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New structure for Leicester Medical School

From August 1 this year the Leicester Medical School adopted a new structure that will help departments maximise their research strengths and take into account the increasingly inter-disciplinary nature of research projects and resources

The new structure aims to foster mutual research benefits and greater opportunities for collaboration within the departments that constitute the Medical School and, more widely, within the Faculty of Medicine and Biological Sciences. It will also encourage reciprocal research planning arrangements with the NHS. 

To achieve this, staff in each of the new departments will be grouped together wherever possible, to strengthen their links, create opportunities for informal discussion and to share facilities. This will be accomplished over time, with the implementation of the NHS Pathway development and the construction of the University’s new Biomedical Sciences Building.

This restructuring follows more than a year during which the Structures Working Group, set up by the Dean, Professor Ian Lauder, has been considering issues of research and resource needs and priorities.

The resulting changes have incorporated the findings of the Clinical Research Advisory Group (CRAG), staff views and those of five sub-groups looking at different aspects of the proposals.  

Five departments have been created to replace the existing departmental structure within the Medical School. They are:

Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine:
Robert Kilpatrick Clinical Sciences Building, Leicester Royal Infirmary;

Cardiovascular Sciences:
Glenfield General Hospital;

Health Sciences:
Most of which will be at Leicester General Hospital on completion of the new site, due in 2007;

Infection, Immunity and Inflammation:
Maurice Shock Medical Sciences Building and adjacent buildings on campus;

Medical and Social Care Education:
Maurice Shock Medical Sciences Building, transferring to the Leicester General Hospital on completion of the new site

In addition to the five academic departments, related clinical divisions have also been set up, whose heads are responsible to the Dean. All staff in the Medical School will be a member of one of the academic departments and clinical staff will also be attached to the clinical divisions.  

Professor Ian Lauder, Dean of LWMS, commented: “This restructuring is a major step for the Medical School. It is probably the most fundamental change that has taken place since the School was founded in 1975. 

“The challenge is to deliver top quality research, whilst at the same time retaining our position as one of the very best Medical Schools, in terms of the quality of teaching and education.  Up to this point we have no fewer than thirty-two separate divisions and departments. This was incompatible with the obvious need for our research to be much more clearly focused and I firmly believe that the five new departments will have sufficient quality and volume to re-establish our position as a top research-led Medical School. 

“In parallel with the establishment of the five new departments, we shall also establish a number of clinical divisions, which will be broadly similar to the clinical directorates apparent within the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. The professional links to the NHS remain vitally important to us and we will obviously also need to link with Mental Health and Primary Care.

“The overall process of restructuring has been a long and difficult one for the Medical School but I am absolutely delighted that on 1 August 2003 the new arrangements were put into full effect.  I am very much looking forward to working closely with the new departmental heads and with the new clinical divisions.”

Professor Nilesh Samani, Head of Department of Cardiovascular Sciences:

Cardiovascular research has been a major strength of the Leicester Medical School since its inception. Its sustained excellence has been recognised by being specifically flagged in all the Research Assessment Exercises and in the 2001 RAE cardiovascular research at Leicester received a 5 rating. When considered together with the number of individuals submitted, Leicester ranked second only to Imperial in terms of the combined quality and quantity of its cardiovascular research. However, the research is spread across several current departments and sites, and this has to some extent restricted collaborative work and bidding for large multi-disciplinary programme grants.

The creation of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences and co-location of as many groups as possible on the same site will allow better integration of the work and sharing of research facilities. This will make us more competitive and hopefully sustain and expand the range of research work we are undertaking.

Leicester is one of the few centres in the country where there is an excellent combination of basic and clinical research in the cardiovascular field. We need to build on this and the new Department will provide an important external focus in achieving this. The Department will have the new British Heart Foundation Chair, which comes with substantial funding of £1 million to set up the infrastructure.

Professor Richard Baker, Head of Department of Health Sciences:

This restructuring is a landmark development in the history of the Leicester Medical School, and we must be ambitious and make sure it achieves its aims.

This Department has an important role to play across the Medical School, and we aim to strengthen our collaboration with other departments as well as developing strong internal teams. We will be building on an established record of research in the community, and the creation of the Department is an opportunity to become one of the leading units in this field. 

I see our priority as building groups, not just concentrating on a few strong individuals. Staff need to develop their research output and work in strong groups. The groups now forming in the Department are based on strengths in areas that include biostatistics, genetic and clinical epidemiology, qualitative research, and experimental trials of health care interventions. Consequently, the Department is well placed to thrive in the increasingly competitive research environment.

Professor Will Steward, Head of Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine:

I see this as an immense step forward. We have been a conglomeration of predominantly relatively small groups, and in order to be competitive in the new aggressive RAE environment, we have got to make the most of our resources and pull together, moving geographically close and building up more competitive research programmes.

This is especially important in cancer research. We are one of the only departments in the country not funded by Cancer Research UK and we really do have to use our resources to the maximum. Under the new structure we should be able to make credible applications to CRUK and similar charities.

It is not just Cancer research that should benefit from the formation of the new Department. Groups, including those from Pathology, Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Anaesthetics, will be able to form cross-specialty research groupings utilising each others’ skills to strengthen the chances of success with grant applications. It will allow us to share resources and increasingly expensive equipment, rather than duplicate them. We will have the structure to develop research themes rationally and plan sensible use of resources and space.

We should be able to offer students more intercalated BSc opportunities and more MSc places on a wider variety of programmes.

I am very positive. For all of us the restructuring is a huge step forward and I believe that our research output can be greatly strengthened and strong collaborations fostered.

Professor Stewart Petersen, Head of Department of Medical and Social Care Education:

I am excited about this development because I think that, in creating a department for education, the Faculty is recognising its importance. The department will include some research relating to medical education, but our principal remit is in education. We will have four functions:

·        To co-ordinate the undergraduate medical curriculum

We will continue to co-ordinate phase 1 & phase 2 of the curriculum, including the management of clinical placements and assessments.

·        To provide basic medical science support for the curriculum

We will be responsible for the teaching of Anatomy and other basic medical sciences across the medical curricula.

·        To provide education for students of Social Work

The School of Social work is part of the department, and provides a postgraduate course for 50 social work students each year. We are building steadily on the opportunities for collaborative working between medical and social work education.

·        To create a Professional Development Unit for health that builds on the particular advantages of association with a medical school and engages with the NHS modernisation agenda.

We have already organised quite a lot of Continuing Professional Development, but in the past this has been uncoordinated and we want to draw it into our general framework and develop a range of courses geared to the needs of the NHS as well as provide new postgraduate qualifications.  Dr Angela Lennox, Director of the Centre for Studies in Community Health Care and Senior Lecturer in Medical Education (Community), has been appointed, half-time, to lead this project. 

Professor Peter Andrew, Head of Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation:

For the last twenty years, research in infectious diseases and, latterly, in innate immunity, have been recognised as strengths of the University of Leicester. In the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise Infection and Immunity research at Leicester was rated as 5.

The new Department of Infection Immunity and Inflammation will be formed by over thirty staff drawn from the Departments of Microbiology and Immunology, Respiratory Medicine, Nephrology, Child Health, and Pre-Clinical Sciences. Our principal objectives are to underpin and concert the core of research excellence repeatedly recognised by external review and to attain the maximum proportion of staff operating at an international level.

We aim to achieve this through a combination of basic science and clinical programmes that take maximum advantage of an environment in which workers from all parts of the spectrum interact on a regular basis. While our University work will be judged by scientific criteria, it is also our clear intention to develop programmes that are closely co-ordinated with NHS research programmes and to synergise with these.

The new organisation has opened up our horizons and provided an environment in which the routes from basic research to clinical application and from clinical observation to basic scientific hypotheses can be clearly seen and realistically travelled.

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Last updated: 18 September 2003 10:55
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