Dr Ricky Mullis is a member of the Cardiovascular Group at PCU. The team focus on patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD) including: stroke, diabetes, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, hypertension, cognitive function relating to CVD and obesity. Within these disease areas research is conducted into aspects of prevention, diagnosis and management. The Cardiovascular Group is led by Professor Jonathan Mant and Ricky joined in 2010.
You were a physiotherapist before you joined the Unit: why did you make the move into research?
Having qualified as a physiotherapist 25 years ago, I entered clinical practice within the NHS. However, I soon began to realise that gaps existed in the evidence base underpinning many of the approaches being used in day-to-day physiotherapy practice. This (somewhat negative) realisation of the state of knowledge at the time inspired me to want to do something to address the situation, and I entered the world of clinical research. Initially, this was focussed on exercise based interventions, which I am still involved with, but my interests have expanded into outcome measurement, primary care and service delivery models.
Tell us a little about the remit of your research group and why it matters?
Our work focusses on patients with a broad range of cardiovascular disease manifestations including stroke, diabetes, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, hypertension, cognitive function relating to CVD and obesity. Within these disease areas we conduct research into aspects of prevention (primary and secondary), diagnosis and long-term management in primary care.
Recognising the role of family support and appreciating the impact that stroke can have on carers (an often informal and under-recognised group) is central to our work. Engaging this key group early on in our development of long-term care packages allows us to build in systems that can support this vital group, who often feel unprepared for their new role as carers.
Are there any important milestones coming up?
Following two years of developmental work, we are currently setting up a multi-centre cluster-randomised trial of a novel model of primary care for stroke survivors living in the community. The IPCAS (Improving Primary Care After Stroke) model will be embedded into general practices across the East of England and the East Midlands, and includes a structured review of individual care needs, improved communication between care providers and between patients and care services, service mapping and information provision, and a structured self-management programme “My Life After Stroke” (MLAS) developed in collaboration with University Hospitals of Leicester. Results will be available from 2020, so watch this space!
We are also planning to commence work evaluating whether screening for atrial fibrillation will prevent stroke and save lives, and offer good value for money for the NHS.
It sounds busy: how do you relax when you are not at work?
For me, time away from work is a constant balancing act of doing enough physical activity to offset my appreciation of fine food and wine! Whilst I enjoy cycling, and have a life-long interest in traditional martial arts, I also enjoy cooking spicy food and experimenting with flavour combinations, which inevitably leads to a lot of tasting!
What is the most important thing in conducting research with the Cardiovascular Group?
Asking the right questions and developing the most appropriate methods to provide the answers is key to the success of any research group, and this holds true for the CVD group led by Jonathan Mant. Once funding is secured, the single most important thing in conducting research within the current regulatory frameworks and clinical constraints within the NHS is to have the right team involved.
The image of research being carried out by individuals in isolation is very much buried in the past, and such efforts often succumb to the weight of regulatory approval and monitoring required.
Fortunately, we have been able to attract some of the best academic and research management talent available, which has enabled us to develop a balanced skill-mix within the group to meet these needs.