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High-flying Morriston research team extends international links to Australia

Image shows three people in a hospital laboratory

Researchers at home and away have joined forces for a new international collaboration with the ultimate aim of improving patient care.

The Welsh Centre for Emergency Medicine Research, or WCEMR, at Morriston Hospital has marked its fourth anniversary by confirming a new addition to its list of global partnerships – this time in Australia.

One of the leading centres of emergency medicine research in the UK and Europe, it has produced more than 100 publications and attracted significant funding for its research.

This includes pioneering studies into blood clotting and its effects on patients with serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and, now, Covid.

(Main photo above. L-r: Centre Director Professor Adrian Evans, emergency and intensive care medicine consultant Dr Suresh Pillai, and research assistant Jan Whitley)

The WCEMR has also developed several collaborations with world-leading research centres in Denmark, New Zealand and the United States.

Its latest collaboration is with the Alfred Emergency and Trauma Centre and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

Professor Adrian Evans, Director of the Welsh Centre, started this development with Professor Peter Cameron, Academic Director of the Alfred centre and Professor of Emergency Medicine at the university, three years ago.

“Peter is internationally recognised for emergency medicine research,” said Professor Evans.

“He has developed an excellent research network in Melbourne and Australia for his trainees in the development of their academic and research interests.

“He was very keen to develop a formal collaboration between our two centres in Wales and Australia. But due to the Covid pandemic, everything was put on hold – until now.”

Professor Evans was the first professorial appointment in emergency medicine in Wales, back in the early 2000s.

He was brought in with a remit to develop Swansea and Wales as a leading academic centre in emergency medicine research.

In 2009, a partnership between the health board and Swansea University saw the opening of the Haemostasis and Biomarker Research Unit at Morriston.

Then, 10 years later, it became the Welsh Centre for Emergency Medicine Research, a collaboration between the university, the health board and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

It was officially opened by then-Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, in 2019.

The ongoing programme has already seen exchanges of young academics between Morriston and its international partners.

Now that is to be extended. And not just as a result of the collaboration with Melbourne but because of another key appointment too.

Dr Suresh Pillai, emergency and intensive care medicine consultant at Morriston, has been appointed research lead for the All Wales School of Emergency Medicine.

He has a specific remit of facilitating and developing further these international links.

Dr Pillai said: “This appointment will give me an excellent opportunity to coordinate a research network to develop the academic potential for emergency medicine trainees across Wales, as well as our international collaborations such as Melbourne.

“We met the Head of School for Wales, Ash Basu, who suggested that, due to the success of the WCEMR, Morriston should become a hub for all trainees undertaking emergency medicine research anywhere in Wales.”

His new appointment will enable him to support trainees across Wales develop their research portfolios and meet the requirements of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine curriculum.

Dr Pillai is also a member of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine’s Research Committee.

Professor Evans said: “It will be great for trainees in Wales to have the opportunity to cross-link with trainees in Melbourne to develop new skills and ideas as part of a collaborative research programme.

“It would be very similar to what we have done in Denmark, exchanging research ideas, skills and training. We publish jointly too, and our trainees get a lot out of it.

“These exciting early stage developments will initially be undertaken virtually through shared journal clubs, tutorials and research meetings.

Image shows a man wearing a dark suit with his arms crossed “Eventually we anticipate these could lead to a mutual clinical academic exchange programme between the two centres in the future.”

Professor Cameron (right) said the collaboration would bring mutual benefits for research and education.

“Alfred Health and Monash University are global leaders in emergency and trauma research and education, with a strong track record of research, innovation and both clinical and academic training,” he added.

“The collaboration will enable clinical placements, research training opportunities, joint education programmes, workshops and conferences, and collaborative research projects with recruitment of subjects across regions and opportunities for international funding.”

Clinical research is a high priority for Swansea Bay University Health Board and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

Having a successful international research programme has also been beneficial in terms of recruitment at Morriston.

Professor Evans said. “Our academic achievements so far have enabled us to recruit excellent junior and middle-grade staff who wish to develop a future career in academic emergency medicine.

“We are already seeing the benefits of this, with newly-qualified doctors wanting to take up these clinical academic posts in the future.

“The centre is attracting high-calibre people, from within and outside of Wales, who are keen to work here.”

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