Dr Jenny Cook is a Research Associate at King’s College London studying the impact of engaging publics with health research.
I am a researcher in Public Engagement for King’ College London and the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre, part of my job role is to promote taking part in clinical research to the general population.
So last month I decided to practice what I preach and took part in a research study at the Division of Imaging Sciences and Biomedical Imaging based over at St Thomas Hospital. The study is called the iFind project which stands for intelligent Fetal Imaging and Diagnosis.
The study, funded jointly by the Wellcome Trust and EPSRC aims to improve the accuracy of routine 18-20 week screening in pregnancy, by bringing together advanced ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, robotics and computer aided diagnostics.
So when I realised I was eligible to take part, for a couple of extra hospital visits, I thought it would be for a good cause!
I had worked previously with the iFind team to engage different audiences with the project as educational and interactive sessions using a pregnant tummy mannequin and the ultrasound machines for the King’s Health Partners Summer School and International Clinical Trials day.
I emailed them for more details and was put in touch with a very friendly Research Midwife who sent me over a patient information pack and some available dates.
I arrived at the Clinical Research Facility on a grey drizzly morning and was met by Josie, a friendly researcher who ran through some final consent and information forms with me. She reassured me about the practical details of the study, like who would be present and how long each part would last.
I went into the Ultrasound room and was met by three people; a research sonographer, one fetal cardiac clinician researcher and another working on the imaging robotics part of the project.
They talked me through the images they were collecting and explained what they meant and why they were important to the study. They also showed me how they can create the 3D images using the new software and at the end printed me out five pictures for me to take home.
Since taking part in iFind, I was also contacted to take part in another study, this time using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to look at fetal brain development in the Developing Human Connectome Project. The aim of this study is to map the baby’s brain development before and after birth to understand better how the brain grows and how problems may arise.
This involved coming into St Thomas’s post-natal scanning department and spending about 60 minutes inside a big MRI machine. I have to admit, it was quite noisy and cramped in there, but the imaging team were fantastic and reassuring. I had music in my headphones, plenty of pillows and came out a couple of times for a quick break. After the scan, Laura from the team went through my images with me and showed me a video of my baby moving in my stomach and the different parts of her brain. They also sent me links to the images, so I can keep them.
The results of these images and scans in the future will contribute to a database of images that will help research. By understanding the potential benefits of using imaging and detecting more problems before birth, they hope to provide better information to parents and their doctors, and allow babies to get access to the treatments they need as soon as possible after they are born.
If you are interested in participating in the iFind project or any other fetal studies please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information on the iFIND study please contact: iFIND@gstt.nhs.uk