Leeds Medical School, Class of 1980
Curricula vitae - L
After qualifying in 1980, I did house jobs in Leeds and Bradford before joining the GP Training Scheme in Grimsby where I come from. After that I went into general practice in Castleford with one of Barbara Sloan's cousins where I worked for 12 years. By the mid 1990's I was a bit fed up with general practice - I'm not sure if I changed or GP did - probably a bit of both. In 1996, I resigned from my practice and became a full-time clinical assistant doing Genito-urinary Medicine with Jan Clarke in Wakefield. I also did a bit of Dermatology because it comes in useful in GU Med. I'm so glad that I made the change - I feel I've found my niche. So much so that at the age of 42 I took the plunge and took the Diploma of GU Medicine - a real struggle having not taken an exam for years. I'm now a Staff Grade Physician in GU Med. in Wakefield, and very content. I also do sessions in Leeds and Halifax GUM clinics.
Since leaving Castleford, I've lived in Leeds with my partner of eight years, Clive, who's a psychiatric nurse. We spend lots of time travelling trying out the Opera Houses and restaurants of the world. The internet and e-mail is a new departure for us and we're on a very steep learning curve.
E-mail: john dot clive at talk21 dot com
(Last revised June 2000)
Mike did not qualify until 1981 because he intercalated a degree in Pub Rock, though this is misspelt as "Pharmacology" on the certificate. He still plays keyboards, but nowadays they tend to be attached to wooden and metal pipes of up to 32' length. All those evenings poring over an English-French dictionary when he should have been reading Davidson's and Bailey & Love finally bore fruit when he married Gigi in 1982. Guillaume died of complex congenital heart disease, but Emilie (age 17) and Marie-Anne (age 11) are still here to delight their parents. Deo gratias!
After being terrified for six months as a houseman on the Professorial Medical Unit at the LGI, he found his niche on the GP vocational training scheme in Huddersfield. Following three enjoyable years at Holmfirth, including a home visit in Nora Batty's house, he returned to his native Nottingham as the young dogsbody in a city centre practice. He is now the middle-aged dogsbody, and has held a piece of paper saying he is Fit to Train the Young since 1992; but he is still the sort of GP who prefers the Back Pages of the College Journal to the worthy research papers that precede them.
E-mail: mike at leuty dot net
(Last revised June 2000)
Intercalated degree in Physiology, University of Leeds, 1977; Graduated in Medicine, University of Leeds, 1980; House officer posts: Professorial Medical Unit at Leeds General Infirmary; Neurosurgery / General surgery at Chapel Allerton, 1981 (i.e. a 6 month holiday break?). SHO posts: Kent & Canterbury Hospital, Accident & Emergency; Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 1982.
From summer 1982 to 1983, went travelling for 1 year on my large motorbike with my less large (and less powerful) girlfriend. I spent a very interesting year in many parts of Europe and North Africa, and (after my motorbike was stolen in Greece) spent 8 months in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Went trekking in the Annapurna mountains, I had many experiences I will never forget.
Beginnings in research
I had always been fascinated by research, specifically heart, cardiovascular and muscle research, since my intercalated year spent in Physiology. For some unfathomable reason, Medicine never stimulated me and gave me a passion in quite the same way. Whilst travelling I arranged to return to the Department of Physiology at Leeds (which had a dynamic new Head and was becoming very good). They obtained a research grant for me and I began work as a research assistant there in summer 1983. I studied how digoxin-type compounds increase the contraction of the heart (they were still used widely for heart failure then). Interestingly, although they have been used in clinical Medicine for over 200 years, we did not know their mechanism of action at all. We also (still) do not understand their mechanism for inhibiting for supra-ventricular arrhythmias. I made very significant progress using novel techniques and carried out interesting experiments which were controversial at the time. My research went so well that in 1985, one year before I had completed my PhD, I was appointed to a Lectureship in Physiology at the University of Bristol. It seemed a good opportunity. Whilst doing research at Leeds, I also did clinical assistant sessions in LGI Accident & Emergency. Over the trolleys and in cubicles I re-encountered Dr Jackie Addison (we had communicated little whist we were medical students). One consultation led to another, and soon we contemplated partnership. We were married in Jan 1986 and we have not looked back (well, only glanced).
To the South West
Jackie and I moved to Bristol in 1986, after I obtained my PhD - effectively my passport in the research world. I began setting up a new laboratory in Bristol using the most modern methods for front line heart research, having obtained a large grant from the Wellcome Trust. I used new techniques for splitting the heart muscle up into individual single cells, I used new (fluorescence) methods for measuring the cytoplasmic calcium inside cells, and I used new methods of “patch-clamp” recording of ion channels in the membrane (for which the Nobel Prize was awarded in 1992). The research I did (and still do) was beautiful and enthralling - working on a single heart cell 100µm long and 20µm wide, measuring its contraction and electrical activity and calcium (or sodium or pH etc) levels all at the same time - I remain completely fascinated. I first discovered how digoxin and other glycosides affected the electrical activity of the heart. In 1990 I was the first person to isolate single cells from the atrioventricular node of the heart, and we have performed much fundamental research in this area. By 1991 my research group had swollen to 8 people. We made a very important discovery during 1991, that the “sodium for calcium exchange” (an important mechanism in heart) was able to trigger the calcium release and contraction of heart muscle. This revolutionised the field to field to some extent and led to new ways of thinking. It is interesting how something begins as extremely controversial, and yet just a few years later has become part of the accepted fabric.
Middle age spread
By 1992 Jackie and I had 3 children, Nicola (now 12), Simon (10) and Anna (8). Jackie had become a full time partner in her GP practice in 1989, and was enjoying this very much. Somehow, between us and a full time nanny, we juggled children going to school and nurseries and school holidays, a scenario familiar to many working couples. In 1993 we moved to a small village outside Bristol, close to the area where Jackie works as a GP. My research group continued to get larger, and I had developed a lasting collaboration with the Department of Cardiology in Bristol, as well as collaborations with others in Bristol and also around the world. I have had a large number of Cardiology Registrars spend time in my laboratory doing research for either a PhD or an MD. My group was the first to isolate cells from the hypertrophied heart of the hypertensive rat, and study their intracellular calcium release and contraction. We have done a great deal of work on the effect of cardiac hypertrophy on arrhythmias, and the effect of treating hypertension on both the gene expression and the arrhythmias of hypertrophied tissue. In collaboration with a colleague in Biochemistry, we discovered new forms of the lactic acid transporter in heart, and he has since gone on to clone these. In very wild moments, we have even done some work on bone cells, looking at their ion channels and measuring the intracellular calcium regulation of osteoblasts. We continued to proceed at a great pace, obtaining new research grants and publishing new papers. Up to 1999 I had obtained more than £3 million in research grants, had published more than 70 papers in scientific journals, and over 140 refereed scientific abstracts, as well as a few book chapters and popular articles. I have travelled widely internationally, spoken at many international conferences and been invited to many UK and international Departments to speak about my research. You can see a (slightly dated) description of our research activity on the web site:
I was promoted to a Readership at Bristol in 1994. In the last few years two main events in my work have been notable. First, in 1996 and in collaboration with a Canadian research colleague, I appear to have made a very significant discovery about the heart. The contraction of the heart is thought to be, at a very basic level, completely different from skeletal muscle. Skeletal muscle does not require external calcium (actually, this is not strictly true - however it says this in Physiology textbooks!) and calcium release and contraction in skeletal muscle is activated directly by depolarisation of the cell membrane (calcium ion entry is not required). The conventional view for heart muscle, in great contrast, is that it does appear to require calcium ion entry into the cell for activation. In heart cells exposed to adrenaline, and at normal body temperature, we discovered that we could block all the calcium entry into the cell, and yet they still showed an intracellular calcium release and contraction upon membrane depolarisation. It seems that we may have discovered (with a little serendipity) that heart muscle possesses an “excitation-contraction coupling” mechanism similar to skeletal muscle under physiological conditions (after all, adrenaline circulates normally). Clearly we are very excited indeed by this new important and potentially influential finding. It could be big news both from basic science and therapeutic medical aspects. We have done a great deal of work on this finding over the last 3 years.
By 1998 my research group now included 15 people. With two colleagues, I was fortunate to be able to raise almost £1 million in grant funding to allow us to build a new suite of purpose designed heart research laboratories in the School of Medical Sciences in Bristol, called the “Cardiovascular Research Laboratories”. These were opened formally by the Director of the Wellcome Trust in March 1999. We have started a new concept in Bristol - that of “multi-disciplinary” research and we are the first subject area in Bristol to have trod this path. In our new heart laboratories we have gathered together Biochemists, Physiologists, Pharmacologists and Molecular biologists from all the different Departments to work together on the heart and cardiovascular system. They are no longer separated and located in different Departments. This has produced a hothouse type incubation environment where we expect that people will spark ideas off from each other and collaborate and use their complementary techniques to produce exciting new and relevant research. This is the modern way to do research, in large multi-disciplinary teams containing wide expertise and with good communication, and this research ethos is being supported actively by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust. The future looks bright (perhaps Orange?).
Life outside research
Meanwhile, I no longer have a motorbike - I have a slightly less exciting (and safer) Mondeo Estate instead. I have three lovely children, a patient and tolerant wife (she has to be), an exciting and stimulating job (perhaps more interesting than I can convey) which I am passionate about, I play tennis a few times a week, I build and fly large radio-controlled model aeroplanes (and helicopters), and with my son I have recently become interested in radio-controlled model car racing - fast and furious on a Sunday morning in Weston Super Mare. I am the secretary of a one local organisation and on the committee of two others. I am even becoming a clinical doctor again - I have started doing one session per week in Cardiology at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. Returning to my medical and clinical roots ? We will see.
E-mail: Allan dot Levi at bristol dot ac dot uk
(Last revised June 2000)