Jemma C. Hopewell
Professor of Precision Medicine and Epidemiology
British Heart Foundation Basic Science Research Fellow
Nuffield Department of Population Health (NDPH)
Tell us a bit about your role
I have built my career in Oxford, having come to the Clinical Trial Service Unit and Epidemiological Studies Unit over a decade ago, directly after completing my PhD at the University of Cambridge.
I now lead a translational research programme in cardiovascular disease that focuses on big data approaches and the synergy between genetic epidemiology, observational studies and large-scale clinical trials. Through this foundation, I work on making biological, epidemiological and clinical insights into potential new ways to predict, prevent and treat cardiovascular disease and improve our understanding of how patients respond to treatment.
Collaboration is a key part of successful science, and directing our clinical trials genetics programme has afforded me the opportunity to be involved in the conduct of large-scale cardiovascular trials whilst subsequently leading downstream genetic studies, and thereby to work with a wide range of academic and industry scientists. Building long-standing collaborative relationships and strategic partnerships to support globally competitive initiatives has had a considerable impact on my work, for example through Chairing an international consortium examining the genetic determinants of stroke.
What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?
Influencing our understanding and appreciation for how robust evidence from well-designed studies can change clinical care is a particularly rewarding aspect of my role. In a big data setting we have a lot of information available to us, and therefore ensuring focus on areas with translational potential is important. The impact of my work on various aspects of patient care, from personalised medicine to population health, is a major motivation.
I really enjoy working with colleagues and collaborators toward a common goal, and a multidisciplinary approach has been central to many of my achievements. I have learnt so much not only from others in Oxford, but also by spending time with other groups, for example as a Visiting Professor at McGill University.
Can you tell us about something you've done, contributed to that you're most proud of?
I am proud of the ground-breaking scientific discoveries that I have contributed to: from establishing genetic determinants of cardiovascular disease, to elucidating our understanding of drug targets and patient response to therapies, to influencing regulatory guidelines and the conduct of clinical trials and other large-scale studies that have have had an impact on patient care world-wide.
On a personal level, having been appointed Full Professor in 2020 I take great pride in having reached this career milestone in my 30’s. I’m also extremely proud to be a British Heart Foundation Fellow, as the many years of support they have provided has been pivotal to my personal and professional growth.
I am a strong believer in the importance of a team-based approach, and I’m very proud of all the members of my group and their achievements. I am also pleased to be able to provide support to a wider group of researchers, through developing and directing our departmental mentoring scheme. When we feel a little tentative, I think that it’s our mentors that can help to give us that extra boost. I’ve been lucky enough to have fantastic mentors and advice over the years – it makes a real difference!
What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?
In the coming decades I’d like to see major advances in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, and the use of science-centric and people-centric approaches to achieve this.
We are in a big data era, and I’d like to see greater recognition of the importance of carefully collected, processed, analysed and interpreted data. This is increasingly important given the vast data resources now at our fingertips. Data are the essential ingredient on which we rely to ensure robust evidence-based medicine and therefore ensuring the highest data quality standards must be a focus. In addition, data sharing needs to be a priority area in which we heavily invest, so that we can make the most of the resources that are already available.
In order to reach our goals, we also need to ensure that we are appropriately valuing and engaging scientists with diverse skills and backgrounds. I’d like to see greater equality, recognition and opportunities for those with both non-clinical and clinical expertise. Furthermore, I’d like to see an accelerated continuum of positive change for female scientists, with expanding opportunities to influence and lead progress, and recognition of their influential work in medical science.