2013: Gayathiry Thanabalasingham
I studied medicine at Oxford University (1997-2003) first at Lincoln College and then Green College. This provided great training to become a medical doctor, as well as inspiring appreciation of and interest in clinical research. I am currently a specialist registrar in diabetes, endocrinology and general medicine in Oxford.
In 2009 I joined the translation diabetes genetic research group at the Oxford Centre of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism (OCDEM) as an NIHR Clinical Research Fellow. My research projects were supervised by Dr Katharine Owen and Professor Mark McCarthy. These projects encompassed the differential diagnosis of diabetes aetiology. I particularly focused on the accurate identification of rare genetic subtypes of diabetes (such as maturity onset diabetes of the young or MODY) in everyday clinical practice to enable more personalised diabetes management for these patients. In the Young Diabetes in Oxford study, we showed that current genetic testing guidelines will miss approximately half of patients with underlying MODY, and proposed a simple diagnostic algorithm to guide clinicians who look after diabetes presenting up to the age of 45 years. We also identified that patients with HNF1A-MODY have very low levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) compared with other diabetes subtypes, and this is the most promising non-genetic biomarker for MODY identified to date. CRP (which is already widely-available as an inflammatory marker) will be incorporated into the revised guidelines for MODY genetic testing which should help widespread translation of this finding.
I enjoyed this period of time in research immensely for many reasons. It was intellectually stimulating, and re-emphasised the importance of basic and clinical research to underpin good medical practice.