CL in Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Dr Jo Morrison (2009)
Early research experience
Jo came to Oxford study medicine as an undergraduate. Between her preclinical and clinical training, she was fortunate to spend a year studying for a BA, as part of her medical course. This gave her the opportunity for her first real experience of research studying the relationship between T cells and the influenza virus, during a lab-based dissertation project. As a clinical medical student, she spent three months on elective, based in The Gambia on another lab-based project, looking at the exposure of babies born to HIV infected mothers. The work involved looking at the response of these babies to HIV peptides, to see if the uninfected babies were able to launch an immune repose to HIV. Jo returned to the UK and then continued with a conventional medical training, being firstly a house officer and then a senior house officer in Oxford, Northampton and Reading. All of her SHO posts involved obstetrics and gynaecology and she chose this as her final specialisation. She then took a post in the Oxford region as a registrar, on a five year rotation.
Establishing her clinical academic credentials
At the end of her registrar rotation, Jo gained a subspecialist training post in gynaecological oncology. This was a four year post, funded by the Macmillan Cancer Support, and involved two years of research with a further two years of subspecialist clinical training. Having completed the first research year, Jo secured a clinical research training fellowship from Wellbeing of Women, enabling her to complete a DPhil. Her research involved cloaking adenovirus with polymers, to shield them from antibodies and allow retargeting to alternative, cancer-selective receptors. The adenovirus could then be used to target specific tumour cells for destruction.
Becoming a Clinical Lecturer
Following her DPhil, Jo has returned to her subspecialist training post, but gained additional funding, from NCCRCD and from Wellbeing of Women, to continue her research as a clinical lecturer. She is now examining how polymer cloaking of the adenovirus could reduce the inflammatory response and the formation of adhesions. As an NIHR Clinical Lecturer (CL) Jo combines her active research interest with clinical practice and hopes to become a consultant gynaecological oncologist at the end of her training. She is aware that combining basic science with higher surgical training is a challenge, but she enjoys the difference in satisfaction between research and clinical practice. "Seeing patients keeps you grounded. You are able to make an immediate difference to one person, and receive immediate feedback and satisfaction. Scientific research can mean months of work with no evidence of success in sight, but the end result could make a huge difference to many people". She intends to continue to balance her professional life in this way and thinks that one enhances the other.
What is the attraction of clinical academic medicine?
As a clinician on a research team she feels able to highlight the clinical problems and keep the team focused on what is relevant to patients. A greater understanding of the science behind medicine is of benefit not only to her, but also to her patients, as she is able to give a better explanation of their condition and treatment. As a junior house officer, she was encouraged to ask ‘why?’ in every aspect of patient care, by an inspirational consultant, who was at the fore-front of evidence-based medicine. However, Jo is sad that the question "why?", from juniors and patients, can sometimes be seen as a challenge in clinical medicine, and not an attempt to improve understanding. To summarise, she says "Clinical academics, with training in both science and medicine, are able to keep the patient at the centre of their science, and believe that improving patient care can only be achieved by continuing to ask the right questions".