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NEWS
We are committed to encouraging young people to consider a career in medical research. We believe the best way to do this is through regular contact with schools. Each year, since 2011, members of the lab have visited two schools to give talks and seminars, and we have arranged for one pupil from each school to visit our research group for a week of experience of laboratory work, outpatient clinics, ward rounds and practical medical skills in the simulation lab. We arrange accommadation and evening entertainment, including a punting trip! We chose the schools because they are the former schools of current lab members. For instance, Jo Jones was a pupil at Wolverhampton Girl’s School.  Whilst Jess Davies was our post-doc, we visited Hardenhuish Secondary School, Chippenham. This year, we will visit the school of one of our clinical PhD students, Onajite Kousin-Ezewu, St Ignatius College, Enfield. Our aim is to connect with the young people and encourage them to consider a career in medical research. Feedback on these visits has been: From a teacher at Wolverhampton Grammar School As a selective girls grammar school we have many students considering a career in medicine. The talks from Dr Jones and her colleague have given pupils a rare opportunity to hear about where an interest in research can take you. The girls really enjoyed hearing about real patients and real facts and figures charting the development of a real drug. One year this lead to a heated debate about who should be funding this research. Another time girls were keen to find out how the patients who had taken part in the early trials were doing now. All girls attending the talk have included it on UCAS applications and many have found themselves discussing Dr Jones's work at University interviews across the country. The placement with the team in Cambridge has been a life changing experience for the future doctors who have been chosen to take part. As a school we have found this relationship with the team in Cambridge an invaluable part of motivating, inspiring and giving our A level biology students an edge in the competitive world of University applications. A pupil who attended one of our talks: “Dear Professor Coles and Dr Jones, I am a 2nd year medical student at Selwyn College, Cambridge and am interested in gaining some research experience over the Christmas vacation. As a former member of Wolverhampton Girls' High School, I really enjoyed your talk there several years ago and was really inspired both by the exciting science presented and by the possibility of combining clinical work and research, which was exactly what I had often hoped to do. It was also particularly exciting to encounter a patient who had directly benefited from alemtuzumab treatment as part of the Social Context of Health and Illness course last year and to actually witness the impact your research has made on individual lives.” And from students who have been through one of our attachments: “I've enjoyed my placement so much and it had only increased my interest to study medicine. I got to experience a huge range of branches such as research, Hospital ward rounds and academic meetings etc which showed me an insight into the real application of science and technology. I realised there is always something new to explore and there is an ongoing satisfaction in medicine. It particularly helped with my application for Medicine this year because I got to talk about my experience conducting a patient history and about certain cases I heard about in the MS clinic. Prior to the experience my interests mainly lied in practicing medicine but this experience opened my eyes to the research possibilities and I would definitely like to be involved in the future. I've also developed an interest in specialising in Neurology after a medical degree because I've seen how this field is growing so much now.” “I still have days where I look back on the week and think about how it has changed my outlook on medicine itself. It's confirmed that I want to do medicine and encouraged me to read more about ongoing research because the industry is always growing. I'll always remember the patients I spoke to during the placement; the qualities displayed during ward rounds and lab work such as good leadership and communication; and the everyday pressures I saw in the job. I know what to expect with a career in medicine and I'm really looking forward to it! I completely recommend the placement to any student interested in studying a medically related course and hope the programme continues. I also wanted to let you know I got an offer to study medicine at Sheffield a few days ago and I've been really happy.” “Well, I can't say that very much has happened regarding my progression etc since that week in summer however, I am still working towards my Biology, Chemistry and Maths A levels so I suppose that is a start! Actually, thinking about it now, for my biology A2 coursework we had to undertake an individual project and write up a report in (kind of) the same style as a journal. I decided to investigate how age affects dark adaptation of the eye, it was the only neuroscience related topic I could think of in the realm of what I could do at school! So I had to research the eye (which I found quite challenging but rewarding once I understood the processes) and write up the rational behind my investigation, invent an experiment (and carry them out) and then interpret my findings using biological explanations. It was a lot of hard work and gave me an understanding of whether I would suit/enjoy/cope with a research career. I have received four offers from the 5 unis I applied to (Cambridge rejected me), to study neuroscience and even though I am still undecided I will most likely confirm my offer with UCL and have Bristol (or Nottingham) as my insurance. So that's the near future!” “I just want to mention that working with, shadowing and exploring the multiple disciplines and departments on site at Addenbrooke's Hospital allowed me to gain an understanding of how a hospital functions and coordinates in a way I had never fully appreciated beforehand. Mainly because I have thankfully never had to visit a hospital as a patient myself but also because as a visitor you really don't appreciate the highly organised machine that is a hospital! It was a privilege to work alongside multiple doctors during their different clinics, ward rounds and patient discussions and I really appreciated the opportunities given to us to see the hospital routine. I didn't realise that doctors had large meetings to discuss various cases, put on 'help' sessions for other doctors to interpret MRI scans (and I guess other topics too) or lectures to junior doctors and medical students. The balance between hospital life, including taking a history from a very kind patient, and the science side of the hospital during the week was great to establish how each are harmoniously working with each other. Following a blood sample which I had just watched being taken from a patient in a clinic to the centrifuge was a definite highlight of the week. Meeting and watching the current and recently 'passed' PhD students in the labs and at research centers was a really good insight into what I could possibly be doing in 4 to 5 years time and I appreciated their time and questioning! Overall, coming to Addenbrooke's opened my eyes to the various disciplines within neuroscience and ways in which neuroscience can be specialized and so for that I have to thank you (and everyone else!).” “Taking part in this unique and encompassing week at Addenbrooke's Neurology Department was not only a really insightful and enjoyable experience, by coupling the medical and scientific sides of a hospital, but one which I will never forget. This week opened my eyes to the various ways in which Neuroscience, as a discipline, is divided and how harmoniously the hospitals' departments worked together. The fact that not only were we given the opportunity to interact with patients and shadow clinics but also to visit the labs and talk to PhD students, both during and after their 'projects'*, was exceptional and I doubt I would have found another work placement like it. From this experience I was able to confirm what I wanted to do as although the medical opportunities and patient contact was compelling, the labs and the science side of the hospital was, for me, definitely where I fitted in. However taking part in this week really helped me to understand how a hospital worked as a whole and really made me appreciate to what extent medicine and science are intertwined, despite how obvious it seems. I now have a whole new perspective of how research and medicine participate and help towards each other and I will take that understanding forward with me when I start my studies in Neuroscience in September 2016.” “In July 2013 I participated in a week-long work experience placement at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. With the intention of applying for a degree in medicine that September, I was excited at the prospect of finding out more about my potential future career. Until this placement, I had a rather one-dimensional view of medicine: doctors see patients on wards, perform examinations, prescribe medications – all in all, work of an entirely clinical nature. My experience in Cambridge opened my eyes to the world of research within medicine and the multitude of exciting opportunities it can offer. During the week, I gained an insight into the team’s research into novel treatments for multiple sclerosis – something which I now understand the importance of having recently finished immunology and neurology modules at Medical School. I have a genuine desire to pursue a career in these areas in the future and I believe this placement sparked my interest. Furthermore, my introduction to the academic side of medicine was complemented by time spent sitting in on clinics with consultants and speaking to patients. Again, I feel this early experience put me in good stead for my current studies: taking my first history at my general practice placement was not as daunting, having previously had the opportunity to do so at Addenbrooke’s. I am very grateful to all involved in organising this scheme, especially Dr Joanne Jones; I loved my week spent in Cambridge and every single person I met was friendly and willing to take the time to explain their work to me. Coupled with a sunshine-filled punt on the Cam and a tour of the colleges (not forgetting the marvellous picnic), I can only recommend this thoroughly invaluable and enjoyable scheme to others.” “At the moment I am half way through my second year studying Biological sciences at the University of Exeter, currently studying modules such as molecular microbiology, cell biology, medical and general microbiology and genomics. I am currently in the process of applying for internships for microbiology, immunology or genomics which is proving difficult! However I am persevering! The placement I took part in at Addenbrookes was a huge help to me in choosing my path towards further education, as well as an amazing experience and insight into the life in a hospital as well as a laboratory. Seeing the groundbreaking work done in neurology by the staff was very inspiring to me to pursue my studies further into biology, especially sparking my interest in immunology along with neurology. The insight into how the research carried out in the lab is applied directly to medicine was fascinating. The knowledge and advice of all those I met was invaluable in helping me decide my future, and for that I am hugely grateful for allowing me to have that experience!” “I am currently in my first year at Southampton Medical School and am really enjoying it! Without a doubt the week I spent in Cambridge with you and the rest of the team confirmed my ambition of becoming a doctor and it was a real privilege to be selected to go. The week really broadened my knowledge of the medical profession and made me realize how important different aspects of medicine are, it's not only about clinical practice that we all know. The whole experience was well organised and gave us opportunity to experience so many different environments within a clinical and laboratory setting. Observing the research into the drug, Alemtuzumab, and meeting patients on the clinical trial was the most influential part of the week for me. It was incredible to have the opportunity to do this and, learning about all the developments and pitfalls of its production made me realize how much time, money and effort precedes the release of every new drug. The week definitely made me think about the possibility of combining research with medicine - something that I would love to do in the future after realizing how influential it can be on so many people's lives. I'm so grateful to you for providing the opportunity for me to experience what I did and I will definitely never forget it.” “I'm currently in my first year at Cardiff University studying biomedicine and absolutely loving it! In terms of the week that I had at Cambridge, I can't really begin to describe what a fabulous week I had. Already knowing that I wanted to study biomedicine or medicine, I went into the week not knowing what to expect but hopefully to firm my decision that these two degrees would be right for me! And it did! The week really opened my eyes to the work that doctors such as yourself have to do on a day-to-day basis, and how you can still be so involved in the science (in the labs) as well as going on rounds in the hospital.  The research and the medicine was combined perfectly into one jam- packed and well balanced week so we could really understand the MS trial that was being conducted in more detail! I also feel we were very lucky to be able to talk to patients and even take cerebrospinal fluid and case histories from some! Seeing the labs and shadowing the doctors on the wards in the hospital (especially ICU) was very inspiring to me as it showed how intricate and expensive all the treatments and processes are - which made the science so much more exciting and high-tech! It confirmed to me that working in hospitals and/or in labs is something I would want to be involved with in my future career - so medicine or biomedicine was for me! When applying to university through UCAS, I talked about this week in my personal statement explaining what I had learned and how it had intrigued me into studying my degree - biomedicine, which was extremely useful as I got in with my offer of A*AB! I feel extremely privileged to have worked with you and your team for this week.”

Cambridge Science Festival event 2016

That is why we held our first Cambridge Science Festival event in 2016, when we told the story of the development of alemtuzumab with Helen Burchmore, Herman Waldmann, Geoff Hale and Alastair Compston. 100% of respondents to our feedback request said the  event was “very good” and 92% said it was “pitched at the correct level for the audience”.  Some specific comments were: “I was particularly impressed by the statements by Helen Burchmore as to the importance of the non-maintenance (just one course required, as opposed to lifelong treatment) aspect of Campath-1H compared with other treatments, and the psychological impact of this (even although ongoing regular check-ups are required). Very relevant to me as a person with MS, it was well organised and great to participate in. Excellent. All brilliant and fascinating speakers, thank you. An excellent way to give people a feel for the problems of getting even a promising drug past the various hurdles.”
YOUR HEADING TEXT Alasdair Coles, Joanne Jones and Alastair Compston  Cambridge Neuroimmunology

Young people and medical research