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Why I’m studying skin disease 

BSF Chats to PHD student Laura Howells


Laura, you’re based at the Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology at the University of Nottingham, can you tell us a bit about your role?

I am a first year PhD student studying eczema. I am particularly interested in the experiences of those living with eczema and understanding the best way to measure these experiences to capture them in research and clinical practice. My PhD will be investigating the use of a measure of eczema symptoms in research (Patient Oriented Eczema Measure) and understanding and measuring long-term control of eczema.

Why did you decide to get involved in skin disease research?

Whilst studying health psychology I worked on a project looking at patient experiences of psoriasis and a project on beliefs, coping and distress in psoriatic arthritis at the University of Manchester. Since then I have continued to be interested in skin conditions as even when they are not life-threatening, they can have a large impact on the lives of those living with them.

Can you give us a quick insight into your typical working day?

My tasks can vary from day to day, but as I am at the start of my studies typical activities include doing lots of reading to understand what is already known about my research area, having meetings with my supervisors to discuss our ongoing plans for the research, recruiting people to take part in my research, working with patients to get their opinions on the design of my research and how it could be improved from a patient perspective…the list goes on! It is never dull at the Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology!

The BSF gives grants to institutions like the University of Nottingham to fund new research into skin disease. Why is it important to keep funding new research?

What strikes me about eczema in particular is that for such a common disease there is still so much we don’t know! I think funding for applied research that is going to have real, practical implications for clinicians and patients is really important. Support for the BSF is so important to help them fund this vital research. Here at the Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology we had great fun taking part in the BSF Big Birthday Bake and I would encourage others to provide support in whatever way they can.

What do you think the future holds for disease research?

There is increasing recognition that research needs to be driven by patient needs. I think this shows that the future is bright for those living with diseases, as research is relevant to improving their lives.

What would you say to someone wanting to get into dermatology research?

Go for it!

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I hope that I will be able to continue to work in dermatology research and health psychology research to understand and improve the experiences of those living with skin conditions. The Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology is involved in lots of ongoing international projects and collaborations – so there are plenty of exciting opportunities for future research!

Thanks for chatting to us Laura!

Why donate to us?

Sixty percent of British people currently suffer from or have suffered with a skin disease at some point during their lifetime. Some skin conditions are manageable, others are severe enough to kill. We are here to help change that.

We raise money to fund research for cures for skin disease and skin cancer, but research doesn't fund itself.

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We have supported more than 300 research projects and awarded £15 million in funding across all skin diseases including eczema, psoriasis and many more.

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