Portraits of the pandemic

We are proud of the enormous contributions of staff and students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New portraits hanging in the foyer of the Chancellor's Building

Working with Edinburgh-based photographer Laurence Winram, we commissioned 13 portraits to shine a spotlight on the massive team effort behind this response – from clinical, research, teaching, technical and professional services.

The individuals highlighted represent staff and students who have worked tirelessly throughout the lockdown and beyond in response to this unprecedented challenge.

Six of the images are on display in the Chancellor’s Building foyer now and the full collection is due to be displayed in the Elsie Inglis lounge shortly. We also hope to arrange a mobile exhibition of the portraits, which will be available for display across all CMVM campuses in the new year.

You can see the full collection below and read on for the biographies of those pictured.

Biographies

Elson Musenga

Elson is a Class of 2020 medical student who graduated early to become an interim Foundation doctor and join the NHS effort to tackle COVID-19. He worked at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in the Medicine for the Elderly Department during the pandemic.

Elson represents our students who graduated early and current students who gave up their holidays to boost the NHS workforce and community response efforts.

Angela Ingram

Angela is Operations Manager at the MRC Institute of Genetics & Molecular Medicine (IGMM). Angela led on logistics to allow the COVID-19 testing centre to be set up at the IGMM.

Angela represents all of our colleagues working in building management and logistics who made it possible for our buildings to be fit for purpose in the University’s response to COVID-19.

Kev Dhaliwal

Kev is Chair of Molecular Imaging and Healthcare Technology and an Honorary Consultant in Respiratory Medicine. He established an interdisciplinary team from the Centre for Inflammation Research with other universities and industry, who were re-deployed to work on the STOPCOVID project. The initiative aims to test existing and experimental drugs to find potential treatments for COVID-19.

Kev represents our researchers and professional staff working to identify COVID-19 treatments.

Kenneth Baillie

Kenny is an Intensive Care Consultant a Senior Clinical Research Fellow in Anaesthesia & Critical Care at the Roslin Institute.

He leads a research programme across the UK to understand the new disease and to find genetic determinants of critical illness.  He also helped steer the RECOVERY trial, the UK’s flagship clinical trial for testing potential COVID-19 treatments, and contributed to the discovery of the first effective treatment for life-threatening COVID-19, dexamethasone. Kenny also supervises both undergraduate and postgraduate students and lectures current students.

Kenny represents our researchers and clinical staff working to better understand Covid-19 and trial new treatments.

Gwenetta Curry

Gwenetta is a Lecturer of Race, Ethnicity, and Health in the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, based in the Usher Institute and a member of the Global Health Governance Programme and UNCOVER project.

Gwenetta represents all of our colleagues whose work has highlighted major health inequalities that the Covid-19 pandemic has further brought to light and who have called for action from governments and policy makers.

Spela Oberstar

Spela is a pharmacist at the Dick Vet Hospital for Small Animals and a played crucial role in keeping veterinary treatment going during the pandemic.

Spela represents all at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies who worked tirelessly to keep the hospital functioning and provide clinical services.

Devi Sridhar

Devi is Chair of Global Public Health and Director of the Global Health Governance Programme. She worked as an advisor to the UK and Scottish governments during Covid-19 and has given extensive media interviews to help the public better understand the pandemic. She also supervises PhD students and manages a team of student researchers working on COVID-19 analysis.

Devi represents all our staff who have given their time to provide expert advice to governments and the media, and helped shape public understanding of the pandemic.

Sarah Henderson

Sarah is Director of Postgraduate Taught Education for the College and is also the Programme Director for the Clinical Management of Pain Masters programme.

She represents all of those working in postgraduate education, both on-campus and on-line, who have worked hard to provide an exceptional learning environment to all our students, regardless of their location or programme of study.

Linda Bauld

Linda is the Bruce and John Usher Professor of Public Health at the University. Throughout the pandemic, she has provided expert advice to governments to help inform their responses to COVID-19. She has also given extensive media interviews, helping the public to better understand the rationale behind restrictions needed to prevent virus spread.

Linda represents colleagues working in public health policy and behavioural science, who have given their expertise freely to governments and the media during the pandemic.

Jennifer Marshall

Jennifer is a Research Assistant interested in infectious diseases, working in Professor David Dockrell’s research group.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Jennifer has been involved in the set-up of the new containment level 3 laboratory on the Edinburgh Bioquarter campus. This new facility enables researchers to work on pathogens that have higher health and safety requirements, including work on SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of the current coronavirus pandemic.

Rowland Kao

Rowland is the Chair of Veterinary Epidemiology and Data Science at the Roslin Institute. He played a lead role in the research and modelling efforts at the University that helped track the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

He represents the epidemiologists and data scientists who have contributed their expertise to the COVID-19 response.

Alan Gilchrist

Alan is part of the College Information Services team. He has provided vital support across CMVM for the transition to online and hybrid teaching since the start of lockdown and beyond. These include working with the NHS to ensure access to University resources, leading the Media Production Studio rollout, and developing solutions to ensure exams could be taken securely online.

Alan represents colleagues in professional services, who work incredibly hard to support our teaching staff to continue delivering a world-leading education for our students.

Derek Mills

Derek is the Stores Manager at IGMM, and played a key role in the success of the IGMM testing centre.

Derek represents those working in stores, servitorial staff and security, who made the College response to COVID-19 possible by helping to keep our research buildings open, safe and functioning.

About the photographer

Laurence Winram, based in Scotland, is a commercial and fine art award winning photographer with many years’ experience.

Laurence’s unique style is called on by clients from New York to Singapore and Cuba. When not shooting commercially, he is never to be found far from his camera with a constant stream of personal fine art projects keeping him busy throughout the year.

Visit Laurence’s website http://www.lwinram.com/

All images are copyright The University of Edinburgh/ Laurence Winram.

Edinburgh helps lead first online World One Health Congress

Researchers from across the College have played a leading role in organising and hosting the World One Health Congress 2020.

The conference was due to be hosted in Edinburgh this summer but with the ongoing pandemic, a decision was made to move the sessions to a new purpose-built virtual environment and deliver the event online, 30 October – 3 November.

Speakers at the World One Health Congress

The logistical challenges of producing a bespoke virtual platform were met by One Health Platform, a not-for-profit organisation which runs the biennial conference. The scientific committee, which included numerous academics from across the University, was charged with producing the programme and responding rapidly to ensure sessions were relevant in the face of the ongoing One Health challenge posed by Covid-19. The University’s contribution was coordinated by Professor Lisa Boden, from the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security, who also jointly hosted the conference.

More than 1700 researchers from 99 countries attended the virtual event, which opened with a message from the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Sessions covered topics ranging from the challenges of antimicrobial resistance, advances in vaccine technologies, coordinating disease surveillance and, of course, Covid-19.

Professor Lisa Boden said: “One Health is about the intersection between human, animal and planetary health, and never has that issue been in sharper focus than in the face of Covid-19. The World One Health Congress was a timely opportunity to bring together the world’s leading experts across multiple disciplines to discuss new ways of tackling these challenges.”

>> Read more about the conference on the new One Health blog

Pandemic insights: Medical imaging in times of COVID

Our series looking at how working lives have changed since the lockdown began continues with a focus on Edinburgh Imaging. In this post, we are highlighting our radiography teams, who helped maintain clinical imaging services and supported NHS colleagues during the pandemic.

The radiography team at Edinburgh Imaging Facility QMRI in ‘normal times’ provide imaging for research projects covering a diverse range of research interests, primarily cardiovascular, lung and dementia imaging. The facility houses a 3T MRI scanner, 2 PET-CT scanners and a PET-MRI scanner. The team also delivers the NHS clinical PET-CT service for Lothian and beyond, providing crucial imaging for oncology patients.

During the main lockdown period of the pandemic, work practices drastically changed. Most research activity stopped and the team became much more focussed on maintaining clinical services and supporting NHS colleagues.

Reorganising the team

Staff member in PPE to protect from COVID-19

The Radiography team re-structured and re-organised to support the change in scanning requirements. The main aim was to keep the PET-CT service running. Oncology patients continued to be referred for scans and the service continued uninterrupted.

Latterly in this period, the facility began to take on the task of aiding NHS Radiology colleagues with ‘catching up’ on MRI and CT waiting lists, which had increased tremendously during the lockdown. All hands were on deck to ensure as many of these patients as possible were scanned.

Bubble working

To protect staff, teams were split into two ‘bubbles’, each with a team lead and a spread of experience. These bubbles worked on a ‘week on/week off’ basis, with the weeks off being spent working from home. The staff benefited from having this time to update their CPD, take on more office-based roles and for some, get involved in supporting the Image Analysis core of Edinburgh Imaging.

David Brian, Lead Radiographer at the Edinburgh Imaging Facility QMRI, said the new way of working was very strange to begin with: “Radiographers are used to the practical side of the job and working from home every fortnight took a bit of getting used to. The uncertainty of what would happen, especially in the initial weeks when hospitals were in danger of become overburdened, was quite unnerving. We were aware that our staff could be re-deployed at any stage to work at the ‘frontline’. This did not happen in the end, but we managed to keep the facility going throughout.”

PPE challenges

There were challenges with PPE and physical distancing measures, which took a while to get used to. But the team quickly developed a system of working to ensure patients were still scanned and looked after, but in a safe manner. All radiographers were provided with the correct PPE through various means, particularly at the beginning, when supply issues caused a few headaches. However, with support from University contacts and clinical colleagues, PPE stocks were maintained throughout.

Staff wearing PPE required for COVID-19 protection

A new cleaning regime was introduced to make sure the facility remained Covid secure. Patient management was changed and several new waiting areas sprang up around the facility so that there were no issues with people waiting too close together. The numbers of people entering the facility were also limited and appointments were spaced out to accommodate social distancing.

Reassuringly, none of the team have tested positive for Covid-19 to date. This was another worry, and continues to be, as a positive result would inevitably mean a large proportion of the team would have to self-isolate.

Redeployment

Though no staff were redeployed into frontline Covid-19 services during the first phase of the pandemic, some colleagues did step up to take on new roles to support the wider team.

Receptionist sitting at the front desk behind a perspex screen

Anne Grant, Clinical Imaging Facilities Manager, said: “It became obvious early on in lockdown that we needed someone to greet patients and free up our radiography cohort for operating the scanners. The first few months were very challenging with reception being manned by our physicists, technicians, radiographers and any other volunteers who were able to help us. When lockdown was eased, we were able to welcome back our afternoon receptionist Irene McCulloch and in the past month we have welcomed Joey D’Arrigo as our morning receptionist.”

Lucy Kershaw, MRI Physicist and Senior Research Fellow, Edinburgh Imaging, said: “I was lucky enough to get out of the house to cover on reception in the department, a job for which I am hopelessly under qualified. I had to ask someone how to open the front door from the reception desk, and which of our PET scanners was which. It’s been a real pleasure to interact with members of the public for a change – physicists have so little patient contact normally. The highlight so far was guiding a couple to QMRI by phone after they got lost in Newington on their way from the Borders. They were having a heated domestic with each other and with their satnav, but I got them here in the end.”

The team also acknowledged staff from outwith the facility who helped keep the Edinburgh Imaging reception functioning over the lockdown period. Temporary receptionists Harriet Roxton, Lynn McKinley, Mike Jilka and Linda Sutherland manned the front desk, giving clinical staff confidence to carry out scanning procedures without having to be concerned about patient welfare in the reception areas of the facility.

Professional development

Staff have also been using the time to keep up to date with professional development. Charlotte Jardine, one of the Superintendent Radiographers at Edinburgh Imaging explains: “To maintain professional registration as a radiographer we need to keep up with continued professional developments in our rapidly evolving field. Day to day, we don’t usually have time to dedicate specifically to this, so the team are using time at home to develop their knowledge on different pathologies, imaging techniques and current research. They are also using their time to learn new skills in Image analysis, tutoring for online MSc’s, governance and quality assurance and IT to support our research colleagues at this difficult time.”

Returning to business

As restrictions began to ease, research slowly started up again and research scanning began to increase. The team has also been involved with two Covid-related studies. They are still continuing with a lot of clinical scanning, so the diary has filled up rapidly and this in itself has become a challenge keeping everything going.

David praised the team for their commitment over the past few months: “Throughout this year, the team have worked hard to keep going despite all the challenges thrown at us. Working together has definitely bonded us closer as a team and we are proud of what we have achieved. There have inevitably been pressures, not least not knowing how things were going to change from week to week, but throughout, a great team spirit and willingness to help out at all stages has meant we are still in good shape and have managed to keep everything going throughout lockdown and moving forward into the next stage of the pandemic.”

Our Pandemic Insights series aims to highlight the experiences of staff during the Covid-19 pandemic. If you would like to highlight a specific team to thank them for their efforts during the pandemic, please message CMVM.communications@ed.ac.uk.

Pandemic insights: Animal care under lockdown

Many of us have been working differently since the lockdown began earlier this year. In this post, we are highlighting staff from Bioresearch and Veterinary Services, who have been helping to keep our research running and ensuring the health and welfare of our research animals during the pandemic.

Animal technician cleans a mouse cage

The Bioresearch & Veterinary Services (BVS) team is responsible for the housing, care and management of animals used in biomedical research at the University. 

The team provides veterinary and technical support for scientific staff to ensure high quality research and optimal animal welfare. 

During lockdown, the team were given ‘essential worker’ status to allow them to continue caring for the animals and for essential research to continue.  We spoke to members of the BVS team to find out how the pandemic affected their usual ways of working.

One of the BVS vets, Nacho, explained the immediate impact on their work: “The main challenge was not to be present in the animal units for a while. We had to cease all training and assessment of trainees and most of the experimental work stopped. Our technical staff continued to do the husbandry and look after the colonies, so we were reassured that the welfare of the animals was never compromised. Whenever there was a concern about specific animals, which was very rare, the techs were able to show us through webcams installed in all units and we would discuss the best course of action with them. Once we were able to resume some experimental work, the vets played an important role in the discussion around what studies should be prioritised and what controls should be in place to ensure that, as always, the welfare of the animals was a priority.”

As with many areas of the University, some staff were required to shield during the lockdown period while others faced childcare challenges. Researchers were not permitted into the units, so the technical team were required to step up and carry out additional duties to ensure the continuity of ongoing research.

Animal technician with a mouse on flat palmKyle, one of the technical assistants in the team, said: “Working through Covid-19 has definitely had its worries. Thankfully at my place of work, the team I work with have all pulled together and tackled the stresses, strains and worries head on. Although work had quietened down, there was still animal care and facility cleanliness to deal with. We were also working on short 4 hour shifts, with fewer staff members due to shielding and the merging of two facilities. It has been strange with fewer procedures taking place, not seeing the researchers and work load at a minimum but we got there. My co-workers pulled together and were there for each other, which made the working environment less stressful.  Steps were also taken to ensure the chances of transmission were minimum and the staff felt safe.” 

Roy, who also works in one of the facilities, added: “Mostly this has been a challenging but positive experience. Although at times a bit of a slog, the techs, cage washers and managers have all pitched in and we helped each other without complaint. The availability of staff from other facilities and research groups has been invaluable and all of them have also been willing to pass on knowledge.”

The team’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by our research community.

Dr Elisa Villalobos, a postdoctoral researcher in the Centre for Cardiovascular Sciences, recently highlighted the team’s work with a ‘Good Citizen’ nomination for the CVS newsletter. She said: “As researchers, most of our work relies on the use of animal models. During the lockdown this work was severely restricted, in some cases BVS staff were relied upon entirely to look after animals and carry out experiments for us. From a personal standpoint they have been excellent in not only looking after the wellbeing of my animals but also, they are always very kind and happy to help us to get the work done through colony maintenance, feeding mice with special diets, or carrying out specific procedures. All things that during regular, everyday, non-COVID times I and countless others do by ourselves. I am very grateful to the BVS team for helping to keep our science moving forward.”

You can find out more about animal research at the University, including how it is regulated, on our website here.

Our Pandemic Insights series aims to highlight the experiences of staff during the Covid-19 pandemic. If you would like to highlight a specific team to thank them for their efforts during the pandemic, please message CMVM.communications@ed.ac.uk.