BGS Joint Rising Star Award for Research 2020: Richard Dodds

This year’s BGS Rising Star Award for Research has been jointly awarded to Dr Richard Dodds and Dr Atul Anand. Richard is an Honorary Consultant Geriatrician at Newcastle Hospitals and an Intermediate Clinical Fellow at the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre. He tweets at @dodds_rm.

I am honoured to receive this prestigious award from the British Geriatrics Society and would like to give my thanks to the family of the late Dr Jim George for the fund that supports this award. I have been grateful to the BGS for their support ever since I joined as a junior doctor. Like many others in our speciality, my career choice was inspired by very positive experiences I had as an undergraduate and then foundation trainee in Geriatric Medicine teams caring for older people. At the same time, I was eager to return to research having enjoyed an intercalated degree at medical school in human genetics. Fortunately, I came across the opportunity to combine these two aims in 2009 via an academic clinical fellowship in Geriatric Medicine in the Wessex Deanery – part of a successful scheme established by Avan Sayer, who I have had the privilege of working with for over a decade since.

I really enjoyed the next eight years as a speciality trainee. The focus of my research in this time was sarcopenia, the age-related loss of strength, which is clearly an important issue for many of the people we care for as inpatients. Taking a lifecourse approach and working with cohort studies such as the MRC National Survey of Health and Development (the oldest of the British birth cohorts) helped me to appreciate the importance of early intervention to promote good health at older ages. Another positive realisation was seeing how clinical and research training complemented one another: whether finding an agreed way forward as a multidisciplinary team, or learning how to stay on top of my inbox, skills learnt in one area often proved useful in the other.

Following my academic clinical fellowship, I was funded by the Wellcome Trust to undertake my PhD. One of the outputs was a set of normative data for grip strength. I was very glad for the chance to present this as a platform at the 2014 Autumn BGS. Adam Gordon chaired the session and I remember he started the questions by thanking me for clearing up that the technique I’d used, the Box-Cox Cole and Green distribution, was not a type of online vegetable delivery as he’d previously thought! After my PhD, I continued my clinical training and joined the team led by Helen Roberts to gain experience of how research can be both integrated into, and used to improve, the care of patients on geriatric medicine wards.

In 2018 I moved to Newcastle to take up a prestigious intermediate clinical fellowship at the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre and based within the AGE Research Group. I continue to carry out research that is motivated by my clinical practice, investigating age-related changes in skeletal muscle. More recently I have become interested in how such changes may be accelerated by the presence of multiple long-term conditions. A real highlight of the last two years has been participating in the European Academy for Medicine of Ageing. This course has challenged me to develop further across many different roles: as a clinician, a researcher and an educator to name just three. Yet again I am grateful to the BGS for their support towards the cost of attending the course. I hope that I can continue to support those interested in Geriatric Medicine and research, and help others to benefit from the sort of opportunities that I’ve been so fortunate to have in the last few years.


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