A melting pot of expertise
King’s Health Partners is an Academic Health Science Centre comprising Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundations Trusts, and King’s. It unites NHS clinical services and staff with relevant academic departments across 21 clinical academic groups.
“Our goal is to closely integrate clinical service and research, and real progress has been made,” says the centre’s executive director, Sir Robert Lechler. Since its establishment in 2009, King’s Health Partners has overseen increased clinical trial enrolment, investment in collective clinical research and has enabled NHS consultants to publish highly cited papers, with science and clinical practice integrated at every level.
“The close relationship between the different clinical partners and the university greatly facilitates the kinds of interaction that I need for my research,” says Fiona Watt, director of King’s College London’s Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine.
“Every conversation I have with my colleagues within King’s Health Partners reveals new possibilities for collaborations,” she says.
Watt chose King’s owing to the appeal of the AHSC. “Before I moved to King’s, I thought that King’s Health Partners was a wonderful concept. Four years on from my arrival, it is everything I hoped for and more,” she says. Her research spans dermatology, dentistry and cancer immunology, and she has found that, within a small campus, she can access experts in all of those areas.
“[These things are] only possible at a place like King’s where these disciplines can be brought together,” adds Lechler.
The melting pot of expertise allows for unique interdisciplinary research, including a mental health and justice programme, which involves lawyers, philosophers, neuroscientists, social scientists and clinicians addressing the tension between protecting and respecting an individual’s decision making. “[We aim] to bring together the added value of the hospitals and the universities… providing excellent clinical services, research and education,” says Reza Razavi, director of research at King’s Health Partners. “And when we work together, we do better in all three areas.”
Partners, an alliance with three London NHS Foundation Trusts. The partnership enables medical researchers to work closely with clinicians and patients, and involve social scientists with world-leading work in public and global health, informatics and integration of physical and mental healthcare – an area in which the university’s research leads the world.
Each faculty is at the centre of a web of London-based expertise: the Dickson Poon School of Law works with partners in the legal system (it is located near the Royal Courts of Justice), the new Business School, which aims to develop socially conscious leaders, is integrated into London’s business world, and the Cultural Institute provides academic interactions with the capital’s rich
“In these times of international turbulence, the importance of universities in educating people for good citizenship is greater than ever”
arts and entertainment scene.
Vision 2029 commits to making King’s even more “innately interdisciplinary”. This is necessary, Byrne says, in order to tackle the world grand challenges that much of the university’s research strategy is centred on.
Interdisciplinarity is embedded in every level of the university – from deans of different faculties working closely together to undergraduates hopping between departments to study their courses.
“Research-enhanced learning is education delivered in a researchintensive environment and involving the students in a full way with the research ethos and the research mission,” says Byrne. He hopes that exposure to research from the day the students arrive is an effective way to teach critical thinking and problem solving.
“In these times of international turbulence, of populism, the importance of universities in educating people for good citizenship is greater than it’s ever been,” says Byrne. “And to be educated in a research-intensive environment is a good way of achieving that.”
Since its foundation in 1829, King’s has grown – first with the University of London and then in its own right – to become a research powerhouse, boasting numerous world-leading institutes and Nobel laureates, including Desmond Tutu and Peter Higgs. Its historically embedded prestige allows King’s to attract students and researchers from all over the world to partake in its mission: to apply academia to serve the world.
“What we [want is] to preserve the highest quality of education and research, with interdisciplinary excellence,” says Byrne.
“[That way we can] engage as fully as we can with the communities around us, and those that we are responsible to.”