Invest in ME Research
Christmas/New Year Fund Appeal Advent Calendar

Encouraging Young Researchers/Doctors to ME

Our advent calendar for Christmas was intended to highlight some of the issues and solutions with regard to ME.

Many of the solutions to issues have depended on change being made in establishment organisations that seem to have little interest at all in patients.

However, despite this and thanks to the efforts of supporters of the charity over fourteen years, we have managed to go around some of these obstacles and have made progress in initiating solutions to overcome situations that adversely affect ME patients.

One major issue to overcome was the lack of funding for biomedical research into ME - Invest in ME Research has been doing that.

Another area that feeds into this is the need for new research talent to enter the field and new clinicians to learn about ME .

Medical students still receive extremely poor education on ME in their curriculum - sometimes even no education at all.

Not only is this negligent, as young doctors are subsequently unqualified to deal with ME, but it also means that potential recruits to ME research and treatment positions are limited by ignorance of the condition. Medical students are unaware of the career opportunities.

IiMER took this up with the General Medical Council in 2010 - read more here

The reply was underwhelming.

One way to get around this problem was to make students aware of the research that was being undertaken.

With the help of the Quadram Institute and University of East Anglia Medical School the charity was able to fund and facilitate the participation of a number of medical students in the research being performed at Norwich Research Park.

The idea was to fund the inclusion of medical students in research via a process of intercalation during their fourth year of medical studies.

This led to collaboration with research at Oxford University with Professor Angela Vincent and with Dr Lesley Hoyles at Imperial College London.

The charity also funded the six month involvement of a foreign student in the research we were funding at UCL.

This approach has been successful.
Apart from influencing opinions of their peers the medical students have been very active and well received in the research teams.

Navena Navaneetharaja was one medical student funded by IiMER and Navena spent time with Professor Maureen Hanson at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York - developing another of IiMER's 'strategies in forging international collaboration in research.
Navena and fellow co-funded student Verity Griffiths had this paper published A Role for the Intestinal Microbiota and Virome in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)?

The young PhD students that the charity has funded has brought in new talent and already two have received their PhDs

Dr Daniel Vipond received news of his success whilst at the NIH conference in Washington in April - pictured here with one of his viva examiners Professor Jonas Bergquist of University of Uppsala in Sweden

At our international conferences we arranged a student panel session where students can answer questions from the audience about their experiences.

We did this to encourage other young researchers and enable the students to experience an international conference from the hot seats.

The charity has funded, or is funding five PhD students at Quadram Institute Bioscence/UEA and UCL.

Thinking the Future network

To ensure that a foundation of biomedical research into ME can be sustained and to encourage new ideas from new areas then we cannot rely just on this family of researchers that has been built up from all parts of the world.

We need to draw in knowledge and expertise from other areas – as we have been doing for many years with our research Colloquiums and international Conferences.

Importantly, we also need to encourage early career researchers – and young researchers.

As part of the EMERG (European ME Research Group) concept - which aims to build a network of close European biomedical research collaboration to make rapid advances in research and funding for ME - in 2018 the charity initiated the young/early career researcher conference -

Thinking the Future

- an initiative to build a network of new and young research capacity for the future.

We started off in 2018 with the inaugural meeting in London and had up to 30 attendees from seven countries attending.

After this the charity worked with the National Institues of Health (NIH) and held several conference calls to discuss the future - with Drs Vicky Whittemore and Andrew Breeden being very supportive.

In 2019 two Thinking the Future meetings were held - one in Washington and one in London

Even the NIH director Dr Francis Collins commented on the initiative at the NIH Washington conference.

The NIH also actually sponsored the travel expenses for 20 young North American researchers to the London conference whilst IiMER covered the conference registration costs.

The Thinking the Future network provides an opportinity for developing this group of international, early career researchers which can facilitate further international collaboration in research into ME and new ideas being formulated.

The next event is planned for London in May 2020 and NIH will be playing a full part again.

Here is our information poster for the event -

Developing Clinical Expertise

The charity is also working to increase clinical expertise around ME.
In partnership with The Quadram Institute we are funding a new Clinical Fellowship scheme which will see a young GP, in their first five years of practice, sending a year in research alongside Quadram's ME research teams.

This novel scheme has been developed with Norfolk and Waveney CCG in order to improve the clinical knowledge about ME and toencourage more education about the disease to be spread around to other GPs, thus benefiting patients.

Further Reading:

  1. Education on ME - The General Medical Council Position

  2. A Role for the Intestinal Microbiota and Virome in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)?

  3. Thinking the Future London 2020

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