Obesity expert appointed professor at Derry’s School of Medicine

Ulster University has appointed Professor Alex Miras as the first Randox Professor of Medicine at the new medical school in Derry.

Leading obesity authority Professor Miras, who joins UU from Imperial College London, is a Clinician Scientist with a proven track record in the mechanisms through which lifestyle interventions, pharmacotherapy, bariatric surgery and medical devices improve weight, metabolic control and diabetes-related microvascular complications.

The Randox Professor of Medicine is a clinical academic post providing educational leadership and teaching alongside research.

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Professor Miras will work clinically at the Western Health and Social Care Trust, based at Altnagelvin Hospital, where he will be an important contributor to the Department of Endocrinology.

Randox Professor of Medicine, Dr Alex Miras

Prof. Miras will develop his research portfolio in line with the research strategy of the School of Medicine and the ambitions included in the Health Research Institute-THRIVE (HRI-THRIVE) Project as part of the Derry City and Strabane City Deal.

His research will focus on the translation of discoveries made by researchers at Ulster University to new treatments for obesity and diabetes and the identification of markers that help personalise treatments to individual patient characteristics.

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Prof. Miras commented: “It was a myriad of factors that led me to join Ulster University; the proven global impact of their personalised medicine research, the connections with the Western Trust and Health and Social Care more widely; and with private industry, such as Randox, underpinned by the hub of health professions and health science education they are building in the city, all of which centre around improving patient care. I am particularly keen to enhance the HSC-Academia-Industry interface for everyone’s benefit.

“In Northern Ireland, there are currently no HSC services for obesity and that presents a real clinical challenge, a challenge that I am keen to address using my skills, knowledge and experience of obesity care. Medical and surgical treatments for obesity have been shown to improve quality of life, reduce morbidity and mortality and are very cost-effective. Local clinicians are seeing an increase in those seeking bariatric surgery abroad and returning home with life threatening complications. We need to support patients to put in place treatment plans to support their weight loss at home.”

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Prof. Miras grew up in Greece but has lived and worked in London for more than 25 years and moved to Derry just this month.

Professor Louise Dubras, Foundation Dean of the School of Medicine, welcomed Professor Miras to the Magee campus this week.

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She said: “As the first cohort of future doctors complete their first year at the School of Medicine, it is an opportune time to look to the future, with the arrival of our second cohort of students alongside the next phase of staff recruitment. We are delighted to welcome Alex to the School, the campus and the city.

“The Randox Professor of Medicine is a unique and exciting opportunity and Professor Miras’ proven teaching, research and clinical experience will shape the direction of clinical and translational research and inform the teaching of our future doctors within the School of Medicine.”

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Dr Catherine McDonnell, Medical Director at the Western Trust, says she is delighted that Professor Miras will be joining the Endocrinology and Diabetes teams at Altnagelvin Hospital.

“Obesity is one of the biggest health challenges we face across Northern Ireland,” she said. “Professor Miras will bring a breadth of specialist knowledge, clinical and research skills which will benefit patients of this area. His national and international profile offers an exciting opportunity to develop enhanced obesity services across the province. We look forward to welcoming him.”

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The Randox Professor of Medicine role is supported by £1.2 million in funding for medical education and research from Randox Laboratories Ltd.

Dr Peter FitzGerald, Managing Director, Randox Laboratories, said: “We are delighted to welcome Professor Miras as the inaugural Randox Professor of Medicine at Ulster University’s School of Medicine. These are exciting times in the advancement of early diagnosis and preventive treatments across a wide range of healthcare conditions, particularly in the field of obesity and diabetes, which threatens an increasing burden upon our already overstretched healthcare services.

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“We look forward to the leadership and innovation Professor Miras will, undoubtedly, bring to this role and to supporting his work in early diagnosis and intervention. We know that, in such circumstances, patient outcomes are improved and the burden on our healthcare service can be greatly reduced. This is a very important role at a critical time and we wish Professor Miras every success.”