A bit about yourself
I came from Mainz in Germany to Oxford and the UK in 2002 and decided to stay in the UK after having really enjoyed my time in Oxford during my DPhil (OK, maybe meeting my lovely English wife during this time may have helped). Outside of work, I am a passionate football fan after a few injuries that stop me from playing, I wish I had more time to play the Cello again regularly and I really enjoy meeting friends and going on exciting holidays.
Summarise the research in your DPhil/PhD
“Insights into cardiac remodelling by multi-modal magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy”. We established normal ranges for cardiac volume studies and systolic and diastolic myocardial velocities using magnetic resonance imaging. We provided further evidence for the benign nature of an athlete’s heart. MR-specific criteria for the differentiation of physiological from pathological LV (left ventricular) hypertrophy as well as for the diagnosis of left ventricular non-compaction were developed. Using MR spectroscopy, we documented reduced cardiac energy metabolism in left ventricular non-compaction, which may contribute towards the development of heart failure in this condition. Multi-modal magnetic resonance allows new insights into chronic cardiac remodelling processes.
About your current job, and the path you took to get there
I am Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London’s Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Honorary Consultant Cardiologist at Barts Health NHS Trust and Clinical Research Director at Barts Heart Centre. After my DPhil 2002-2005 I worked as Clinical Lecturer in the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine and continued cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (CMR) research in parallel to completing my Cardiology training. In 2009 I took up a clinical academic position in the institutions I now work in and was promoted to a Chair position in 2013.
About what helped you/how you decided to get into this area
My main research interest now is clinical trials using CMR, cost-effectiveness analysis related to cardiac imaging and primary prevention, large scale population based studies using CMR (UK Biobank cardiac imaging co-lead) and electronic health record research that incorporates cardiac imaging data. The key to my career path was that my primary DPhil supervisor Professor Stefan Neubauer involved me during my time in Oxford in advising UK Biobank regarding the ambition to perform cardiac imaging in 100,000 people. I was excited about the many challenges such a large research project would pose and to be involved in helping to find solutions. In this context, I decided to do a part-time Master of Public Health at Harvard School of Public Health between 2011 and 2014 to provide me with the skill-set to analyse large scale epidemiological data and to understand statistics and clinical trial designs in more depth. At the course, I also appreciated the importance of health economics and cost-effectiveness studies much more.
Anything extra you found you needed to know, learn along the way or wish you had done differently
I think I have been incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunities I now have. Key to this were great mentors, being at the right time in the right places (i.e. luck) and a work-life balance that worked for me. At some junctions in my career I wished I had developed my research interests more around a disease and related important clinical questions and my CMR expertise and reputation would have been useful to advance the field. Focussing more on the imaging technology as a research area is risky, as the shelf-life of imaging technology and thus the impact of your research may be short-lived.