Associate Professor Stephanie Dakin
Versus Arthritis Career Development Fellow
Chair of Directors of the Taught MSc in Musculoskeletal Sciences
Research Fellow of Green Templeton College
Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology & Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS)
Tell us a bit about your role
Our group undertakes translational research identifying the cellular basis of soft tissue joint diseases, with a particular focus on frozen shoulder and tendinopathy. Frozen shoulder is a common and disabling joint disease affecting 10% of the working population. Patients experience significant shoulder pain and immobility for 2-3 years. However, it is a unique condition because the inflammatory fibrosis associated with disease almost always resolves, albeit over several years. Understanding this cellular basis of how frozen shoulder ultimately resolves will help to identify effective new ways to accelerate resolution of disease. In addition to my research role, I am also a Director of the MSc in Musculoskeletal Sciences, which is a part time taught course integrating orthopaedics and rheumatology.
My interest in Musculoskeletal disease stemmed from my clinical experiences as a veterinary surgeon. I graduated in 2003 and spent 10 years in equine practice where I developed a specialist interest in orthopaedics and imaging. The challenges I experienced treating tendon injuries as a clinician provided the incentive to undertake a PhD at the Royal Veterinary College researching the role of inflammation in equine tendinopathy. Having caught the research bug, I moved to NDORMS in 2013 to advance and translate this research from horses to humans. In 2017 I became Associate Professor through the Oxford University Recognition of Distinction exercise and was also appointed Director of the Taught MSc in Musculoskeletal Sciences. Earlier this year I gained tenure as Associate Professor of Musculoskeletal Sciences at NDORMS & Green Templeton College.
My roles and responsibilities integrate into the Medical Sciences landscape. As a Course Director I serve on Divisional Postgraduate Taught Directors Forums and engage with Divisional Educational Officers to ensure the smooth running of our MSc Course. I feel very privileged to be a leading this Course. Our MSc team deliver an internationally renowned programme training the future leaders in the Musculoskeletal Sciences. Over the past 4 years it’s been a joy and an honour to see the academic training we provide equip our students with the necessary skills to excel as clinicians and researchers in the Medical Sciences. In addition to the MSc, I also supervise DPhil students and mentor tutees within the Medical Sciences and am an active Research Fellow of Green Templeton College.
What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?
The most meaningful aspect of our research is that we discover new insights into understanding how inflammatory fibrosis ultimately resolves in frozen shoulder. This knowledge has real potential to inform the development of novel and exciting ways to accelerate resolution of disease, addressing a significant unmet clinical need for patients. Our research will also provide novel insights into the cellular mechanisms of intractable soft tissue inflammatory and fibrotic diseases affecting the lung, liver, kidney and skin which ultimately contribute to 45% of all-cause mortality, leading towards potential new treatment paradigms.
The most meaningful aspect of our teaching is that we inspire the next generation of clinicians and scientists to achieve and practice excellence in the Musculoskeletal Sciences, ensuring the future of this field remains very bright!
Can you tell us about something you've done, contributed to that you're most proud of?
I’m proud of successfully accomplishing the transition from working as an equine vet in practice to a research academic at Oxford. There were risks and challenges to overcome and it’s not something I have undertaken lightly! It’s been a journey where I have learnt so much, what’s fantastic is that I am still experiencing that learning trajectory every day. I feel very fortunate to be at the cutting-edge of Musculoskeletal research, collaborating with world-leading experts in our quest to create cellular atlases of tissues that comprise the joint. This multidisciplinary team effort will catalyse our understanding of joint tissues in health and disease, informing how we might precisely therapeutically target cells driving joint disease in future.
What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?
The progress made by women in the Medical Sciences has been truly astounding and inspiring, testament to their fantastic skill, grit and determination. I sincerely hope we can harness and advance this progress in the next 100 years. Women are currently under-represented in the Musculoskeletal Sciences, particularly in orthopaedics, both as clinicians and scientists. I am passionate about raising the profile of the Musculoskeletal Sciences to women, to highlight it’s a dynamic, exciting and evolving niche that women can really contribute to and make an impact. This could be accomplished by increasing the visibility of women as key contributors to this field and raising the profile of the Musculoskeletal Sciences to female academic trainees and budding researchers. In future I’d like to see women equally represented occupying senior academic roles within the Medical Sciences Division, continuing to push those boundaries.