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How did you become interested in translational gastroenterology? My involvement in translational gastroenterology happened just by chance really.

james-chivenga-2.jpgI had just completed my masters in biotechnology at Oxford Brookes University and I was looking for job in research where I could apply my recently gained skills and knowledge. Having had previous experience of working in clinical research as a research scientist in Zimbabwe monitoring malaria drug resistance and as a senior technician in the cancer epidemiology unit, Oxford University, I only knew that I wanted to work closely with patients and in a department which had an emphasis on translational research. So when a research assistant post became available in Professor Holm Uhlig’s group I applied and thankfully got the job. Now three and half years down the line I now have a greater appreciation of how debilitating gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can be. I also developed an appreciation of the close working relationships of the academic and medical personnel which I believe is vital in developing projects aimed at improving patient care in clinics, wards and theatres. 

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

I am currently the Database and IBD cohort manager and I work very closely with the translational team lead and our bio-bankers.  My main role is to oversee and conduct the consenting of patients to our IBD and GI cohorts and the collection of samples from these patients. I, therefore, ensure that patients are recruited in accordance with our ethical approvals and following good clinical practice. All this work, therefore, ensures that the rights, safety and confidentiality of patients are respected and protected as well as ensuring that the valuable samples they have donated are used by our approved sub projects. I ensure that all our consenters are well versed with our consenting procedures and are GCP trained as they are literally the face of our research initiatives. As the part of the bio-banking team I work closely with researchers in ensuring that as far as possible they have the necessary access to relevant patient samples and data to be able to conduct meaningful research with the aim of improving patient care.   

Q: What do you enjoy most about scientific research? 

I personally enjoy having the patient contact as it enables me to get a feeling of how their illnesses affect their day to day lives. As a result, I find myself highly motivated to ensure that patient samples and data are used appropriately and it gives me great satisfaction to deliver the correct samples to our researchers.

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

The unit is quite vibrant, diverse and friendly. Academics and clinicians of all levels work quite closely together which creates an environment where ideas can be exchanged freely. As a testimony to the good working relationships developed in the unit, there are a number of social events that staff take part in, ranging from football to regular dinners and drinks.