Clinical research at UCL 2015
Johannes Scheppach

Visiting Partner: Johannes Scheppach

Home Institution: Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany

Host Institution: University College London, UK

Rotation and Time: TRENAL Clinical Research Visit 2015

Details of visit: Since 2014, Johannes has been working as a renal trainee at FAU, Department of Nephrology and Hypertension. In 2015, he joined the clinical research group of PD Dr Markus Schneider about cardiovascular phenotyping in early chronic kidney disease. To learn more about medical statistics and epidemiology, he spent two months at University College London in November and December 2015.

Experience: In winter 2015, I had the opportunity to go abroad for two months to work on a clinical research project at University College London (UCL). I joined the team of Dr Ben Caplin, a senior nephrologist and scientist at the Royal Free Hospital, one of the teaching hospitals of UCL. Royal Free Hospital is located near Hampstead in central London and it is where I spent most of the time I was working on my project. I had a desk in an open plan office together with other research fellows, PhD students and post-docs who were always happy to help and made me feel at home in no time. The atmosphere was cosmopolitan with many of them coming from Asia or other European countries. Dr Caplin, who had his office just a few doors down, was supervising my work and I could always stop by to ask questions and get advice about methodology and statistics. I was also allowed to attend teaching seminars with the other doctors at the Royal Free Hospital, such as pathology demonstrations and clinical case presentations.

Dr Caplin is also involved with the National CKD Audit (NCKDA), a major programme designed to improve the identification and management of patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) under primary care in the UK. The data I was working with were taken from the National CKD Audit database, which at the time contained data of more than two million patients from GP practices all over England and Wales. Once every week we met with other members of the NCKDA project group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. At these meetings, the general progress as well as particular aspects of the audit were discussed and I could get valuable second opinions on my work. My project was about the adoption of a recent guideline concerning patients with chronic kidney disease. These patients are known to have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Hence, the UK National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends treating all patients with chronic kidney disease who are not on dialysis with the drug atorvastatin to combat the elevated cardiovascular risk. However, this guideline is not sufficiently put into practice with more than one third of renal patients not receiving the recommended statin therapy.

In my spare time, there was more than enough to keep me busy with various sights, art galleries, street markets, concerts, restaurants and pubs to go out with the other people working at the Royal Free Hospital. I wish I could have had more time to thoroughly get to know London but I will certainly return soon to spend some more time and meet up with the people I met there.

My visit was funded by the TRENAL programme and I am most grateful to Professor Kai-Uwe Eckardt and Dr Felix Knauf for giving me this unique opportunity. It was an amazing experience and I would recommend it to anyone to visit UCL for either basic or clinical research.