Connor Emdin: looking for new ways to prevent heart attacks and strokes

Meet Connor Emdin, a graduate student at Oxford and The George Institute UK completing a DPhil in Population Health on the safety and efficacy blood pressure lowering.

How long have you been working at The George Institute?

I have been working at The George Institute for the past year and a half (since January 2013), completing my DPhil in cardiovascular epidemiology.

What attracted you to working at The George Institute?

What attracted me to The George Institute was the chance to work with great researchers who I could learn a lot from, particularly Kazem Rahimi and Mark Woodward, my supervisors. Prior to beginning my DPhil, I had little experience working in epidemiology, so I wanted to make sure that I was working with researchers from whom I could gain a lot.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a number of projects. I have conducted a series of analyses of a cohort of patients from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink, examining the relationship between blood pressure and a number of different cardiometabolic diseases, including diabetes, atrial fibrillation and vascular dementia. I also work on collecting data for the Blood Pressure Lowering Treatment Trialists’ Collaboration and I work with Ayodele Odutayo (a fellow Canadian supervised by Doug Altman) and Christopher Wong on tabular meta-analyses in cardiovascular disease, with a particular focus on atrial fibrillation.

What is a recent highlight?  

I worked on a meta-analysis published in JAMA in February (Blood Pressure Lowering in Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis) that suggested that there are large subgroups of patients with diabetes who may benefit from blood pressure lowering beyond current guidelines.

What difference will this make to healthcare and why?

If the results of this study are adopted, this analysis could lead to a reduction in stroke, eye disease and kidney disease among diabetic patients who are at high risk of these outcomes. Furthermore, this study demonstrated that certain classes of medication were slightly more effective in diabetes patients for prevention of different outcomes. For example, calcium channel blockers were shown to be slightly more effective for prevention of stroke. Use of calcium channel blockers by diabetics at high risk of stroke (e.g. diabetic with existing cerebrovascular disease) may lead to further reductions in the incidence of stroke in diabetes.

What is your professional background?

I completed my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of Toronto. At the end of my degree, I won the Rhodes scholarship, which allowed me to come to Oxford. I will be attending medical school at the end of my DPhil at Harvard.

Why do you enjoy working at The George Institute?

I really enjoy working at The George Institute because The George provides a lot of freedom to test out and explore your own ideas. For someone who is just beginning their research career, I greatly appreciate the ability to conduct research in new areas that I find interesting and think are important.

To explain to people what I do I say….

That I conduct research on cardiovascular disease, and look for ways to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

I work at The George Institute because…..

I wanted to complete my DPhil in a setting that had a strong team of researchers who could support me and from whom I could learn a lot. I also wanted to work in a setting that had a focus on improving the health of and clinical care provided to individuals around the world. I think that The George Institute is unique in combining a rigorous research environment with a commitment to improving the health of disadvantaged people worldwide.

To unwind at the end of the day I….

Go for a long run then cook dinner.

My first job was….

Working in a basic science research lab at the end of high school at McMaster University in Hamilton. I worked on cloning proteins involved in the infection of human cells by Chlamydia pneumonia.

My biggest achievement so far….

I have had lots of great experiences working at The George and have learned a lot working on different projects but, if I had to choose one, I would say that working on the blood pressure lowering in diabetes meta-analysis, described above, was my favourite. It was a great experience as a young researcher having a paper published that was covered by the news media and other scientific journals, and seeing that you can contribute to the clinical and research “conversations”.