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Nyla Haque

Nyla Haque is the Oxford Brain Health Clinical Trial Unit Trial Manager, working on the PETRUSHKA study led by Professor Andrea Cipriani. 

Tell us a little about yourself, and what attracted you to studying/working at the University of Oxford?  

I'm currently working within the Oxford Brain Health Clinical Trials Unit (OBHCTU) based in the Department of Psychiatry. I started my time in Oxford as a Clinical Trials Coordinator within the Translational Neuroscience and Dementia Research Group. I was attracted to the role as I felt I could use my previous experience to contribute to clinical research studies within an academic setting. Prior to this role, I worked as a Clinical Trial Coordinator within a NHS setting. My role involved setting up and coordinating several phase I-III clinical trials investigating novel clinical interventions to modify existing therapies in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment. 

What is your vision for the team/project/research you study or work with?

My hope is to encourage multidisciplinary ways of working to improve trial management as this would benefit everyone involved, including patients, as sharing knowledge is a key factor to improving clinical research. The OBHCTU is committed to not only delivering clinical trials and comprehensive clinical research projects that would enable better patient care for future populations of patients, but they also have an internal training program for their staff. I am one of two members of staff that are part of this bespoke training programme. Tailored to an individual and their studies. This is unique and not always offered to staff working within a CTU. 

What is currently at the top of your to-do list?

In the months ahead, I will be primarily setting up the PETRUSHKA study, led by Professor Andrea Cipriani. In light of the current pandemic, some aspects of my role, including reaching out to NHS clinicians and selecting primary care sites for the trial, will be more challenging. Site visits are currently suspended, but we have adapted to remote ways of working, on site profiling, and condensing some of the more complex tasks in an innovative way. This has been possible due to the design of the OBHCTU Quality Management System. I am fortunate to be able to work from home and will be developing the study protocol and preparing for an ethical review submission in preparation for the start of the trial. 

How did you get to where you are today?

I have to admit that I was somebody who left school not knowing what I wanted to do in my future career. I was fascinated with how the brain works, and decided to study psychology at university. Although I initially wanted to pursue a career within clinical psychology, it was during my time as an Assistant Psychologist as part of a large cohort study that I realised how passionate I felt about clinical research. I always thought that in order to have an impact on patients, I needed to be primarily clinical, but this is not the case and I soon realised, by working in clinical trials, I could still make a positive impact on patients’ lives. Throughout my previous roles, I have worked in the field of dementia prevention & ageing and I am extremely excited about my new role trialling a medical technology, which will be used to aid clinicians in the decision making process of prescribing antidepressants. This study aims to change the current clinical guidelines and practice, and is a great example of how clinical research can translate into changes in the healthcare system. 

Who or what inspires you?

From a very young age, my dad instilled a strong work ethic in my sisters and me. I could see how hard he worked for our family and as a result, I remember being desperate to get a part-time job as soon as I turned 16. He had four daughters, and he encouraged us to value our independence, to dream big and never let anyone tell us that you could not do something. The lessons he taught us from a very young age have stayed with me and I truly believe they are what drive me to be the best I can be. 

If you were not in your study programme/job currently, what would you like to be doing?

During my time at university, I had a placement year working in a neurorehabilitation service for adults who had suffered traumatic and acute brain injury. This placement had a profound impact on me and I knew from then on that I wanted to build a career with a focus on changing the lives of those impacted by life-long illness and disability. I am not sure exactly what I would be doing as an alternative job, but it would definitely be contributing to discovering novel treatments or developing support systems for those who need it the most.