The consultant going the extra mile to help the future of patients

24 September 2018

Spire Bushey cardiologist Dr Ameet Bakhai has been presented with an award for outstanding research leadership.

Dr Bakhai received his award from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), for his work on international clinical trials and registries over the last 15 years; providing patients early access to blockbuster drugs and implantable devices at the forefront of innovations in cardiovascular disease.

As a front-line cardiologist at Barnet Hospital, Dr Bakhai set up and led a cardiovascular research team in 2007, which recruited more than 1,000 patients to trials in its first 5 years.  He has also held the post of North Thames Clinical Research Network’s cardiovascular research lead in 2015, supporting over 30 trials and achieving a recruitment target of 2,500 patients into cardiovascular trials in just one year.

“From the beginning I was determined to provide patients access to research studies and the latest medications, devices and digital technologies.  I wanted to show colleagues that research can be undertaken alongside full time clinical commitments, even at a ‘local’ hospital - and it has paid off”.

Dr Bakhai is now the clinical research and development director for the cardiovascular theme at the Royal Free London, where, alongside 4 further directors and more than 90 research staff, there is support for over 600 research studies. He says;

“I’m always looking for gaps in knowledge for patient management and to find or help design trials to help inform the answers.”

From speaking to local expert patient groups, sharing information with Barnet Hospital Charity and setting up and delivering open access research days, Dr Bakhai believes that research innovations are key to solving NHS issues of increasing patient numbers and clinical needs under budgetary pressure.

“I have always approached patients in my clinics, my ward rounds and after procedures to talk about ongoing trials. I am candid about where medicine is at its limits and share these gaps, without causing fear or doubt. This usually results in patients agreeing to be kept informed about the trials and how they might be suitable to take part.”

Whilst delighted with the award, he adds;

This award is also recognition for the personal team effort of wonderful research colleagues such as Vinodh Krishnamurthy, (the first cardiac and stroke research physician associate in the country), Sisters Lai Lim and Lalini Hurdoyal and Dr Manoj Makharia who support the Barnet research patients, and all my consultant cardiologists who enable and support the participation of their patients to research studies so positively”.

There is additional cardiovascular research being done by colleagues at the Hampstead site, with interventional studies in pulmonary hypertension and work on coronary intervention breaking new ground in cardiac imaging and more.

The research work has not only helped the thousands of patients locally but Ameet Bakhai has published over 90 peer reviewed papers and co-authored an internationally recognised book on understanding clinical trials, which has become an established textbook.

“It’s essential to share your work and methods widely and help improve patient care worldwide and this leads to so many international collaborations that you quickly get to know all the key players who pioneer new solutions in addition to their day to day work. Going that extra mile in whatever you do, brings amazing new horizons and breath-taking sunrises”.  A remark he makes, having just recently summited Kilimanjaro with his 16-year-old daughter.

Ameet’s attention has more recently focused on digital technologies; with a project in improving disease prediction to be able to undertake prevention work;

“If we can predict which patients will become at risk of a weakened heart or strokes, we can intervene and reduce the impact on the person and the NHS more effectively”.

This is a strategy he shared at the Artificial Intelligence in Medicine conference in London last week, where he was referred to as a ‘positive health hacker’.

Chris Streather, Royal Free London group chief medical officer, also commented on the award and Dr Bakhai’s many achievements saying;

“This is a well-deserved award for Dr Bakhai and his team and the wider research community at the Royal Free London. It highlights the importance of clinical research in clinical practice and how opportunities to participate in studies are a core part of day-to-day healthcare, because research improves treatments for the future”.

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