clinical Research Conference – Warsaw

I am an NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow in Clinical Genetics. I was very grateful to receive funding from the BRC Capacity Development Scheme and the Ataxia-Telangiectasia Children’s Trust to attend this conference.

Ataxia-Telangiectasia is a rare recessively inherited disease which affects the neurological, immunological and respiratory systems, as well as causing a high risk of malignancies.  The three day international conference covered research in all the systems affected.  There were themed sessions with panel discussions at the end of each session, including a lively debate about the potential role for bone marrow transplantation in the management of haematological malignancy or severe immune disorder.

My research focuses on individuals with variant Ataxia-Telangiectasia who have at least one ‘milder’ mutation (mainly missense or splice-site mutations, which allow some retained ATM kinase activity).  I presented a summary of the clinical and genetic features in the UK cohort of 37 individuals.  We are collaborating with the Dutch team, and I described genotype-phenotype correlations which use the combined data set.

This was my first opportunity to give an oral presentation at an international conference.  It was very helpful to meet the Dutch team, as well as Professor Malcolm Taylor and discuss the project together.  I learned a lot about other aspects of the disorder and about how it is treated in different countries.  There was also a fantastic key note lecture from Professor Richard Gatti about the potential for treatment in selected patients (who have nonsense mutations) using small molecule read through compounds.

Rayna Patel
I am grateful to the BRC Capacity Development Scheme for awarding a bursary that enabled me to undertake a period of research at Columbia University in New York, investigating the neuroanatomical correlates of neurodegeneration in normal aging using fMRI.

I focussed on optimal functional and structural imaging characterization of cognitive aging, identifying the latent brain networks associated with reference cognitive abilities and occupational status across adulthood using moderation-mediation models and regression analyses.

As well as developing my understanding of the neuroanatomical networks involved in cognitive reserve, I have been able to gain an understanding of neuroimaging and the statistical techniques involved in its analysis. I believe this experience will be instrumental in achieving independence in fMRI analysis as an academic clinician in the future.

During my time in New York, I was able to engage with wider aspects of Columbia Medical School, attending laboratory and general neurology meetings, as well as neurological case discussions and clinical pathological conferences.

The opportunity to undertake this period of research was made possible by the generosity of the Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre and has enabled me to develop both clinical and academic skills that will be invaluable in producing innovative and worthwhile research as a clinician scientist.

Rory Piper
I'm an Academic Foundation Year 2 Doctor currently working in the Cambridge Academic Neurosurgery Unit and am pursuing a career in academic neurosurgery. I was delighted to receive a bursary from the Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre in order to attend the 2016 Autumn Meeting of the Society of British Neurological Surgeons. This meeting was attended by both consultant neurosurgeons and those in-training. It is an opportunity for the UK community of neurosurgeons to be updated on clinical standards in neurosurgery and equally to share academic advances.

The benefits I gained from the meeting were three-fold:

1. This conference enabled me to engage with research produced from UK neurosurgical laboratories. This has inspired my own work and has given me further direction.
2. The conference enabled me to develop proficiency in presenting and communicating my own scientific work. On behalf of my research group, I presented our work on the use of neuroimaging features to stratify risk of raised of intracranial hypertension in paediatric patients with traumatic brain injury.
3. This conference enabled me to network with the academic neurosurgical community. I discussed with leading academic neurosurgeons and developed links that could potentially lead to future collaborative links.