Dr Jeremy Levy has been appointed Director of Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre’s (AHSC) Clinical Academic Training Office.

9V8A9583aDr Levy, who is a Consultant Nephrologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Reader and Adjunct Professor at Imperial College London, will lead on providing clinical academic training for medics and non-medics at Imperial and the Trust.

Maxine Myers caught up with Dr Levy following his appointment to find out more about his plans.

1) As Director of the AHSC’s new Clinical Academic Training Office what are your initial plans?

Education and training is a really critical and important part of the overall activities of Imperial College AHSC.   Historically Imperial, via the Trust and College, has been very good at getting doctors into research and training positions through a variety of different routes.  They have been able to go on and do PhDs and become lecturers and senior lecturers as a result of their training.  The AHSC is keen for this to grow and be properly supported.  A key way of doing this is to try and expand the number of people who go through clinical academic training especially non-medics such as nurses, midwives, dieticians, pharmacists and therapists and scientists, so they can become leaders of research relating to patient healthcare. We also need to enhance our support of people who have completed PhDs to become more advanced clinical academics.

2) Why is it important to expand the education and training opportunities to non-medics?

Non-medics bring a different perspective to patient care which is very worthy of academic research, as they often focus on problems which patients recognise as critical.  They can provide insights into health areas such as patient safety, nutrition, wound healing and prescribing errors, which are sometimes overlooked by doctors.  Better understanding of these health areas would have huge impact on patients. Furthermore, all staff should have the opportunity and support to progress into academic careers if they have the ability and desire, especially within an AHSC.

3) What types of support will the Clinical Academic Training Office offer medics and non-medics?

We would like to develop support for all those undertaking research programmes, masters degrees or even just considering this, so they know who they can approach with questions such as how to maximise funding available to them, career advice, and mentoring. Some of this happens now but is often somewhat uncoordinated and disjointed, and not all those undertaking academic careers are aware of the help available to them.  We want to offer career advice at all stages for staff and guidance on competing for further funding opportunities such as the National Institute for Health Research awards so that it is easier for people to win them. We want to enhance the support of successful clinical academics into higher academic programmes.

4) What challenges does the AHSC face in regards to education and training?

The Trust employs almost 10,000 people so you can’t train everybody, but what we can do is identify a broader cohort of people who can embark on research and training so they can gain the skills needed to apply improvements in healthcare delivery to their patients in departments, clinics or wards.  We can ensure many more people truly believe they work in a world class academic centre of excellence.

5) Long-term what do you hope to see happen in education and training?

I would like to develop educational tools that highlight the importance of research outputs for patients and staff. This is important because many of our patients are involved in clinical trials so it is vital for all healthcare staff to have a better understanding of this.

Education in a broader sense is changing quite quickly.  The amount of knowledge available on the internet and electronic resources is changing the way we deliver education.  We need to be at the forefront of using these technologies to think about how we deliver education in a different way to our staff. We need also to ensure academic training bridges the divides of different faculties, for example engineering, chemistry and physics.

We also need to develop further public engagement with health education.  There’s some great work already happening at Imperial such as Professor Roger Kneebone’s simulated pop-up operating theatre, which gives people the chance to learn more about surgery through participation in a range of operations and medical scenarios. It is important to expand engagement so that we can get our patients and the public thinking about how education can improve their healthcare.

education can improve their healthcare.

6) In this year’s upcoming general election what do you hope to see political parties offering in relation to education and training in the NHS?

I would like to see ongoing support in ringfencing the budget for education around clinical academic training, and training and education more broadly for healthcare staff – it is always under threat and seen as an easy target.

It is important to maintain the new investment in providing education and training opportunities in genomics for all staff in the NHS to ensure that the UK is a world leader in this field, and to support programmes such as the 100,000 Genome project.  This is a national initiative which aims to sequence the genomes of 100,000 participants to improve our understanding of rare diseases such as cancer and provide more personalised treatments. The Trust has been designated a Genomic Medical Centre (GMC) in partnership with three other foundation trusts to contribute to the successful delivery of this project. Imperial has also been tasked specifically to develop an MSc in genomic medicine which I would like to see widely embedded in clinical academic training.

I would also like to see funding for education specifically around approaches that lead to better health outcomes and care for patients such as improvement methodologies, a set of techniques designed to bring about positive changes to the quality of health services, and engaging patients in training.

We also need a genuine recognition that making transformational change while coping with current health demands is almost impossible without proper support, financially and publically from politicians.