New Country Who DIS – Medical Practice & Policy in the U.K

Harry Potter, Big Ben, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mind the Gap – these all come to mind when one thinks of the U.K. Now if I was a regular tourist visiting London then these would have been the only memories I’d bring with me back to Stockholm.

But DIS made sure I wasn’t just a regular tourist.

National Health Service, Cyto Sponge, SMA, Oxford – these are the memories I’ll bring back with me. Being part of the Medical Practice and Policy Program’s Week-Long Study Tour to London granted me the opportunity to observe the U.K from an academic perspective. This post is dedicated to all our amazing academic and medical visits during our Tour.

1. Surbiton Health Centre with Dr. Phil Moore (what a great name!)

Our first academic visit was to the Surbiton Health Centre. There we heard a lecture from Dr. Moore who explained to us the structure of the health system in London and how it was focused on having primary care doctors provide most of the services. He then went on to explain various mechanisms of the public health system in London, as well as the mental health projects he was working on.

Photo Credit: Chris Stockbridge, Oakhill Community Heritage Project

2. The Centre for Cancer Prevention at Queen Mary University of London

Our next academic visit was packed with information and detail as we had 11 speakers present to us at the Queen Mary University of London. Our speakers covered a wide spectrum of the healthcare field as they ranged from surgeons to general physicians to medical researchers and public health scientists. Each had their own perspective and goals when it came to cancer prevention and treatment.

Photo Credit: Robert Brooks

During this visit we got to hear about how the U.K is working on better methods of screening individuals for cancer, so that it can be caught at an early stage and still be treatable. We heard about new drugs, treatments, and even had the chance to touch an experimental new device, called a Cyto Sponge, that was being developed to help screen for throat cancers.

Photo Credit: Robert Brooks

3. Danish – UK Chamber of Commerce

This visit was different from the others because it opened my eyes to a part of medicine that I rarely thought of – the balance of business and research. During this visit we got to hear lectures from the Biotech companies OneNucleus and Transcriptogen. OneNucleus demonstrated to us how research and business worked together through an elaborate network of over 400 organizations and groups in an effort to enhance various medical goals. Transcriptogen was just as exciting because their CEO talked to us about a new drug they were designing to kill cancer cells; it had some really promising clinical results. Their lectures filled a gap for us because they showed us the complex process companies and labs had to go through in order to get their products into the hands of doctors, who then used them to treat patients.

Photo Credit: Robert Brooks

4. Oxford University Department of Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics

The visit here did a great job of illustrating to us how research can really make a difference in people’s lives. Dr. Suzan Hammond PhD gave us a lecture on how new treatments were being developed for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a disease that weakens muscular tissue and, until now, was quite fatal in small children. During her presentation she explained the Biomolecular mechanisms her team was focusing on, as well as how they were looking for new ways of getting their drugs into the body’s affected tissues without causing too much distress to the patient. She showed us a video of a small child who was treated with the new drugs being made for this

Photo Credit: Robert Brooks

disease, and we were all amazed at the progress he made. A once deadly disease for small children was now on the verge of being made innocuous. After her lecture we were given a tour of the labs they worked in by a gentleman in a Harry Potter T-Shirt and shorts (that’s when I knew I was in the U.K).

Photo Credit: Robert Brooks

5.  Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism (OCDEM)

This one was unquestionably my favorite visit. Our visit to OCDEM at Oxford included lectures from several world-renowned researchers as well as a tour of their labs and facilities. We had the opportunity to hear lectures about how metabolism affected obese individuals, as well as stories about real Diabetes patients who were treated by the researchers. It was great hearing about all the steps the researchers went through in investigating the unique issues the patient had and then deciding what was the best course of action for them. After that we had a tour of the rooms and equipment the researchers used to evaluate the health of the patients that came in. My favorite part of this was when we got to see how the researchers took pancreases from donors and then used healthy Beta cells from those organs to essentially “cure” individuals with Type 1 diabetes.

Photo Credit: Robert Brooks
Photo Credit: Robert Brooks

This trip to London is something I’ll never forget. Having the opportunity to see all these aspects of healthcare – business, research, public health – has enriched and expanded my understanding of medicine. Next time I see my doctor, I’ll have a greater appreciation for all the work that happens behind the scenes that allows him to do his job.

Photo Credit: Robert Brooks

Now that you’ve had a chance to read about the academics of the MPP trip to London, make sure to check out fellow MPP Co-Blogger Reed Mszar’s post for the cultural side as well!

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