Here we learn more about the man behind the medal:
Why did you choose to specialise in cardiology?
When I graduated from medical school in the 1980s, we were at the beginning of the era of evidence-based medicine – cardiology was in the vanguard of that movement and I really wanted to be part of it. Big trials were beginning to demonstrate remarkable effects of new therapies that were being discovered and tested in cardiovascular disease (CVD) – it was a very exciting speciality to join…and it still is!
What have been the most rewarding parts of your work so far?
I am proud that I was part of the drive to put heart failure (HF) ‘on the map’. We were able to raise the profile of HF and have it recognised as an important condition where research was needed to improve its dreadful prognosis. For many years, I have also been interested in the intersection between diabetes, chronic kidney disease (CKD) and CVD. Until recently, diabetes and kidney disease were not considered to be part of the remit of cardiologists, yet so many of our patients with HF have either one or both of these other conditions. To help people with CVD, we also have to think about ways to reduce the risks related to these comorbidities. Tremendous progress has been made in diabetes and CVD, and I am excited by the prospect that we are also now turning the corner with CKD and CVD.
It has been very rewarding to be working with teams on ground-breaking clinical trials and be able to improve the quantity and quality of our patients’ lives. In parallel, I am also pleased to have contributed to the guideline movement – we conduct the big trials, but I think it is very important to condense the evidence and provide it in a way that can be clearly interpreted and implemented by healthcare professionals.
I always say that I have the best job in the world! Not only do I get to treat patients on a 1:1 basis, which is an immensely satisfying experience, but I have also been involved in the bigger picture, helping to change the way that we practise for the better, now and in the future.
What have been the secrets of your success?
For me, I knew what I was interested in and I was determined to pursue my goals. Ultimately, I have been reasonably successful, but much of this has been due to the help and collaboration of many other people. Like an apprenticeship, I have gained so much from working with brilliant colleagues and I count myself lucky to have learnt from the masters. I have been mentored by many people and now, as I reach a senior phase in my career, I hope to give something back.
What challenges lie ahead?
We have made tremendous strides in developing new treatments for HF with reduced ejection fraction. However, a key challenge is to improve the treatment of HF with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), a condition that particularly affects women and older people, and where there is still a large gap in terms of effective treatments. This is the nut that we still need to crack, but I am confident that we will. One of the best lessons in research is: ‘Don’t give up – we will get there eventually!’ and I think that this will be true for HFpEF.