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Humans of health research

Interviews with researchers and patients working together to improve healthcare

Saira Hameed and Marcia Reeves standing outside Hammersmith Hospital

Healthcare research conducted by Imperial’s clinical academics is saving lives, improving patients' health outcomes and transforming NHS services.

To celebrate the extraordinary work of our clinical researchers Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre has launched an online photography exhibition to spotlight some of Imperial’s clinical researchers and their innovative work. It also features the patients who have benefited, and whose experiences and input have influenced and inspired the research.

Covering a broad range of medical specialities, each portrait highlights what motivates these hardworking staff as well as demonstrating why their research is vital.

In this feature, the third in the Humans of Health Research series, we hear from one of the UK's leading weight-loss doctors and her patient. We also hear from the director of the largest research and treatment institute for HIV-related cancers in Europe.

Dr Saira Hameed

Cielito Caneja standing in an entranceway

Dr Saira Hameed is a Consultant in Endocrinology and Diabetes at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London. 

Dr Saira Hameed is a Consultant in Endocrinology and Diabetes at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London. 

Dr Saira Hameed is a Consultant in Endocrinology and Diabetes at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London.

 I research things that are important to the clinical care that I give to my patients.  Through research I have been able to develop, the care I give that is evidenced based and really works - which SatPro has shown.
Dr Saira Hameed, Consultant in Endocrinology and Diabetes at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London.

Dr Hameed’s research work focuses on obesity and she designed and trialled the Imperial-SatPro weight loss management programme.

“When you’re a medical student you think all the answers are there but as you progress through your career you realise that there are still so many unanswered questions. 

That was the spark that got me into research because I thought maybe I can find the answers and help my patients better.

 “I work in the Imperial Weight Centre, one of the country’s leading NHS clinics for bariatric and weight loss operations.  These procedures save people and turn their lives around.

“Before you can have these operations you do need to participate in a lifestyle change programme or we do have patients who don’t want to go down a surgical route but want help with their weight and health.  However, we and our patients weren’t getting the weight loss results we were looking for with these lifestyle interventions.’

“After completing my PhD at Imperial and learning about some cutting-edge science on weight, appetite and metabolism I wondered whether we could use this science to inform our patients’ journeys and outcomes. That’s how the Imperial-SatPro programme came about. 

“The programme involves a number of elements, including changing the way you eat, which work with your hormones so that your blood sugar remains stable and you release more fullness hormones that tell your brain you’re full.  We also look at the wider food landscape and the environment we live in to learn about the harm that ultra-processed foods can do to your body and your wellbeing. 

“We work with patients on recipes and learning to cook in much more straightforward way using ingredients they understand.  We also look at factors that impact weight loss such as sleep, exercise in a far more holistic way, and motivational techniques.

“The programme has led to an average weight loss of 16.6kg which has been maintained a year after completing the programme.  We’ve also seen a reversal of type 2 diabetes in some cases.

“The results are phenomenal but what I like hearing the most is patients telling me that they feel better about themselves, or people getting a promotion or new role at work because they feel more confident.  It’s not just about the weight loss but a change in mindset, which is great to see.

“I research things that are important to the clinical care that I give to my patients.  Through research I have been able to develop, the care I give that is evidenced based and really works - which SatPro has shown.”

Saira Hameed in the Clinical Research Facility
Saira Hameed posing on the steps at the Clinical Research Facility

Marcia Reeves

Marcia Reeves posing inside the Clinical Research Facility at Hammersmith Hospital

Marcia Reeves took part in the Imperial-SatPro weight loss management programme in January 2019.  Marcia worked with Dr Saira Hameed, Consultant in Endocrinology and Diabetes at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London, who led the programme.  Marcia lost 32kg following the programme..

I don’t think about food in the same way as I used to and I don’t count calories. From my highest weight to now I have lost over 65kgs.
Marcia Reeves, participant in the SATPRO programme

 “Before I joined the SATPRO programme I was in a spiral.  I would try all the diets and still put weight on and my health was getting worse.

“I was referred to the programme in January 2019 by my consultant as I initially had an appointment for bariatric surgery, which was something I didn’t want. 

“As part of the programme I had to go to 15 meetings, I received emails everyday on recipe suggestions and every two weeks I was weighed at Hammersmith Hospital to monitor my progress. We also receive therapy, help with sleeping, exercise and a support system with others on the programme.

“I have to say that I learnt so much. I have changed the way I eat, I have no sugar or processed food and I fast for 16 hours a day. It may sound extreme but with a few restrictions I am living the best life. I don’t think about food in the same way as I used to and I don’t count calories. From my highest weight to now I have lost over 65kgs.

“I am more active, I still get a rush doing things that I haven’t done, or going down a size in clothes. I have made amazing friends who have supported me whilst doing the programme.

I don’t usually like having my picture taken because of course it was a reminder of how large I was, so taking part in the photography project means so much to me.

The photos have helped me a great deal to see myself in a different way. It is like seeing myself as a new person. I am a work in progress and I am happy with that.”

Marcia posing in the reception area of the Clinical Research Facility
Marcia Reeves wearing a denim jacket inside the clinical research facility

Professor Mark Bower

Professor Mark Bower posing at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital

 

Professor Mark Bower is a medical oncologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital and Professor at Imperial College London who specialises in the treatment of HIV/AIDS-related malignancies. He has established the largest centre for the management of these tumours in Europe, receiving referrals from throughout the UK. The National Centre for HIV related malignancy has cared for over 3,000 patients with these cancers

Mark will also be launching a new clinic called the UK Cancer and Transition Service (UCATS) at 56 Dean Street in June. It will provide cancer care for the gender diverse community in June and aims to provide a safe non-stigmatising space for trans individuals with cancer.

“Patients have been central to all our research work and without their support and activism we would not have the developments that we have today.
Professor Mark Bower, medical oncologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital and Professor at Imperial College London

“My research work focuses on HIV-associated cancers, which is the second biggest killer of people living with HIV.  HIV weakens the immune system and reduces the body’s ability to control viral infections which can lead to cancer. We provide chemotherapy to patients with HIV-associated cancers at Chelsea & Westminister Hospital.

“I first became interested in this area of research during the height of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the UK in the 1980s.  I saw young men who were the same age as me dying in large numbers.  Due to the stigmatisation of HIV/AIDS, they often died alone abandoned by their family.  I saw first-hand the devastating consequences of the pandemic and I wanted to carry out research into this virus to save or at least improve lives.

“Research led to treatments such as antiretroviral drugs which mean patients with HIV are able to live long and healthy lives.  Even those who are diagnosed with HIV-associated cancer can now be successfully treated. It is a tribute to three decades of research that we have successfully treated women with AIDS and lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) so that the cancer is cured, the HIV fully suppressed, and fertility preserved. Some of these women have even gone on to have children who are completely free of HIV infection.

“Patients have been central to all our research work and without their support and activism we would not have the developments that we have today.

“I would say to new researchers at the start of their career in this field to interact with as many clinicians and basic scientists as you can and form these bonds early.  Reach out and collaborate with people you might not interact with, such as mathematicians and chemists, as their insights may prove invaluable for your research projects.”

 

Professor Mark Bower at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital
Mark Bower in lab at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital
The logo for the Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre

The Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre is a university-NHS partnership aiming to transform healthcare through research.