10 ways Medic is making an impact

We have a successful track record of contributing to society through its research, learning and teaching, and innovation and engagement activity.

Efforts by many staff and students highlight a rich variety of ways in which we're engaging with and benefitting society. Here are just ten recent examples:

We have been named Admiral Business of the Year at the Arts and Business Cymru Awards for the innovative way we use the arts to improve healthcare for people with learning disabilities.

Learning-disabled actors from theatre company Hijinx worked with more than 400 fourth-year medical students on role-play clinical scenarios to address a lack of training in communicating with, and caring for, people with learning disabilities.

Dr Robert Colgate, School of Medicine, said: "We’re thrilled to have won this award; it’s a huge achievement. The brilliant actors at Hijinx have upskilled and educated our undergraduate students, giving them the tools to improve patient care when looking after individuals with learning difficulties. We hope this partnership will positively impact all of the communities that our medical students go on to work in."

In the summer of his first year at medical school, Luke Morgan, now at the start of Year 3, founded a project that is bringing happiness to the children of South Wales. ‘Make a Smile’ is a thriving initiative which sees student volunteers visiting a range of children’s hospital wards, centres, events and birthday parties dressed as well-known beloved children’s characters.

With illness or disability often preventing some children from enjoying their childhood to the fullest, Make a Smile brings joy and fun to the lives of those who need it.

The engagement project now involves over 100 volunteers and has recently won the Cardiff Volunteering Award, Best New Project.

A team of researchers, led by Professor Andrew Sewell has developed methodology for closely studying pig T cell responses to influenza for the first time, giving them a new way of developing vaccines that can be effective against all strains of flu in pigs, birds and humans.

Professor Andrew Sewell said: "Pigs provide a very good model system for influenza virus infection. They can be infected with both human and bird flu in addition to swine flu and are known to act as important ‘mixing vessels’ for the creation of pandemic flu strains.

The new methodology and tools we’ve developed in Cardiff will allow researchers at Pirbright, the Bristol Veterinary School and elsewhere to closely study pig T cell responses to influenza for the first time. The goal will be to create a vaccine that can be effective against all strains of flu."

A study by the Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Centre and the School of Healthcare Sciences looking at the personal perceptions and experiences of patients, families and healthcare professionals has highlighted the need for improvement in symptom management for end of life care.

The analysis identified several areas of treatment which were often perceived as sub-optimally managed by healthcare professionals, including; pain, breathing difficulties, nutrition and hydration.

Annmarie Nelson, Professor of Supportive and Palliative Care and Scientific Director at the Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Centre said: "Despite the advances we are seeing in the field of palliative care, symptoms such as pain and breathlessness remain at the forefront of people’s concerns.

"What this analysis shows is that there are significant concerns around uncontrolled symptoms among patients and carers but also among healthcare professionals who feel that there should be clearer guidance, particularly with regards to nutrition and hydration."

A test that predicts the aggressiveness of common types of cancer and identifies patient responses to treatment won the Medical Innovation Award at this year’s Cardiff University Innovation and Impact Awards.

The technology - known as Single Telomere Length Analysis (STELA) – has been spun out into TeloNostiX thanks to a close, 10-year collaboration between Professors Duncan Baird, Christopher Fegan and Christopher Pepper at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine.

Professor Duncan Baird from the School of Medicine said: "Our tests provide precise prognostic information that will allow cancer patients and their clinicians to make informed clinical decisions about their disease. We are looking forward to making the test available to patients in the near future."

The Grangetown Community Gateway Project is a valued and thriving community outreach project in which Cardiff University work with local people to help them access opportunities that can be almost out of reach to many.

School of Medicine staff members, Dr Athanasios Hassoulas, Dr Sarju Patel and Dr Jeff Allen met with parents and pupils to provide practical support in overcoming barriers that prevent some people joining medical or healthcare professions.

Dr Patel commented, "Widening access to healthcare professions is a key goal for the Medical School. This is just the first step in our goal to inspire the local community to apply to study medicine here in Cardiff."

Dr Emma Yhnell from the Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute (NMHRI), School of Medicine presented her research into brain training for people with the rare genetic disorder Huntington’s disease on 31 May 2018 on the Baillie Gifford Stage at the Hay Festival.

Emma gave an interactive and engaging talk, where members of the audience were invited to take part in some brain training games for themselves and some audience members helped create DNA to demonstrate the genetic cause of Huntington’s disease.

Dr Yhnell said: "I was delighted to be selected to speak at the Cardiff Series at the Hay Festival. It was a fantastic experience and provided a wonderful platform to discuss my research and to raise awareness and understanding of Huntington’s disease."

We have received an Athena SWAN Bronze Award in recognition of our commitment to tackling gender inequality.

Dr Anna Hurley, School Manager at the School of Medicine, said: "Our Athena SWAN Bronze Award is tremendously positive for the School, and is thanks to all our staff and students for embracing our vision and making it happen."

Professor Siladitya Bhattacharya, who took up the role of Head of the School of Medicine in May, added: "I am delighted to be joining the University at this time and very much look forward to leading the School of Medicine as we continue to operationalise our ambitious initiatives, working towards a culture where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and develop."

A team of researchers, led by Dr Alan Parker has successfully ‘trained’ a respiratory virus to recognise ovarian cancer and destroy it without infecting other cells.

Dr Catherine Pickworth from Cancer Research UK said: "It’s encouraging to see that this virus, which has been modified to recognise markers on cancer cells, has the ability to infect and kill ovarian cancer cells in the lab.

"Viruses are nature’s nanotechnology and harnessing their ability to hijack cells is an area of growing interest in cancer research. The next step will be more research to see if this could be a safe and effective strategy to use in people."

The Widening Access to Medicine Scheme (WAMS), initiated and led by recently graduated medical student David Lawson, has over 100 medical student volunteers, trained in mentoring. Last year the pilot scheme visited 26 schools across Wales, supporting pupils with their applications and interviews to Medical Schools.

Applicant numbers from Wales for the conventional five-year medical degree, although stable, are lower per capita than the rest of the UK. This is significant because the General Medical Council has suggested that those students who study in their own region are more likely to then work in the same area. This could help to address medical staff shortages presently affecting parts of Wales.

David said: "I hope that the support provided will give school pupils from across Wales confidence with their applications and interviews and ultimately improve the success rate in these applications. I hope that one day in Wales a career in medicine is achievable to all those suitable, regardless of their school and home town."

Read the full edition

ReMEDy edition 29

ReMEDy edition 29

4 September 2018

Take a look inside and see what we've been doing.