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In these short interviews, Anna Kordala and Jane Millar talk about the research they do at the Department of Paediatrics.

Anna Kordala; DPhil student, Wood Group

Anna KordalaCan you tell us more about your role?

I am a third year DPhil student in Professor Matthew Wood group, working on epigenetic regulation of SMN protein, insufficiency of which leads to a paediatric neuromuscular disorder called spinal muscular atrophy. We are a part of MD UK Oxford Neuromuscular Centre, which aims at accelerating drug development. Before starting my DPhil, I worked as a Research Assistant in the very same group, and I highly recommend it to anyone before their DPhil, if you are not sure what you want to specialize in. In parallel, I am a science communicator in SMA Foundation in Poland.

 

What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?

Bridging the communication gap between scientists and patient communities.

 

Can you tell us about something you’ve done, contributed to that you’re most proud of?

Professionally speaking, I am most proud of being involved in adding spinal muscular atrophy to the National New-born Screening Programme in Poland. In SMA, the timing is key. Treating new-borns before onset of symptoms results in a close to normal development of these children, who would otherwise be severally disabled.

 

What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?

I would like the below t-shirt slogan to become true: The future is inclusive.

 

 

Jane Millar; DPhil graduate, HIV Group

Jane MillarCan you tell us more about your role?

I have very recently finished my DPhil on paediatric HIV and am now back training to be a paediatric infectious disease specialist, working for the NHS. 

I left New Zealand in 2015 and set off to work as a doctor in South Africa. I took up the offer to do a DPhil, because it provided the opportunity to slow down, and research how to solve a significant problem in child health, rather than just treat it when it presents to a hospital. Most of what I learnt about HIV is applicable to most other infectious diseases, which more obviously after the Covid-19 pandemic, is a crucial issue in medical sciences.

 

What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?

It is such a privilege having families and patients share their stories with me.

 

Can you tell us about something you’ve done, contributed to that you’re most proud of?

I helped expand and coordinate the Ucwaningo Lwabantwana study in KwaZulu-Natal South Africa, which explored testing and treating HIV-infected infants in the first hours of life. This was a really difficult study, because we worked with impoverish, rural families who were struggling in a fragmented health system, so adherence was far from ideal. But the study highlighted the unmet needs of these families and will hopefully encourage better paediatric treatment modalities.

 

What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?

More funding for research in preventable diseases, particularly where there is an associated socio-economic gradient, as well as more emphasis on supporting mental health.

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