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Gastro Clinical Specialist Nurse recognised with special award

A Gastroenterology Clinical Specialist Nurse has been recognised for her outstanding leadership skills with a special award.

Iola Thomas received the Novice Researcher Award at this year’s Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s Research & Innovation Excellence Awards.

Iola has been praised for her involvement in the recent Clarity Study. This is looking at the impact of two biologic medicines on COVID-19 infection, vaccination and immune response in people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

The study gave the research team the opportunity to investigate the impact of biologic and immunomodulatory therapy on COVID-19 infection and immunity in patients with IBD.

Alice Thomas, Research Team Manager at Ysbyty Gwynedd, who nominated Iola said: “Iola has always been very keen to promote and participate in clinical research and actively supports the Research department in screening potential studies for feasibility.

“When the Clarity study was submitted for review in the height of the pandemic Iola was keen to participate taking on the role of Principle Investigator.

“She proactively worked close with the Ysbyty Gwynedd Research Team in opening the study, identifying the relevant patients and supporting the Research Team.

“It has been a pleasure to finally open a study for Iola and her patient population. We managed to recruit 45 patients in a three-month period exceeding our target of 30.

“We look forward to supporting Iola again in the future and would encourage her to be an ambassador for promoting Clinical Nurse Specialists to take on the role of Principle Investigators.”

Iola says she is very proud and humbled to receive the award and proud to have been part of the team working on this study.

She said: “It has been a team effort from the outset. The research team, led by Alice Thomas along with Caroline Mulvaney Jones, Julia Roberts and Jeannie Bishop have worked tirelessly to collate the data for this study; within a very limited time frame.

“Being part of a multi-site study at the height of the COVID 19 pandemic was challenging. Patients were fearful of coming into hospital for their routine medications, but they were all extremely keen to participate and I am especially grateful to them and proud of their desire to be involved. I would also like to thank the team at the IV therapy suite at Llandudno General Hospital, for embracing the study from day one. At the beginning of the pandemic, we had little knowledge of the effect of Covid 19 on patients receiving biological therapy for inflammatory bowel disease. However, the information collated by the study leads will help inform policy makers on matters relating to biological therapy and Coronavirus.

“I was surprised to have been nominated, but I’m very proud and humbled to have received the award. Diolch yn fawr iawn i bawb.”

Runner-up in this category was Joanne Goss who was recognised for her contribution to the Hearing Aids foR tinnitus and mild hearing loss (HEAR IT trial) that aims to answer whether hearing aid/s are effective in helping people with mild hearing loss and tinnitus to make their tinnitus symptoms.

Associate Director for Research & Innovation at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Lynne Grundy, added: “We are delighted to recognise our researchers and innovators who are making a real difference to patient care.

“The judges had a very hard job identifying the winners as there is so much good work going on, and the awards are well deserved by all.

“We are now looking forward to offering these awards each year.”

Director of Health and Care Research Wales, Professor Kieran Walshe, said: 

“We want to congratulate Iola, and thank all our research staff who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to continue essential research work. We are proud of the efforts staff have made to continue providing world-class care to patients in all disease areas.”