This week we meet Dr Amitava Banerjee, Associate Professor in Clinical Data Science and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist. Here, he chats to us about working with multiple stakeholders, including the Office for National Statistics and Perspectum, on the study of ’long COVID’.
What is your role and what does it involve?
I am Associate Professor in Clinical Data Science at UCL, and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist at University College London Hospitals and Barts Health NHS Trusts. I am a researcher, an educator and a clinician with interests spanning informatics, cardiovascular disease, global health, training and evidence-based healthcare.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I joined UCL in 2015 as my first senior clinical academic appointment. Prior to that, I was NIHR Clinical Lecturer in Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Birmingham, where I completed my specialist cardiology training.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
I have working academically and clinically throughout the pandemic, including modelling of the direct, indirect and chronic effects of COVID-19, and at the Nightingale and Royal London Hospitals. I am proud to work in a genuinely "team science" approach at IHI, led by Professor Harry Hemingway. I am most proud that Health Data Research UK recognised our team with the "COVID-19 Response Team of the Year", "Impact of the Year" and "Early Career Lightning Talk" (for Dr Alvina Lai) awards for our research in direct and indirect effects of the pandemic in 2020.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?
Initially, we were so overwhelmed at health system level by acute COVID-19 in hospitals that direct effects dominated our research, followed by indirect effects as we began to realise that non-COVID healthcare was also being greatly affected. In addition, ’long COVID’ or ’post-COVID’ syndrome is increasingly recognised by patients and health professionals, describing the persistent symptoms and multi-organ complications, which occur in up to 10% of those infected. I am working with multiple stakeholders, including patients, clinicians, researchers, Office for National Statistics and Perspectum (the company producing the first diagnostic test specifically for long COVID, which was recently granted MHRA emergency use authorisation), to better characterise this syndrome and understand how it is best investigated and managed. This is an urgent priority given the high numbers of cases in the UK and other countries and the extensive pressures already facing health systems.
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
Album: Tracy Chapman, by Tracy Chapman.
Film: Scent of a Woman
Novel: A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
Yesterday I saw a guy spill all his Scrabble letters on the road.
I asked him, "What’s the word on the street?"
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
My family, Barack Obama, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anoushka Shankar, Malala Yousafzai, William Dalrymple, Nitin Sawnhey.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Plan less, exercise more, and pay more attention during piano lessons.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
I used to sing in a band.
What is your favourite place?
Hampstead Heath, London.