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RCP accolade for Barts trainee

A Gastroenterology and Hepatology trainee based in North Thames has won a leading national research award, jointly delivered by a professional body and the NIHR.

Dr Wenhao Li has been presented with one of only two trainee prizes in the prestigious Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) awards.

Wenhao is a Clinical Research Fellow and Specialist Registrar in Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Barts Health NHS Trust and Queen Mary University of London.

The RCP and NIHR CRN research awards scheme seeks to recognise outstanding contributions to NIHR studies by NHS consultants and trainees. Winners were formally announced at the RCP new members’ ceremony in October.

Applicants detail their contributions in written applications, where they are asked to demonstrate how they engage with patients to inform them of research opportunities, contribute to successful study delivery and, show leadership to increase participation in studies within their organisation.

Wenhao was delighted by the award but was surprised to hear he had won.  He said:

“When I looked back on the list of previous winners, I couldn’t believe I was joining them.  It was a real surprise, but this award has spurred me on to continue my journey in clinical and academic research in fatty liver disease.”

“It is particularly important to me as it comes from the two organisations that will continue to play a significant part in my future career; but although it give me joy personally, it reflects a team effort and the support given by everyone who has helped me on the journey from my family to all my colleagues at both Barts Health NHS Trust and Queen Mary University of London.”

Wenhao first got attracted to research when studying for his BSc in Clinical Pharmacology. A part of his study involved four months of dedicated research, which he enjoyed immensely. He especially enjoyed practicing the laboratory techniques and understanding the processes used to develop treatments, many of which he employs in his research today.

Like many junior doctors, Wenhao at first focused on clinical training before deciding on his preferred speciality. When he opted to specialise in Gastroenterology and Hepatology however, he already knew though that he wanted to pursue research.

Wenhao was fortunate enough to be awarded the NIHR Academic Clinical Fellowship Programme, which has allowed him to develop research skills and conduct a PhD. Now in his third year, he has already embedded himself firmly within the research community.  He is the regional trainee representative for RCP and British Association for the Study of the Liver (BASL), holds research career talks for junior doctors and is involved in recruitment for London Biobank resources. 

Wenhao is also part of the regional research team involved in recruiting patients with liver disease into clinical trials and an NIHR Associate Principal Investigator (PI) for the 'BOPPP' trial. BOPPP is a national trial investigating treatment with beta-blockers, to reduce the risk of internal gut bleeding in patients with liver cirrhosis, which could potentially reduce hospital admissions and save lives.

By taking part in the trial under the NIHR Associate PI scheme, Wenhao has gained skills and experience in research ethics, trial design and research methodologies, as well as implementation and recruitment.

Now looking to the future, Wenhao very much wants to continue along the clinical academic career pathway and said about the NIHR:

“The NIHR support has been pivotal in my journey so far. Not only has it provided a career pathway, but it has given me time to think, to generate ideas and to generate initial data in periods of uninterrupted research. I was able to receive funding towards lab expenses too.

“It’s also allowed me to become part of the NIHR family. Networking events and talking to others about ideas and experiences has been invaluable. I couldn’t have done it without their support.”

Professor Nick Lemoine, NIHR CRN Medical Director, congratulated the winners. He said:

“Clinical leadership is vital for the world-leading performance of the NIHR CRN. Each of the consultants and trainees who are prize winners this year have made outstanding contributions to the delivery of research studies in their region and it is wonderful to see the next generation of researchers coming through.”

Royal College of Physicians Academic Vice President, Professor Ramesh Arasaradnam said:

“Our winners are some of the most skilled and talented researchers in their field. It’s a true privilege to be able to reward them for the fantastic work they’ve done.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of clinical research, making the recognition of achievements such as those made by our winners all the more important. I hope this will also serve as yet further evidence of the need to embed research within clinical practice.”