Published on: 29th October 2018
As The Farr Institute’s funding comes to a close, Amitava Banerjee, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Data Science and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist at University College London, tells us about his experience.
What does your work involve?
My job spans three domains – clinical work as a cardiologist, informatics research and teaching. In my research I have three broad interests in “big data” research; cardiovascular disease in terms of prevention and risk prediction; learning health systems and adherence/persistence to treatment regimes. In terms of education I am involved in teaching from undergraduate to postgraduate level.
How long have you been with The Farr Institute?
What opportunities has The Farr Institute created for your field of work?
The opportunities in my areas of interest have been through linkage of people – in different institutions, disciplines and countries – in data – from hospital level to large-scale genomics – and through ideas – from application of machine learning in risk prediction to e-health technologies.
What would you say have been your main achievements and successes during your time funded by The Farr Institute?
I have set up a short course and MSc module in ‘Learning Health Systems’ at Farr London which are both, to our knowledge, the first courses of their kind in the UK. I have received grant funding for electronic health record research from NIHR to study cardiovascular disease in homeless populations, and the European Union’s Innovative Medicines Initiative to consider new definitions of heart failure and atrial fibrillation. I have also been involved as a senior author in several key publications.
What Farr Institute research from the past five years do you think has had the greatest impact or benefit to public health/society?
I think the research led by Spiros Denaxas, Harry Hemingway and colleagues about improving disease phenotypes like myocardial infarction and COPD and trajectories using Electronic Health Record data, including data science approaches to disease clustering, have been very important in understanding chronic diseases at health system level.
Being part of a UK-wide networked Institute, what have you found most challenging and most beneficial?
The greatest benefits to me have been the education, training and networking across disciplines. I have found the gap between clinical and research spheres still needs to be bridged in order to produce the science most relevant to healthcare, which is what I care about most as a clinician scientist.
How do you think The Farr Institute has helped raise awareness of the importance of patient data?
Both directly and indirectly, The Farr Institute has helped to describe the wide range of possibilities within routine clinical data in the UK for the public, health professionals and scientists alike.
How do you think The Farr Institute has advanced health data research in the UK?
I think The Farr Institute has raised awareness of the rich opportunities in the UK for health data science, and has done some sterling research. I think the two biggest challenges for Farr have been reaching out beyond the four geographic centres to include other non-Farr centres, and also to interact closely with the healthcare system, which is essential for true translational science. Health Data Research UK must act quickly and firmly in order for the full potential of UK health data science to be achieved.
In what ways have you been involved with or used the #datasaveslives campaign?
As a clinician and as an advisory group member for Understanding Patient Data, which supports better conversations about the uses of health information, the #datasaveslives campaign is incredibly important to me. In 2017, I co-wrote a BMJ editorial with two members of our Farr London patient and public panel on the topic.
Have you been able to gain new experiences or progress your career during your time with The Farr Institute?
Definitely. The Farr Institute has brought me into collaboration with people and techniques I might not have otherwise come across, from engineers and social scientists to programmers and mathematicians. The Farr Institute gave me my first senior faculty position so I will always be very grateful for this opportunity.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to continue to grow my own research group in learning health systems research, focusing on cardiovascular disease, and I also plan to improve large-scale informatics training for all doctors at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Both of these ventures will involve close working within the Health Data Research UK infrastructure.
What do you think The Farr Institute should be remembered for?
The Farr Institute should be remembered as the first core-funded health data research institute in the UK and start of an exciting chapter in UK healthcare where we can begin to unlock the real treasure, both for science and service improvement, in routine clinical data.