Leicester City legend patron of Cardiac Surgery Research group

19 December 2017

Leicester City Football Club’s ambassador and former player, Alan Birchenall MBE, has become the patron for the Leicester Cardiac Surgery Research Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) group.

Headed by Professor Gavin Murphy, the Cardiac Surgery Research PPI group is a partnership between the University of Leicester, Leicester’s Hospitals, members of the public and patient volunteers.

The aim of the PPI group is to review applications for new heart surgery studies, suggest areas for future research, attend public events, engage with social networking, and help promote Glenfield Hospital as a centre for excellence for life-saving research.

Professor Murphy, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon at Leicester’s Hospitals and BHF Chair of Cardiac Surgery in the Department for Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Leicester, said: “We are honoured that Alan has accepted the position of patron of the Leicester Cardiac Surgery Research PPI Group. His first-hand experience of our services, together with his charity work campaigning for defibrillators in public places, means that Alan is perfect for the role.”

On the need for a PPI group for cardiac surgery research, Professor Murphy said: “By making public and patient participation part of our research strategy we will ensure that our research best reflects the needs and concerns of the community it aims to help. We would be unable to deliver our current research strategy without the commitment and time kindly given by the previous patients and members of the public who make up our PPI, which is directly making a difference to both patient experience and research success to an unprecedented extent.”

On accepting the position, Mr Birchenall said: “It’s an honour to be asked to be the patron of this group. I’m living proof of how important it is for people to be involved in and know about heart surgery research so we can save more lives in the future.”

Mr Birchenall has been a supporter of the cardiology team based at Glenfield Hospital for several years, including leading a campaign to have defibrillators installed in secondary schools through the Heartwize charity.

It is almost a year since Alan suffered a cardiac arrest at an awards ceremony and was treated by medical staff in the audience using a defibrillator, before being taken by ambulance to the Glenfield Hospital to be treated by heart specialists.

The cardiac surgery research team is conducting a portfolio of trials funded by the British Heart Foundation. One study is Ob-card, which is trying to establish whether being overweight or obese causes changes in the expression of genes in the heart that protect it from damage during surgery. The study is borne from a phenomenon known as the Obesity Paradox – the surprising finding that patients who are overweight or obese are much less likely to develop severe heart damage during surgery and have better survival rates afterwards.

For more information about the Cardiac Surgery Research PPI group and for details of Professor Murphy’s public lectures, contact Sue Page on sp504@le.ac.uk