Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics Career Story
Dr Lauren Walker, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics (CPT), at the University of Liverpool and honorary Consultant in CPT and general medicine at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
What do you do? and what is a typical week for you?
I’m a Clinical Senior Lecturer in Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics (CPT) and Honorary Consultant in CPT and general medicine. In addition, I am also Associate Director of our MHRA Phase-1 Accredited, NIHR Clinical Research Facility inside the Royal Liverpool Hospital.
These days I work full-time but during my training I worked both at 80% and 60% less-than-full-time. During my training, I took time out of programme to undertake an MRC Clinical Pharmacology Training Fellowship wherein I completed my PhD in epilepsy therapeutics. Following that I went on to do an NIHR Clinical Lectureship wherein I split my year 50:50 between 6 months’ research work and 6 months clinical training in the hospital.
There isn’t a typical day for me really as my job plan is split across three activities. I like variety! During my research time I might be in the lab or going and talking to patients and asking them to be involved in a study. Alternatively, I may be in clinic or at the computer writing protocols and applying for ethical approval. During my clinical time I am either on the general medical ward or in the first-in-human clinical trials unit. Working in the trial unit is very intense and safety driven with few patients and many healthcare workers. The opposite is true of the busy medical ward, where we see many unwell patients every day, so it is very varied.
What qualifications and experience do you have?
I completed my Medical degree and Foundation training and got an Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF) in CPT. I then applied for my research fellowship during that time. During my time out of programme I continued to do on average one clinic per week. I started my Fellowship after maternity leave and came out of programme following the ACF (so just starting my clinical CPT specialty training). After completing my PhD, I returned to clinical training at 60% LTFT, I received one year of clinical training credit towards my training for the CPT curriculum competencies I achieved by doing a PhD.
What’s the most interesting aspect of your job?
I like all of it! The best bit is definitely the variety – one day I can be learning about something entirely new, such as the principles of artificial intelligence and then next I can be explaining pre-clinical science models to a patient in the trial unit, or managing someone acutely unwell on the ward.
What are your research interests?
These days I am very interested in the use of “big data” and how we might learn lessons about human health through the study of electronic health care records involving huge numbers of patients. I am working with computer scientists to develop novel artificial intelligence approaches to tracking disease and medicine patterns in patients over time. My clinical interest is in complex patients who have several long-term conditions (called multimorbidity) and take many medicines (called polypharmacy). I am trying to use existing big data to work out better ways to predict risks for these complex patients and how we might manage their medicines better.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone seeking a career in clinical pharmacology?
There are lots of options available to you so you just need to decide what you want and push yourself along. You don’t have to be a total generalist, there are specialty interests and you can be very strongly interested in a specific thing. For example, I never wanted to be a neurologist as I enjoy general medicine however I find epilepsy really interesting. So I took one particular disease and studied it in great detail during my PHD. Now I take many different diseases and I study the ways in which they interact, it’s a completely different thing. That’s the fun thing about a career in research and clinical pharmacology. Arguably, every medical condition on earth requires some form of medicine to treat it at some stage, therefore there really isn’t any area of interest that you couldn’t explore through a career in CPT.
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