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How did you become interested in translational gastroenterology? I was fortunate to have completed an IBD fellowship in Oxford in 2007, and this was the beginning of my “translational career”.

10x-alissa-walsh-photo-copy.jpgWhile in Oxford I was given the opportunity to work on multiple projects including activity indices and ECCO guidelines.  Much of this was about being in the right place at the right time – I had not really planned to become an expert on activity indices!  On my return to Australia in 2008 I entered another fellowship programme which focused on translational research.  That project was based on the implementation of guidelines to prevent opportunistic infections in IBD patients.  I am proud to say that this work led to widespread change in screening and vaccination within the Australian gastroenterology community.  This work encouraged me to think that I could make a valuable contribution to systemic and macro changes in clinical practice. 

Q: What are you currently working on and what importance does your work hold for current patients with gastrointestinal issues?

My thesis is based on an Oxford-developed software technology called TrueColours Ulcerative Colitis.  For IBD health care teams, a key question remains: how do we better engage our patients in their care?  Involving patients in real time electronic data entry that all parties have access to seems an ideal way to both empower the patient and provide a more accurate account of disease fluctuation.  TrueColours Ulcerative Colitis is a real-time web-based programme.  Patients are prompted via emails to regularly enter data relating to symptoms, quality of life and ICHOM parameters.  We have also incorporated blood, endoscopy, histopathology and faecal calprotectin results to provide a comprehensive overview of disease activity.  Importantly, this project has allowed collaboration with Professsor Alison Simmons’ team at the WIMM.  We are hopeful that TrueColours Ulcerative Colitis will prosper and provide improvements in clinical care as well as allowing further examination of patterns and biology of disease.

Q:  What do you enjoy most about scientific research?

The challenge.  My thesis has certainly taken me out of my comfort zone.  Prior to this I was spending the vast majority of my time seeing patients, with little (or often no) time to reflect or think about anything apart from their direct clinical care and immediate well-being.  Through doing this thesis, I have had time to think more critically about how best to improve patient care.  This has been invaluable.

Q: What’s the best part of being an Oxford University TGU member?

The enthusiasm is infectious!  I have never worked in such a wonderful environment and am regularly surprised about how helpful, accommodating and incredibly bright my TGU colleagues are.  I have been fortunate to have collaborated with inspiring people, many of whom are now friends.  It is an absolute pleasure to be part of this team.