Nurse earns international recognition for lung research

16 June 2016

Diane Griffiths

Diane Griffiths

University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) research nurse Diane Griffiths has received international acclaim for her research into chronic lung disease.

Diane’s investigation into the potential link between lung and heart disease was judged the best academic research project by a nurse at the American Thoracic Society Annual Conference, in San Francisco in May, earning her a bursary prize.

Since 2001 Diane, who is also affiliated with the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, has helped to deliver respiratory clinical trials but more recently developed an interest in completing a period of academic study.

“Diane’s main interest is in chronic lung disease,” said Dr Liz Sapey, Managing Director of NIHR/Wellcome Clinical Research Facility (CRF), consultant in respiratory and general medicine at UHB and senior lecturer at the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing.

“She became very interested in research suggesting that patients with severe, smoking related lung disease (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD) were more likely to die of a heart attack than of their lung disease.

“Birmingham hosts the ADAPT cohort, the largest cohort of patients in the world with Alpha 1 Anti-trypsin Deficiency (AATD) – a genetic condition which shares many features with COPD.

“Diane wanted to see if these patients also had evidence of heart disease, or had a higher risk of having a heart attack, than healthy people without this genetic condition.

“Her research demonstrated that there was a link between lung disease and heart disease, even once you had accounted for age and smoking habits, supporting a shared cause of both the heart and lung disease,” added Dr Sapey.

Diane presented her findings at the American Thoracic Society Annual Conference, the largest respiratory conference globally with over 12,000 delegates, where judges awarded her the prestigious prize.

A delighted Diane, whose post is supported by the West Midlands Clinical Research Network (WM CRN),  said: “The ATS is the biggest international conference for respiratory specialisms in the world so it was great just to have the chance to go and present my work.

“To find out that I had won this award was a huge surprise and a great honour but the great thing about the whole experience was the chance to meet up with other research nurses from around the world.

“I am grateful to Dr Sapey and Jo McCormack, lead research nurse at UHB, as well as Professors David Thickett and Rob Stockley, who have all been incredibly supportive.”

Diane now intends to study the links between heart and lung disease in different lung conditions, with the continued support of the Trust, Institute of Inflammation and Ageing and the CRF nursing staff.