This month’s staff spotlight is 2015 Chancellor’s Award winner Professor Brian Walker who will shortly take up a new role as Director of Research for the University’s College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine.
The Palace of Holyrood House was the setting last month for a gala dinner during which the Chancellor, HRH The Princess Royal, honoured three staff members with Chancellor’s Awards including Professor Brian Walker, who was the recipient of this year’s Chancellor’s Award for Research.
Brian Walker was born and educated in Glasgow and graduated from Edinburgh Medical School in 1986. The Medical School has now moved its headquarters from Teviot to Little France, four miles south of the city centre and alongside the new Royal Infirmary, offering a very different experience to that enjoyed by Brian 30 years ago.
Edinburgh Medical School has been transformed since my days as a student in the 1980s. Gone are the white coats, Nightingale wards, research labs in portacabins, and the 'Princes Street divide'. In their place are brand new hospitals with on-site research institutes and a 'can do' collegiality. But if nostalgia is your thing, Pollock Halls and the Anatomy Lecture Theatre are still here!
Hormones of the heart
After early training in Glasgow, he returned to Edinburgh and was appointed Professor of Endocrinology in 2001.
Supported by grants and fellowships from the Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation and Wellcome Trust, Brian’s research over the last 25 years has linked the stress steroid hormone cortisol with cardiovascular disease. His group has developed drugs which target cortisol in new ways to reduce cardiovascular risk and dementia, recently advancing the first of these into studies in patients.
As head of the University’s BHF Centre for Cardiovascular Science, Professor Walker currently leads 180 staff and students and is responsible for £10 million of annual research income.
Cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, remains the largest single cause of death in the UK. In the BHF Centre for Cardiovascular Science we aim firstly to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, including from obesity and high blood pressure, and secondly to improve treatment of cardiovascular disease.
The next generation
Alongside his research, Brian has also made important contributions to teaching and training. During his time at the University he has supervised more than 40 PhD students, many of whom have pursued successful careers in research, and he directs the Edinburgh Clinical Academic Track programme, a £12.5 million initiative to support training of the next generation of clinician scientists. He has also edited three editions of the iconic textbook, 'Davidson’s Principles and Practice of Medicine'.
Professor Walker's next challenge will draw upon this experience and knowledge of both research and teaching as he will shortly take up a new role as Director of Research for the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine.
The College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine is a leading research institution in the UK for both human and animal health, with more than 800 research groups across our 4 major campuses. As Director of Research for the College it will be my privilege to work with talented colleagues from across the University to ensure that we have everything we need to continue to deliver world-class innovations in health and biomedical science.