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Summer Studentship 2023: Francesca Thornton-Wood

I was thrilled to be awarded a BALR summer studentship award this summer and to be able to work with Dr Iain Stewart and the Margaret Turner Warwick Centre (MTWC) team on research into Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD). I was introduced to the research being completed at the MTWC during my iBSc in Remote Medicine, as a 4th-year medical student at Imperial College London. My prior exposure to ILD was limited and on further exploration, I became very interested in understanding ILD and the holistic impacts of this disease. This summer studentship allowed me to further explore ILD and its associated impacts on patients. This project investigated “Quality of life in interstitial lung disease: assessing the impact of sexual dysfunction” in a collaboration between the MTWC and the Department of Medicine at The University of Calgary, Canada with Dr Kerri Johannson.

The direct physiological impacts of ILD on daily activities due to exercise tolerance associated with significant dyspnoea are widely acknowledged. Outside of ILD, there is established research surrounding the ability to be sexually active and its impact on quality of life. Specifically, correlations have been demonstrated between sexual dysfunction and depression. The current lack of research into the combination of ILD and sexual dysfunction, provided the potential for this research to directly improve these patients' quality of life. This was hugely exciting for me to have the opportunity to contribute to

Having already gained a basic understanding of STATA for statistical analysis during my BSc project into remote monitoring for ILD, this was then applied to multi-centre data from the PROFILE cohort study for the UK and CARE-PF for ILD in Canada. Using STATA, I carried out univariate and multivariate regression analysis based on sexual impact score and Cox time-to-event models, to predict the relationship between sexual impact and mortality. Additionally, for patients with longitudinal data, an adjusted mixed model was utilised for FVC per cent predicted trajectory associated with sexual impact changes over time. The analysis was then replicated on the Canadian data set and cross-analysed with UK findings.

The skills that I have learned and honed during this summer studentship are invaluable. Although working remotely, I have had great support from the team. Weekly meetings where alternative research was presented combined with my own update of my progress so far offered insights into how this research amalgamates into the broader picture in improvements for ILD patients. In addition, these meetings provided an opportunity to reflect on the visual representation of results and consider the most coherent flow for presenting my results.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this research that could initiate a change in the approach to managing ILD. Upmost thanks must be given to BALR and Action IPF, without whom, this exposure would not have been possible so early on in my career.

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