Promotion to Senior Lecturer

The School of Medicine would like to congratulate Veronica O’Carroll on her promotion to Senior Lecturer at the University of St. Andrews. 

Dr Veronica O'Carroll
Dr Veronica O’Carroll

Veronica, who is currently the Director of Postgraduate Teaching (PGT) at the School, says that she is grateful for the support, encouragement, and mentorship that she has received from colleagues and is excited for this next chapter.  Veronica is a qualified nurse and has wide-ranging experiences and research interests across healthcare and academia. 

 

Veronica began her journey within academic teaching at the University of St. Andrews in 2007,  teaching clinical skills and then as Clinical Lecturer in Interprofessional Education.  After a stint as a Lecturer at the School of Nursing, University of Dundee, Veronica returned to St. Andrews in 2017, where she continued to develop her clinical teaching experience.  This same year, Veronica completed her PhD from the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the university, under the supervision of Dr Martin Campbell, investigating health and social care professionals’ attitudes and perceptions of interprofessional practice and learning.    

 

In her role as Director of Postgraduate Teaching, Veronica is responsible for leading the development of strategy and policy for learning, teaching, and assessment of taught postgraduate courses at the School of Medicine.  Since taking on this role in July 2020, she has been able to gain a better understanding of our current PGT courses within the School and the relevant University processes that are required for the smooth running of a course at masters level.  Working with the MSc Health Psychology programme team this past academic year has enabled her to understand the needs of our postgraduate community of students and appreciate that this programme has built important foundations for the future development of PGT.  She has also been able to gain insight into the first very successful year of the MSc in Digital Health, co- directed by Silvia Parracchini, School of Medicine, David Harris-Birtill, School of Computer Science, and administered by the Graduate School.  

 

Veronica maintains that she has always felt very supported in her professional development within the School.  As well as fulfilling her teaching role, she has been able to retain her registration as a nurse with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and has pursued her research interest in interprofessional education, collaborative practice, and telehealth.  Over the next academic year, Veronica is excited to explore new opportunities to develop part-time, online MSc programmes and micro-accredited short courses.  She states that through current health service partnerships, the Mackenzie Institute for Early Diagnosis, and the award-winning Learning Technology team, there are fantastic opportunities to harness current expertise and build on existing postgraduate teaching.  As demands on the Health Service increase, it is important to consider how we can support continuing professional development of healthcare workers, educators, and researchers.  The last 18 months have shown what excellent quality online teaching and learning looks like and proves that bringing ‘the St Andrews experience” to online learners is still possible. With Veronica at the helm, no doubt exciting developments lie in store. 

 

School of Medicine retains second position of UK Medical Schools in the National Student Survey 2021

The School of Medicine has retained its position as second place of UK Medical Schools in the National Student Survey (NSS). The NSS gauges students’ experiences of learning and teaching at university. The same survey placed St Andrews as the UK’s top mainstream university for the thirteenth time in the past 15 years. 

This year, the NSS asked students a new set of questions about specific aspects of their experience during the pandemic. The School of Medicine scored 95.8% for student satisfaction. Prof Crossman, Head of School and Dean of Medicine said, “This is a tremendous result in any time, but in the context of the disruption to education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic this is a result that reflects the quality of the staff and culture at the School. The result is a testament to the huge commitment of our staff and the rapport they have with our talented students.” 

During the last year, all lectures in Medicine were delivered online however students were able to continue a significant number of practical sessions in person albeit with social distancing restrictions and appropriate PPE where required.  Director of Teaching, Dr Alun Hughes added: “This fantastic result wouldn’t have been possible without the engagement of all staff and students who create a collegiate and supportive environment regardless of the challenges faced over the last couple of years. Whilst we benefit as a School who have always embraced technology in teaching, it’s great to see the quality of the staff that enable and deliver it recognised in these results.” 

Anna Apara, School President, who is entering the final year of her BSc stated: “The last academic year has been extremely different from previous years. As we continue to transition from what has been an unprecedented change within our global community, I believe that the position the School has made within the national Student Survey is a testament to the dynamic measures that staff have taken on, notably with continual areas for student feedback and change.” 

The NSS is managed by the Office for Students on behalf of the UK funding and regulatory bodies – the Department for the Economy (Northern Ireland), The Scottish Funding Council and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. 

 

 

Dr Calum McHale elected as Associate Fellow with the British Psychological Society

Dr Calum McHale, a post-doc research fellow in the School of Medicine has been recognised as an Associate Fellow by the British Psychological Society. This election comes as recognition for McHale’s contribution to psychology knowledge and the advancement of the field in a professional position. 

 

Calum is a health psychologist with a research focus in health care communication and intervention development. His focus is within the area of communication analysis and how communication works in the health care environment and how to translate that into interventions. For Calum, this accreditation is a reminder of the time he has committed to the profession and believes that it will help to open doors for future research opportunities. 

 

Currently, Calum is involved in continuing research to understand the fear of cancer recurrence in breast cancer patients after completing their cancer treatment. After this election, Calum looks forward to continuing research in the area of health communication to better understand how people’s behaviours in the healthcare environment can influence outcomes for patients. 

 

Dr Calum McHAle
Dr Calum McHale

UKRI-BBSRC/FAPESP Grant Award

£1M UKRI-BBSRC/FAPESP Grant Award to Alan Stewart: A “speciomic” toolkit to investigate fatty acid-mediated changes in plasma zinc speciation and their physiological effects

Dr Alan Stewart has been awarded £978,876 from the BBSRC to fund a new bilateral project entitled “A “speciomic” toolkit to investigate fatty acid-mediated changes in plasma zinc speciation and their physiological effects”. The work will be a collaboration between researchers at the Universities of St Andrews, Warwick in the UK and Campinas in Brazil. The project, which Dr Stewart will lead, has been awarded additional funding from FAPESP (The São Paulo Research Foundation) to support the work in Brazil.  As part of this study, state-of-the-art and bespoke analytical methods will be employed to understand the (re)distribution of zinc within plasma in the presence of high concentrations of fatty acids, mirroring conditions observed in disease states.  The impact of this dynamic on physiological processes including insulin signalling and cellular zinc uptake will also be examined.  Prof Claudia Blindauer will oversee work at the University of Warwick and Profs Marco Arruda and Carlos Ramos the research at University of Campinas.

 

Launch of UNITE4TB partnership marks a new era in Tuberculosis treatment development

Scientists from the University of St Andrews Infection and Global Health Research Division at the School of Medicine will play a key role in UNITE4TB, a global partnership to accelerate the development of new Tuberculosis (TB) drug regimens, as part of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a public-private European Research and Development Consortium

To advance anti-tuberculosis (TB) science and enable the progression of new, safe, and affordable treatment solutions for TB patients worldwide, a new consortium of 30 partners from 13 countries has officially launched. The 7-year, €185 million project called UNITE4TB, aims to accelerate and improve the clinical evaluation of combinations of existing and novel drugs, with the goal of developing new and highly active TB treatment regimens for drug-resistant and -sensitive TB.

UNITE4TB is the newest project of the IMI AMR Accelerator, a public-private collaboration with the shared goal of progressing the development of new medicines to treat or prevent resistant bacterial infections.

“Tuberculosis is a major threat to public health worldwide. By bringing together leading experts from the public and private sectors in Europe and beyond, UNITE4TB is well placed to deliver results that will accelerate the development of better treatment regimens to tackle this disease,” says Dr Pierre Meulien, Executive Director of IMI.

Worldwide, TB is one of the top 10 causes of death and the leading cause from a single infectious agent (above HIV/AIDS). The growing emergence of multidrug-resistant TB is well-recognised as a public health challenge and has sparked new interest and investment in anti-TB drug development. Despite increased activity in the field, an integrated approach to TB drug development is still limited.

With European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) and Associated Partners on board, UNITE4TB has access to the majority of the most innovative TB compounds, currently in late pre-clinical, clinical phase 1, and early phase 2 stage. The consortium will deliver an efficient, global clinical trials network equipped to conduct phase 2 trials. State-of-the-art adaptive trial designs will be implemented, and advanced modelling, artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques will be employed. All of this will allow for the selection and testing of novel combination regimens with a high probability of success in subsequent phase 3 clinical trials.

Anja Karliczek, Germany’s Federal Minister of Education and Research, says: “Europe’s UNITE4TB project creates an important new platform for research to combat tuberculosis. Science and industry will jointly test their clinical candidates and share research results. The objective is to develop effective combinations for new, urgently needed solutions to treat tuberculosis. This public-private partnership will set a new standard in the fight against global diseases such as TB. UNITE4TB is a remarkable example of international research collaboration. I am delighted that Germany is supporting the consortium with funding of around 25 million euros to the two German Associated Partners. I am confident that UNITE4TB will contribute towards achieving the goal of ending tuberculosis by 2030 that was adopted by the G20 Heads of State and Government at the UN General Assembly.”

UNITE4TB is the largest public-private collaboration on clinical TB drug development in the history of the EU. It will set a new standard for anti-TB regimen development, enhancing the efficiency with which new treatments are delivered to TB patients across the world.

This project has received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking (JU) under grant agreement No 101007873. The JU receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and EFPIA, Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung e. V. (DZIF), and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU). EFPIA/AP contribute to 50% of funding, whereas the contribution of DZIF and the LMU University Hospital Munich has been granted by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

 

About UNITE4TB

UNITE4TB is a public-private partnership with representation from academic institutions, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), public organisations, and pharmaceutical companies. Over the next 7 years, the consortium will be active in approximately 40 trial sites on four continents (Europe, Asia, Africa and South America), with the goal of delivering novel phase 2 clinical trials that will accelerate the development of new TB drugs and regimens.  Achieving this goal will facilitate fulfilment of one of the main unmet needs in the TB field: better-tolerated drug regimens of shorter duration that can be deployed to tackle tuberculosis across various drug-resistance patterns and co-morbidities. For more information, visit the Consortium website:

Consortium partners

Academic/SME partners

  • Stichting Radboud Universitair Medisch Centrum (Radboudumc) (The Netherlands)
  • London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) (United Kingdom)
  • University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
  • Forschungszentrum Borstel, Leibniz Lungenzentrum (Germany)
  • Lygature (The Netherlands)
  • Lancaster University (United Kingdom)
  • University College London (United Kingdom)
  • TASK (South Africa)
  • Vita-Salute San Raffaele University (UniSR) (Italy)
  • Helmholtz Zentrum München (Germany)
  • KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation (KNCV) (The Netherlands)
  • Critical Path Institute, Limited (Ireland)
  • European Lung Foundation (United Kingdom)
  • Instituto de Saude Publica da Universidade do Porto (ISPUP) (Portugal)
  • University of Liverpool (United Kingdom)
  • Institut de Recherche Pour le Developpement (France)
  • University of Hamburg (Germany)
  • University of California San Francisco (UCSF) (USA)
  • TB Alliance (USA)
  • FIND (Switzerland)
  • University of Milano (UMIL) (Italy)
  • University St Andrews (United Kingdom)
  • Uppsala University (Sweden)
  • European Respiratory Society (Switzerland)
  • TBnet (Germany)

EFPIA/Associated Partners

  • GlaxoSmithKline Investigación y Desarrollo S L (GSK) (Spain)
  • Janssen Pharmaceutical (Belgium)
  • Otsuka Novel Products GmbH (Germany)
  • Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung (Germany)
  • LMU University Hospital Munich (Germany)

View a detailed overview of all partner information on the UNITE4TB website.

PhD student continues cardiovascular research with new BHF-funded Research Fellow project

Amy Dorward, a PhD student at the University of St Andrew’s School of Medicine, has begun a research fellow post at the University, a 3-year project grant funded by the British Heart Foundation. Amy, whose ambition is to have a career in cardiovascular research, is currently completing her PhD thesis, supervised by Dr Samantha Pitt. Her PhD research, which was also funded by the British Heart Foundation, focused on the role of metal ions in heart failure. This research found that cellular zinc not only plays an important role in shaping calcium dynamics but in regulating how the heart works. Amy worked on an intracellular calcium release channel, first discovered in 1998 by the Takeshima group in Japan. Her research, and the work of others in the group, showed this channel is modulated by zinc, which is noteworthy given that dysregulated zinc movement can be connected to cardiac dysfunction. Following this finding, Amy’s post-doctoral research will aim to further investigate this channel, and in particular how it relates to arrhythmia and cardiac dysfunction. 

This is an important area of research as the heart has a limited ability to regenerate and heal after damage, so current treatments can only manage symptoms. Identifying how damage occurs and how to prevent it is key in developing more effective heart failure treatments. According to the British Heart Foundation, there are more than 100,000 hospital admissions each year in the UK due to heart attacks. Around 1.4 million people in the UK today have survived a heart attack and more than 900,000 people in the UK are living with heart failure. Research developments in the area have been substantial over the last number of decades and have saved thousands of lives, but future research will improve these statistics even further. The British Heart Foundation are committed to research initiatives like Amy’s, which will help to beat heart disease forever.  

For Amy, this opportunity is noteworthy, enabling her to learn new research techniques, identify future research opportunities and progress in her career as a cardiovascular researcher. Amy said “it’s such an honour and privilege to be continuing my research as a part of Dr Pitt’s team. Thank you to Dr Pitt for her constant support and guidance, and to the British Heart Foundation for the fantastic opportunity to further this exciting, cutting-edge research. I would also like to express my deep gratitude to all the supporters of the British Heart Foundation – without you, my research, and the research of many others would not be possible”.      

 

Confocal microscopy images of a cardiomyocyte (heart cell) in brightfield (top image) and stained for MG23 (bottom image) – MG23 is the protein being investigated in the project.

 

 

PhD Graduation for Roopam Gupta

Congratulations to Roopam Gupta for completing his PhD without any corrections from the School of Medicine and the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews. His PhD thesis investigated the applications of machine learning in biophotonics and laser metrology. Roopam, who is originally from India, became interested in science at an early age. He completed an integrated B.S. – M.S. at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, West Bengal from the department of Physical Sciences. After a varied scientific grounding in the first couple of years of his undergraduate, Roopam specialised in physics. During his studies, Roopam got the opportunity to spend some time in the US and the Netherlands, working on scientific research projects.

Roopam discovered that his passion lay in research and was immediately interested in applying for a PhD program. Roopam was introduced to Prof. Kishan Dholakia, Professor at the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St. Andrews, in India, at an event connected with the International Society of Optics and Photonics, which Roopam had become closely involved. Roopam was extremely interested in the research that Prof. Dholakia was undertaking and was encouraged to apply for a PhD position. Although receiving a number of offers for PhD programs, Roopam’s encounter with Prof. Dholakia meant that the University of St Andrews was his number one choice.

Roopam described his experience at the University very positively. Throughout his studies, he continued his involvement with the International Society of Optics and Photonics (such as SPIE or OSA) and was the Vice President for the SPIE student community. He made fantastic connections with researchers within the field. In particular, Roopam said that he received fantastic support from both of his supervisors – Dr. Simon Powis and Prof. Kishan Dholakia, with his experiments, improving his academic writing and getting his work published. “Everyone was very encouraging”, he added. Due to the pandemic, Roopam is currently in India taking care of his family but is eager to continue his career in research and is excited to see what the future brings. No doubt the sky is the limit for Roopam, and the faculty at the School of Medicine would like to wish him the very best of luck in his future endeavours.

 

Roopam Gupta
Roopam Gupta

BSc Honours Medicine Class of 2021 Degree Conferrals Take Place Virtually

former presidents of the School of Medicine and Bute Medical Society, Orrin McAleer and Cait Murphy,
Orrin McAleer and Cait Murphy pictured outside the School of Medicine with their dissertations

 

BSc Honours Medicine graduates will have their degrees conferred in an online ceremony by the Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Science later today. The School of Medicine is marking this year’s graduation by broadcasting an online Prize Giving Ceremony led by Director of Teaching, Dr Alun Hughes.

The Principal Sally Mapstone informed staff and students earlier this year that in-person graduation ceremonies would be postponed.  This decision was taken following the publication of the Scottish Government’s Routemap for Exiting Covid Lockdown, which made it clear that large scale public events would not be possible in Scotland in June. Social distancing guidelines meant the Graduation venue’s capacity would be reduced from 1000 people to 100 people while travel restrictions meant logistically in-person graduations were not feasible.

The university has provisionally set aside three weeks in June 2022 for the cohorts of 2020, 2021 and 2022 to graduate in-person.

The former presidents of the School of Medicine and Bute Medical Society, Orrin McAleer and Cait Murphy, shared their feelings on their experiences over the last three years and on graduating virtually.

Despite Covid restrictions, Orrin and Cait spoke of the comradeship amongst medical students that developed during the last year. The graduates clearly have plenty of fond and positive memories of their time at St Andrews. On what he will miss most, Orrin said: “I’ll miss the beach! I’ll also miss the community. There aren’t many places or universities where you get to meet people so well across year groups and subjects…or even get to know the staff so well. I’ll miss being always a stone throw away from anything I need and only a step away from friends.” Cait, who missed studying in sociable settings, still gleamed with positivity “I absolutely loved all three years at St Andrews even during the pandemic. I’m so lucky that I lived with four medical students that are also my best friends – this made it much easier to have a support system.” Cait, who will go onto continue her medical degree at Manchester added, “I’ll miss the staff and the medical school building – it’s a nice, compact space, easy to get around and meet and study with friends…I’m never going to live in place where all my best friends are only five minutes’ walk away.”

Cait also reported that the last year had been very successful for the Bute Medical Society – the society organised a series of online talks, sold more merchandise than in previous years and held a very successful online ‘Bute Review’ comedy evening which was live streamed on You Tube.

Orrin and Cait are looking forward to their online graduation and will be spending the day with their families.  Both are already planning their return for in-person graduation in 2022.

On passing on their wisdom to the new entrants to BSc Honours Medicine, Cait encouraged students to get involved in societies to meet people and Orrin suggests being bold, “Knowing as many people from different walks of life and places in St Andrews makes it the most enjoyable.”

Graduating students are invited to share pictures of their virtual graduation day with us by using the hashtag #standrewsmedicinegraduation2021 and tagging us on Twitter and Instagram @StAndMedicine.

New St. Andrews graduate hopes to continue learning journey

Another graduate from St. Andrews School of Medicine is set to virtually “cross the stage” this Friday.  Quenton Hurst, is the newest graduate with a master’s in molecular medicine. Following a year navigating the dynamics of online learning in the time of COVID-19, he is ready to take the next steps post-graduation.

 

Beginning his journey at St. Andrews in 2019, Quenton embarked on a master’s in molecular medicine researching cardiomyocyte proarrhythmicity in acute hyperglycaemic conditions. Originally from Rockport, Massachusetts, his decision to come to Scotland was made after receiving the St. Andrews’s Society of the State of New York Scholarship to study for a year at a Scottish university of his choice. Choosing St. Andrews was made easy due to the quality of teaching and access to cutting edge research in cardiac studies.

 

Currently, you can find Quenton in what is termed the “bat cave” in the Pitt lab doing research on potential anti-viral inhibitors to fight COVID-19 – an 18-month project that is being funded through the UKRI BBSRC. Quenton hopes to first pursue a PhD here in St. Andrews and then bring his knowledge back to the U.S. where he hopes to pursue a medical degree to eventually become a practicing clinician in the area of cardiac electrophysiology.

 

When asked what he’ll miss most about St. Andrews, Quenton noted the community feeling of St. Andrews and the collaborative nature he felt from fellow classmates, colleagues, and lecturers. Quenton also mused on the stunning backdrop of St. Andrews, poignantly reflecting on how he was working on cutting edge research amidst historic landscapes – giving him the best of both the new and old world.

 

Quenton Hurst
Quenton Hurst

MSc (Res) Graduation for Sydney Brown

Sydney Brown
Sydney Brown

The School of Medicine would like to send a big congratulations to Sydney Brown, who graduates on Friday from the University of St. Andrews after completing an MSc in Research of Medicine.  Sydney started off her education in California, where she studied neuroscience which ignited an interest in the medical field. After practising for a few months as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Sydney realised that she wanted to explore the medicine route further. She made the leap across the pond to the University of St. Andrews, where she completed a Bachelor of Medicine.  Along the way, Sydney realised that research was where her passion lies, which led her to apply for a master’s in research of medicine at the university.

Moving to Scotland was a huge change for Sydney, having spent most of her life dotted around the United States along with a brief stint in London. Although she was a bit older than the majority of undergraduate students, she did not let this stop her from getting involved in all that the university had to offer. That first year, she met great friends that followed her through her time in St. Andrews.  During her bachelors, she tried a lot of new things including mountaineering, MMA, and even Scottish country dancing. She completed her Bachelor studies in 2019 and began her MSc that same year.

As everyone knows, 2020 turned out to be a different year than expected.  Sydney was lucky that she completed the experiments for her thesis before the labs closed in March and spent the first few months of lockdown writing up her thesis.  She received incredible support from her supervisor, Dr Simon Powis.  Sydney moved home to the States in July 2020 and after almost a year of applications, she landed a job at Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, in Baltimore, Maryland.  Sydney started the new job just this week and is very excited for the new challenge.

Sydney looks back fondly at her time at the University of St. Andrews. She said “the thing I will miss most is the people, there is such an amazing community within St. Andrews. I think the size of the school bolsters the type of education that you receive and what you get out of the school. In my experience, there was so much invested in every student”. The faculty at the School of Medicine wish Sydney the best of luck with her future career and hopes she will come back to visit soon!