Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC) brought its photography exhibition to the White City community and its partners this month. Featuring over 60 images as well as researchers’ and patients’ stories, the Humans of Health Research exhibition was hosted in White City Community Centre from 30 May to 3 June after a successful launch in Imperial College London’s South Kensington campus. The images have since been donated to participating hospitals where they will be displayed on the walls for staff, patients and visitors.
AHSC is a strategic university-NHS partnership that aims to accelerate the translation of scientific breakthroughs into new ways to improve patient care and maintain the health of the public. Its members are Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, The Institute of Cancer Research, London and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
The Humans of Health Research series features photography and interviews with researchers who talk about why they carry out research, what they’ve learned, and advice for future researchers. Many health professionals juggle research and clinical work and those featured include doctors, midwives, physiotherapists, pharmacists, nurses and healthcare scientists. Patients are also featured in the series and talk about why they got involved in research and how taking part has affected their health and their life.
The project showcases the value and impact of health research. One of the aims of the project is to inspire others to champion and get involved with research to improve healthcare for all and over thirty of these stories have been shared online since 2022.
“The exhibition proved to be a wonderful resource to share with the White City Community. Those that had come for the exhibition were clearly engaged by it although we also had many residents who had come to the community centre for other activities who found the exhibition by chance and chose to take the time to learn about and discuss different subjects that sparked their interest,” said Harry Audley, White City Residents’ Association Chairman.
In the community
The White City Community Centre is in the heart of the White City estate in West London, where Imperial also has a campus. The centre serves a diverse local community made up of traditionally underserved groups and engaging these audiences with research is a key part of Imperial College AHSC’s research strategy.
Marcia Reeves, a local resident and patient who is featured in the exhibition, attended a lunchtime Conversation Café – an informal event held on 31 May to enable conversations between local community members and those featured in the exhibition. Marcia took part in the SatPro weight loss clinical trial, a scientifically based programme to support patients who are looking to achieve a healthy body weight. Patients learn about the science associated with weight loss, such as how hormones control appetite and body weight and how to apply this science to their diet and lifestyle. Marcia lost 32kg on the programme.
“I came away feeling so inspired by the work being carried out. I grew up nearby in Hammersmith and so I wanted to come and speak to people in this community and share my experience of being on a clinical trial. It changed my life and I’ve since become interested in other areas of health research too – I’ve signed up to be in more trials!” she said.
Professor Caroline Alexander, Lead Clinical Academic for Allied Health Professionals at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Professor of Practice (Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy), who is also an NIHR Imperial BRC Executive Committee member, is featured in the exhibition. Her research focuses on improving care for people who are hypermobile (overly flexible). The condition can lead to joint pain, dislocations and instability.
“What I found really inspiring about the exhibition was the range and diversity of people and roles represented. It’s not just about doctors, but all healthcare professionals who do research – nurses, pharmacists and midwives for example. But importantly, it’s about patients too. And the exhibition puts us all together, which means the research asks questions meaningful to everyone. Patients’ knowledge and expertise in their own lived experiences is key to great health research,” said Professor Alexander.
Cielito Caneja is an Advanced Research Nurse Practitioner at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and a Research Postgraduate at Imperial. She was involved in the RejuvenAir System clinical trial, where patients with chronic bronchitis are treated with liquid nitrogen to freeze diseased lung tissue from the upper layer of cells in the airways. “It’s been incredibly rewarding to be featured in this project. The work we do often goes on behind the scenes but to be recognised on this platform is something I really appreciate. I hope more people, healthcare professionals and patients alike, are inspired to get involved in health research.”
Also in attendance at the Conversation Café were members of The Bridge, a community group that creates spaces for open conversation about women’s health and wellbeing. It was launched by Alison Perry alongside local community partners. Alison is a Lead Research Midwife and Manager at Imperial’s Women’s Health Research Centre and Parasol Foundation Fellow.
Photography in hospitals
After the exhibition, the photographs were donated to participating NHS partners and will be displayed on the walls in hospitals including Hammersmith Hospital, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and the Royal Marsden meaning they will be visible to staff and patients for years to come. All the photography and full interviews will also be available online.
Professor Jonathan Weber, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Director of Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre, said: “Humans of Health Research serves as a testament to the people behind research that seeks to improve lives and healthcare. This includes healthcare professionals and patients working together across our partnership to drive through improvements and change. I hope the inspiring stories and powerful imagery encourage others to get involved in our health research. Imperial College AHSC is uniquely placed to support those interested in transforming healthcare through research and I want to thank our staff and patients for their hard work, dedication and time. “