After completing my medical degree in Leeds I worked in a number of hospitals in London as a junior doctor before joining the Cardiology training scheme based in Leicester five years ago. I worked at the Glenfield Hospital in Leicester for two years before taking up this research postgraduate degree.
The experience of a postgraduate degree is invaluable to a cardiologist. Every decision that we make on patient care is based on research evidence. Understanding the evidence requires an insight into what research involves. A postgraduate degree undertaking research offers this experience in addition to the many other skills of putting together grant applications, statistical analysis, presenting at conferences, etc.
Coming back into education has been a fantastic experience for me. I have been able to work on an area that fascinates me and is directly relevant to my future career and I have gained many transferrable skills. I also have a young family and the flexibility that working in research offers has allowed me to improve my work/life balance.
Three million patients die annually worldwide because their heart stops suddenly; it is difficult to predict who is most at risk. My research has identified a novel way of assessing risk of sudden cardiac death. With the support of the University Intellectual Property Office I have been able to patent this novel technology and with my supervisor I have gone on to win local, national and international awards. The University Press Office has publicised my work, leading to it being featured on the BBC news (local) and interest from investors. With the support of the University we are now looking to create a spin out company - with the potential to see my innovation make a difference to my patients.
I chose to research this because there are major limitations with current methods of assessing risk of sudden cardiac death. This was an area that fascinated me and fitted with my career aspirations. Leicester has a fantastic reputation for cardiology services and research, particularly in the areas of electrophysiology and genetics. The department is warm and supportive and has recently gained the Biomedical Research Unit that offers excellent facilities for research. Finally the Leicester hospitals serve a large region of the country allowing for recruitment of patients to studies.
The course has exceeded my expectations - I have been given the freedom to develop my own ideas and the support to make a success of them. The facilities are excellent; we have dedicated clinic space for research patients and equipment to perform tests such as echocardiograms. I have been well supported by my Department, which has offered me research facilities and funding and, as experts in the field of my research, departmental staff have been able to offer incisive guidance and support. During my first few weeks I started by performing a literature review and identifying a research protocol. I found it easy to identify and obtain the articles that I needed and there were plenty of interested peers and my supervisor to bounce ideas off.
As an institution, the University of Leicester is energetic and interested, open to novel ideas and free of self importance. There are good facilities and an attractive campus. Leicester itself is a regional hub for shopping and cultural events and there is always something of interest going on. It has a wide range of good restaurants and good shopping. In addition its central England location offers good transport links.
Once I finish my research, I will aim to develop a career in cardiology research to take my current work forward. Before doing research I planned to become a cardiologist. Having thoroughly enjoyed the research experience I will take up a Senior Lecturer in Cardiology post and combine clinical work with research.
My time so far at the University has been busy, rewarding and enlightening. I would absolutely recommend Leicester to a new student - it is an excellent place to study.
One piece of advice I would give to a new student starting here is to be clear from the start what you want to achieve from the postgraduate degree and, while taking advantage of the opportunities that present, do not become distracted from the core of the degree. Oh, and enjoy yourself!