Dr Anvesha Singh has been awarded nearly £900,000 as part of a National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Advanced Fellowship, during which she will be investigating the best time for patients with heart valve disease to undergo surgery.
Anvesha undertook her clinical cardiology training at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (UHL) and went on to study her PhD (2012-2015) with NIHR Research Professor Gerry McCann at the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC). Her PhD was funded by Professor McCann’s NIHR Post-doctoral Fellowship for two years and the BRC funded the final year. She won two young investigator awards for her PhD research: the British Heart Valve Society (BHVS) Young Investigator Award 2015 and Society for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance (SCMR) Early Career Award (Clinical) 2016. She then successfully applied for an NIHR Academic Clinical Lectureship at the University of Leicester (2015-2017), before being appointed as an Associate Professor and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist in November 2019.
“I’ve always felt very well supported in Leicester, not just by my direct supervisor, but by people across the College [of Life Sciences, University of Leicester]. Part of that has come from the NIHR Leicester BRC: the infrastructure has been key to developing and delivering high quality research, as well as finding support and expertise.”
When Anvesha applied for her fellowship she found support from the University’s Research and Enterprise Division (RED) and the NIHR Research Design Service (RDS), who signposted her to resources and facilitated mock interviews with colleagues from across the NIHR Leicester BRC.
“Having people from different departments and specialities was great. Not only did it help me prepare and hone my interview skills, it made me feel like the entire infrastructure was behind me and wanted me to succeed.”
Supporting women in research
The NIHR Leicester BRC has a proud history of supporting women in research, for example through its support of Leicester Women in Medicine.
“The commitment the BRC has made to support women in their careers definitely incentivised me to apply for this fellowship. I am also lucky to have great female role-models, such as the Director of the BRC, Professor Melanie Davies, who is also a great mentor. Having that culture behind me and my work was really confidence-boosting.”
Anvesha also felt personally supported during her career by her supervisor, Professor Gerry McCann.
“My PhD thesis was submitted on my daughter’s due date – thankfully she was born 5 days late! – and my viva took place during maternity leave. Professor McCann was incredibly supportive during this time and also encouraged me to apply for the NIHR Academic Clinical Lectureship. I was then successful in obtaining an Academy of Medical Science starter grant for clinical lecturers, which gave me the encouragement to stay in academia.”
In her Advanced Fellowship, Anvesha will continue her research into the optimal management of people with asymptomatic aortic stenosis (narrowed aortic valve).
The EASY-AS trial at the NIHR Leicester BRC is investigating whether early valve replacement leads to better outcomes in these patients. Anvesha’s work will investigate the difference in the total scarring in the heart in early replacement versus traditional later replacement, using MRI imaging techniques.
Anvesha will also investigate patients’ and other stakeholders’ opinions on open heart surgery for asymptomatic aortic stenosis, by collaborating with colleagues at Sheffield University. She will develop her skills as a qualitative researcher, which she sees as vital element of her research.
“An important part of this study is to understand how patients feel about open heart surgery when they are currently experiencing no symptoms.
“We hope to improve communication between clinicians and patients by better understanding patients’ concerns and their attitudes to risk versus benefit. Ultimately we hope this will lead to better care and better quality of life for patients.”
Anvesha aims to grow the already excellent clinical imaging research team in Leicester, whilst delivering high quality clinical research.
“I plan to develop strong internal and external inter-disciplinary collaborations, as I believe working collaboratively is the only way to achieve the best outcomes for our patients.
“I also hope to encourage other female colleagues to pursue an academic career and reach their full potential.”