Name: Mr Ashish Patel
Institution: King's College London
Connection to the Academy: Starter Grants for Clinical Lecturers awardee and mentee
I applied to become involved in the Academy’s one-to-one Mentoring programme for postdoctoral researchers. The Academy staff and website made the process of applying and selecting a suitable mentor simple and straight-forward.
Despite recent developments in open and endovascular surgical procedures, amputation rates in the UK are still high due to the side-effects of diabetes and smoking-related diseases. I believe that now is the time to push boundaries and innovate in alternative treatments to surgery, which reduce the rates of amputation.
At the moment, I’m working to find a treatment to help patients with blocked vessels in their lower limbs that are so badly damaged their only option currently is amputation. My work aims to reduce amputation rates by using cell therapy to grow new vessels in these patients. Recent studies using this technique have proven unsuccessful as no-one really knows exactly which cell type should be used or what happens to the cells after injection. So, seven years ago, I set out to answer the following questions:
- Can we identify the right cell type(s) to stimulate re-growth of leg vessels?
- Where do the cells go after you inject them? Do they stay in the leg?
After 4 years in the lab, spent identifying the correct cell type to use in the dish and then in mice, we received funding from the Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Charity in 2012, under the MRC Confidence in Concept Grant, to translate the work into a clinical setting. In 2015, I became a recipient of the Academy’s Starter Grant for Clinical Lecturers, enabling me to continue my research to the next phase, recruit MSc and BSc students, and establish my own research profile. I’m now at the stage of injecting and tracking the cells in patients in the clinic and looking at the feasibility of using this technique to treat blocked vessels. By doing so, my department is laying the groundwork for larger-scale clinical trials looking at efficacy in the future.
As a successful recipient of the Academy’s Starter Grant for Clinical Lecturers, my top tips for future Starter Grant applicants include:
- Compile good, robust preliminary data
- Make the project doable in the timescale and with resources available to you
- Make a plan for after the project (e.g. applications for further funding)
- Ask a range of people to critically read through your grant proposal
As a surgical academic, I face a range of challenges in a day, but my biggest is simply finding the time to do research, whilst performing operations to keep up my training hours. It is difficult to be both a surgeon and a researcher but it is doable.
Inspired by a talk by Dr Lorna Marson at the Society of Academic & Research Surgery on ‘Academic training and mentoring in surgery’, I applied to become involved in the Academy’s one-to-one Mentoring programme for postdoctoral researchers. The Academy staff and website made the process of applying and selecting a suitable mentor simple and straight-forward.
Once you’ve matched with your mentor, my top tips on how to be a good mentee are:
- Be prepared – understand your mentor’s background and know the questions you want to ask beforehand
- Take your mentor’s view on board – they have your best interests at heart
- Don’t build expectations of how your mentor will impact your career – they will provide the guidance and talk about their experiences, but it will be up to you to put in the work for your own career
Being a mentee has given me unbiased support and guidance to steer my career in the right direction, and seeing how someone else has done what I want to do, listening to their story and relating to them has given me the confidence to take the next steps in my career.
Ash is a Clinical Lecturer in Vascular Surgery at King’s Health Partners, an Academic Health Science Centre partnered with King’s College London and based at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.