Wednesday, March 16, 2016

From the Bench with Francis

Today we have an entry from one of our longtime CCA members, Dr. Francis Smith. He recently returned from a research trip and shares this update with us. We are looking forward to the culmination of these interviews he is conducting. Thanks, Francis!

In January I traveled to the United Kingdom for work related to my craniofacial research. I was already familiar with London, having studied at King’s College London (for a degree in biomedical and craniofacial sciences) from 2004-2007. It was good to revisit my alma mater for the first time in 9 years—it was 9 years too long! After all, London was my first home away from home (and my first move away from home and family), and it was the cradle of my career in craniofacial research.

Shortly after I moved to Denver last summer to begin my current research position at the University of Colorado, my supervising professor, my former mentors from the past, and I came up with the idea for me to start interviewing my former professors and colleagues (in both the US and UK) about their craniofacial research and its potential impact and benefits for families of children with craniofacial anomalies as well as the public. These interviews would be videotaped, collected, edited, and ultimately compiled into a publicly accessible online video program as an educational resource.

So, with the help of my current supervising professor and our lab’s grant manager/travel arranger, I made plans to travel to the United Kingdom in mid-January 2016. I would spend a week in London, give some talks and do an interview of my former professors at King’s College London, then spend three days in Dundee, Scotland, to interview another colleague at the University of Dundee Dental School. I eagerly counted down the months, then the weeks, then the days, to my trip; I was excited to get back to London after so long.

After a nonstop overnight flight from Denver to London, I spent my first day reestablishing my bearings and exploring long-familiar parts of the city. The next day, I got right to work. I visited my alma mater (the 18th century Guy’s Hospital campus of King’s College London) and met up with a bunch of my former anatomy lecturers and reconnected with my craniofacial professors and colleagues (and met new ones) in the department’s laboratories on floor 27 overlooking the Thames. I gave a lecture to my craniofacial and anatomy colleagues recapping what research I have done over the years since I graduated from King’s in 2007, including my work on the effects of hypoxia (low oxygen) in early developing chick embryos. Over the next few days I sat in on other lectures in the craniofacial department. The most important thing I did, however, during that week, was that I interviewed three of my colleagues (while being videotaped) about their research, what advances they have made, and what impact these advances could make on the public and families with craniofacial conditions. We also discussed strategies for education and outreach to the public, as well as how researchers and craniofacial doctors could communicate and work with each other (and ways to promote integration between them) and how we could stimulate global cooperation amongst researchers.

The following week, I traveled north to Dundee, Scotland, to meet a newer friend/colleague who was a professor at the University of Dundee Dental School who also did craniofacial research. Over dinner one evening, we discussed at length our research and strategies for public outreach and advocacy for craniofacial research and awareness, as well as strategies for research-clinical interaction and global research collaboration. The following day, I interviewed him like I did my London colleagues.

All too soon, it was time to head back home to Denver. Revisiting London only strengthened my desire to return there one day long term if my career provides the opportunity. These interviews are only the first two of a series of interviews I intend to collect (from both US and UK colleagues) and ultimately compile into a publicly accessible educational video resource. I look forward to one day making this available as a valuable resource for families with craniofacial conditions as well as the public.

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