Lynsey Spillman is a clinical Dietitian at Addenbrooke’s hospital, working with liver transplant patients. Lynsey has just been awarded a NIHR Doctoral Research Fellowship and will begin her doctoral research on the diet-related health issues of liver transplant patients in Autumn 2018. She’ll be joining the Unit’s Prevention of Diabetes and Related Metabolic Disorders programme and the Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre’s nutrition, diet and lifestyle theme in November.
I’m a clinical Dietitian working with liver transplant patients. When people have recovered from liver transplant, they often find they gain unwanted weight, and get high blood pressure, diabetes and raised cholesterol. This means they become more at risk of getting cardiovascular disease. My patients have told me they would like help to prevent weight gain and achieve a healthier lifestyle. They want to look after the new liver they have been given.
To know how to best help these patients, we need to find out what they eat, how physically active they are and what influences these behaviours after a liver transplant. This is important to investigate because previous research suggests their behaviour is different to the diet and physical activity behaviours of the general public. Often, for example, we find that they are frightened that exercise might cause them harm. They may experience insatiable hunger after transplant and they may get a taste for the high calorie foods that they needed before their transplant was carried out.
A group of people who have had a liver transplant have been helping me to understand the research questions that are important to them and how to make the research suitable and relevant for people after a liver transplant. I hope that all healthcare professionals working with people who have a liver transplant will be interested in my findings and other researchers who are interested in developing interventions to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease for these patients.
The findings should be of interest to healthcare professionals and researchers working in other areas, such as kidney transplant or promoting long-term health after other treated medical conditions, like cancer or stroke. Understanding what people eat, how physically active they are and the reasons for this, will help to better focus strategies for improving diet and activity.
My research programme
Professor Simon Griffin and his team at the MRC Epidemiology Unit have been advising me on the methods to use to undertake my own research – invaluable support to help me plan well-designed research. I plan to undertake 3 linked studies focused on the literature on this topic, a study of the diet and physical activity behaviours of liver transplant recipients and an in-depth study of patients’ experience of diet 6-12 months after their liver transplant.
“Just like The Apprentice”
In July this year I attended the NIHR annual trainee camp. I was put into a group with six other doctoral-level researchers with different professional backgrounds. Just like participants in the BBC’s The Apprentice, we had 24 hours to develop a research idea and write a competitive grant application. We had multiple mini tasks to achieve in this time and had to work strategically to get everything completed. We presented our proposal to a panel of experienced researchers and were joint winners with another team.
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