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Wesleyan RSM Trainee of the Year 2017 Finalist: Dr Iqbal Singh Toor

On Thursday 23 November five young doctors will compete for the coveted title of Wesleyan RSM Trainee of the Year. Marking the culmination of the Royal Society of Medicine’s 2016/17 prize programme for trainee doctors, the awards evening will celebrate the very best of the RSM and its trainees. We will be awarding prizes to both oral and poster finalists.

The five oral finalists will present for 10 minutes, followed by a 5 minute Q&A session with the audience and finalist judges who this year will include:

  • Dr Fiona Moss, Dean, Royal Society of Medicine;
  • Sir Simon Wessely, President, Royal Society of Medicine;
  • Dr Keith Ridge CBE, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England, NHS England;
  • Professor Gillian Leng CBE, Deputy Chief Executive, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

We talked to each of the finalists as they prepared for the awards final to discover more about their work and what inspired them to compete for an RSM award.

Dr Iqbal Singh Toor, an ST7 trainee in interventional cardiology, talks to us about his experiments with eosinophils and IL-4 therapy.

I am currently an ST7 trainee in interventional cardiology at the Essex Cardiothoracic Centre, Basildon Hospital.

I undertook a doctoral degree at the University of Edinburgh which was funded by the Wellcome Trust Edinburgh Clinical Academic Training programme. During my research I looked at the role of eosinophils in cardiac remodelling following myocardial infarction (MI).

presentation title | ‘eosinophil deficiency promotes aberrant repair, adverse remodelling and poor clinical outcome following acute myocardial infarction’

Eosinophils are a type of immune cell which usually has a bad reputation, for example in asthma, because they are packed full of destructive proteins. However, my research has shown that eosinophils are recruited to the heart following a heart attack where they facilitate healing of the injured heart muscle by limiting inflammation, most likely through the provision of a small molecule called interleukin (IL)-4.

In an experimental model, deficiency of eosinophils was found to promote inflammation after a heart attack leading to loss of heart function. When IL-4 therapy was given to eosinophil-deficient mice after a heart attack it improved heart function.

The project came about from a clinical observation I made; that patients suffering a heart attack experience an early decline in their blood eosinophil count. This posed the questions: are eosinophils recruited from the blood to the healing heart, what do they do there in the heart, and how do they do it?

Nearly a third of heart attack patients have a low eosinophil count and so may potentially benefit from IL-4 therapy. Modulating the immune response with IL-4 therapy to improve healing of the injured heart muscle following a heart attack could be an entirely novel way of preventing heart failure, which has a very poor prognosis.

Getting the right balance between your clinical and academic commitments is key when taking a period out of clinical training to undertake a doctoral degree. Your first priority should be your research, as trying to ‘finish off’ a PhD after returning to clinical training can be difficult to accomplish.

Prize application forms are usually short so that they can help you to distill your ideas in an accessible way and identify the most important parts of your research. Preparing for any form of presentation encourages you to reflect on where the gaps are in your work and think about how to take the research forwards.

Similar to writing scientific abstracts and papers, being able to write successful grant applications is a skill you acquire through practice. Initially applying for small grants will help build your confidence and become familiar with the process before tackling applications for the bigger questions you may wish to address.

If you are interested in a certain area of research then make links with academics at your local institution. By offering to help with work they may have ongoing, this will allow you to generate data and could form the basis of prize and grant applications.

The RSM Wesleyan Trainee of the Year Award takes place at the RSM on Thursday 23 November and is free to attend. Find out more and book at www.rsm.ac.uk/wesleyan2017

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