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Q & A with Dr Paul Brennan

We caught up with Dr Paul Brennan from the University of Edinburgh to hear more about his research.

What inspired you to become a researcher?

In neurosurgery, there are many diseases that we do not understand, which limits the effectiveness of the treatments that we can offer. I enjoy learning more about the mechanisms that underlie how we work and matching these to the symptoms and problems people present within the clinic, with the aim to come up with new treatments. What excites you about your job? I enjoy meeting patients and helping to come up with a plan for them. I enjoy operating! It’s also exciting to be able to combine my clinical work with an active role in research.

Can you give us an idea of your typical day?

There are few typical days in neurosurgery. We do have a rough plan for the week in terms of operating, clinics, ward rounds and other meetings, but a large proportion of our workload is on people who are acutely unwell, so there is only so much forward planning that can be done. This makes combining research with my clinical roles especially challenging.

“I am involved in a number of different laboratory and clinical research projects and collaborations. They are all targeted at different brain tumour problems.”

Dr Paul Brennan

Why is more money needed for research?

Science is expensive and we can test more ideas, more quickly, with more money. Fundraising is what turns ideas into research and research into new treatments. It’s not just about the physical money that we need to buy equipment, it’s about the people who raise the money, because their experiences help determine the research priorities that guide our research.

What is the potential of the work you’re doing?

The project funded by the Brain Tumour Charity is particularly important, because it will help us understand the whole process of diagnosis of adult brain tumours. We know that there can be delays in getting a diagnosis. This is the first time that a research group have systematically analysed every aspect of the journey from first onset of symptoms, through GP appointments to diagnosis. We will use this information to come up with a new tool for GPs to help identify more quickly the people who may have a brain tumour and benefit from more urgent investigations.

If you did a fundraising event, what would it be?

My most memorable fundraising event in the past was running in the costume head of a 20 legged marathon millipede in the London Marathon. I would certainly enjoy another running or cycling challenge, but perhaps I’d raise more money trying something different that I’m not very good at. Baking and cooking come to mind.