Richard Feinmann on winning a BMJ Group award

Published on BMJ Blogs: Click here for original.

richardfeinmannI suppose I could be accused of banging on too much about doctors volunteering at the end of their career. But now I have another reason.

At my age, I thought the days of national and international meetings were long gone. So, what a surprise to find myself at the Hilton on Park Lane with my wife in a lovely new dress and about 500 of the great and good in medicine, for one of the best evenings of my life.

I’m never quite sure how anybody can afford to live in London. The Hilton does not come cheap but they certainly know how to put on a good do with lashings of champagne and an excellent meal. I was a little nervous about being on the same table as the others who had been shortlisted for the same award as the group I was representing, but the wine flowed and everything was very cordial.

This is the third year of the BMJ Group awards and there are 13 categories, or maybe 12 and one special lifetime award. I was nominated for the “getting evidence into practice” award for the work I did as a VSO volunteer working at International Hospital in Kampala. The story began with Dr Mark Russell, another VSO volunteer, persuading the hospital to build a category 3 TB laboratory. Then my friend Dr Grania Brigden, another VSOer, applied for funding for a research project from a UK charity called Target TB. The funding allowed us to culture the sputum of 500 HIV patients for TB. Culture is rarely done in Uganda because of cost but our MOTS test had been shown to be cheap and quick in Peru. I completed this phase of the work and set up Phase 2 looking at not only culturing but also checking drug sensitivities on a further 300 patients. We were now looking at our own clients using outreach staff and volunteers to find people who had a productive cough for more than 3 weeks. Having proved the test worked, the project has now been handed over to Ugandans and since 2009 over 1000 HIV sufferers have been tested and more than 50% have TB. Fortunately we found a very low incidence of drug resistance.

So there I was, slightly pickled with champagne and thinking about my good friends in Uganda – over 100 Ugandan volunteers, Bosco in the lab, Dr Ian Clarke and Kevin Duffy who run the charity that employed me at International Hospital, Deborah my TB nurse, and Helen and Jemimah who carefully stretched out the funding from Target TB. Suddenly Gavin Esler, who was hosting the evening, announced that they were going to open the envelope to find the winner for my category.

It was a bit like the Oscars, especially as Hugh Grant was sitting on the next table. And the winner is; “Dr Richard Feinmann.” The champagne anaesthetic dramatically disappeared and from the back of the room I went up to receive our prize. I hope I managed to make it clear in my short speech that I was just a small cog in the team and paid tribute to them all but my memory is slightly blurred.

The only downside was that this was a team effort and the team could not be there. All our work was done with charitable monies and getting them all to the Hilton was not possible.

But what a great evening. Thank you BMJ.

BMJ Large

We are Winners!

The BMJ nominated us winners for the
Getting Evidence into Practice

The TB Diagnostics Lab was the very first project that I became involved in at International Medical Foundation, back in 2007. I remember being approached almost every day by Dr. Mark Russell (a VSO volunteer) who wanted to do something for the many HIV/AIDS patients that he was needing to treat for TB. He had come across a new diagnostic method, *MOT – MODS, that had recently been used in Peru and he thought it would be perfect for Africa; and so it began.

Dr. Ian Clarke offered some space and building resources for a new lab at International Hospital Kampala and agreed that Bosco, one of the hospital’s microbiologists, could allocate some of his time to working with Mark.

I had just started Suubi Trust and agreed that we would raise the £15,000 that was needed to equip the new lab.

The lab was opened on Wednesday August 1st, 2007.

In Q4 2007, Dr. Grania, also from VSO, took over from Mark and started to work with Bosco and the IHK team to perform the clinical trail to validate the methodology and local processes. Early in 2008 this trail received a huge boost when the team secured additional funding from Target TB.

In 2009 Dr. Richard, VSO, joined the team and helped Dr. Edith and Bosco to complete the trial. In August 2009 he helped to train local volunteers, CATTS as we started Phase 2 of the programme, with a particular focus on treatment in the community.

Then in March 2011 we heard that we had been shortlisted for the BMJ award.

It’s been a great team effort. On hearing the news Grania said: “The TB team at IHK should be very proud of themselves, they have worked very hard and its great that their hard work has been publicly recognised.”

Dr. Richard and his wife Pat were able to attend and collect the award:

“This award is for all the Ugandan volunteer workers and village health workers who worked so hard with us to improve the lot of their community.  In a land where this is so much unemployment and pitiful wages this a completely different ‘Big Society’ “

This is a programme that we can all be very proud of. For me it was great to be involved at the very start. Thanks to Mark and the original Suubi Trust sponsors who helped to get us started. Thanks to Target TB for its support of the clinical trial. Thanks to VSO for encouraging doctors to come here and help.

Most of all thanks to Bosco, Edith and the Touch Namuwongo team for the daily implementation of health education, preventative measures, diagnostics and treatment, which is making a huge difference in the lives of those living with HIV/AIDs and TB.

*Microscopic Observed Technique (MOT) is a low-technology, low cost ($5) liquid culture-based methodology performed directly on sputum samples to diagnose Tuberculosis. It is simple to implement, especially in the developing world, and the programme is now run by Ugandan doctors, clinical officers, TB nurses and an increasing number of trained volunteers. This has led to increased rates of diagnosis and treatment of TB, and opening the doors to better management of TB not only in Uganda but across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Read more about this programme by clicking here.

Shortlisted for BMJ Group Awards

We are pleased to note that the TB project at IHK has been shortlisted for this year’s BMJ Group Awards under the “Getting Evidence into Practice” category.

Thanks to Dr. Richard for making the submission.

TB is a significant health issue in Uganda and our project, supported initially by Suubi Trust and then by Target TB, has implemented a new TB Lab and completed a clinical trail for the MOT/MODS diagnostic method. You can read more detail about this in the submitted report by clicking here.

Essentially this method enables the team to diagnose TB in about 7-10 days at a cost of just $5. This compares to either the gold standard MGIT test which can cost up to $70 per test or low cost methods that can take about 40 days for a result.

Our thanks to VSO for it’s support over the last few years, first with Dr. Mark who got us started and then Dr. Grania and Dr. Richard who between them managed the clinical trial and the integration of the TB Lab into IHK’s community based health programme Touch Namuwongo.

Read our other Blog posts about this project by clicking here.