Professor Will Dixon and Paul Dark's inaugural lecture

Double first for Professors in prestigious new roles

It was a double first when two Salford Royal Consultants gave their inaugural lectures as professors at The University of Manchester.

Rheumatologist Will Dixon is the university’s (and the UK’s) first Professor of Digital Epidemiology and Paul Dark its first Professor of Critical Care Medicine.

As well as their clinical work and research expertise, both were singled out for the way they are training the next generation of scientists.

Professor Dixon, who is also Director of the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Epidemiology, focused his lecture on health in the digital era. He said that the UK is a fantastic place for epidemiology (the study of how often diseases occur in different groups of people and why) because of its cradle-to-grave healthcare records  and singled out Salford Royal as the country’s most digitally advanced NHS Trust.

He also looked at the use of smartphones in research – he is Principal Investigator for the Cloudy With a Chance of Pain study, looking into links between pain and the weather and collecting data on participants’ phones. More than 13,000 people signed up to take part in this research.

Following this, his team has a new study using smartwatches to track activity and its relationship with pain in people with knee osteoarthritis.

He also has an interest in using social media in research and highlighted a project analysing messages on Twitter to find the most common side effects of steroids, leading to two under-researched areas being identified as most important to patients – insomnia and weight gain.

Professor Dark is also the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network Research Lead for Critical Care. He spoke of how survival rates for critical care patients are excellent in the Manchester region. But he said there are still challenges in longer-term physical and psychological recovery of those who have had life-threatening injuries, or major surgery, infections or illnesses.

He has a particular interest in antibiotic resistance and is about to start a large-scale £1.5million study, funded by the NIHR, to determine whether one of two different tests will allow a safe reduction in the time patients in hospital with suspected sepsis are kept on antibiotics.

Professor Dark emphasised the need for collaboration to ensure the best possible patient care and paid tribute to past and present colleagues, as well as to the 65,000 patients who took part in critical care research in the UK last year.

Professor Dixon and Professor Dark are pictured with Salford Royal’s Chief Officer, James Sumner.