A melt­ing pot of ex­per­tise

THE (Times Higher Education) - - KING'S COLLEGE LONDON -

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.”

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