Meet the methodologist: Kile Green
Kile joined the NIHR Newcastle In Vitro Diagnostics Co-operative (NIHR Newcastle MIC) in February 2020 as a mixed methodologist. This means his role at the MIC combines quantitative research, where he collects and analyses numerical data, with qualitative research that seeks to understand human behaviour.
How have you found your move to the MIC?
The MIC is a lovely team. The senior methodologists, directors and managers are really engaging and approachable. They seem genuinely invested in the group and each individual member’s training and progression.
Aside from the group, it is very different from the kind of work that I was doing previously, where I was focusing on a very specific area of research. At the MIC, this week I could be working on prostate cancer, next week it could be fungal infections. After that, it could be stroke research or mental illness. We can be working on five or 10 different projects at once. I really need to be on my toes and be flexible to make sure everything is progressing! It is a very different approach, but one I am really enjoying!
Can you tell us a bit about your background and why you wanted to join the MIC?
I grew up in the West Midlands, and then moved all the way to the East Midlands to Nottingham for my undergraduate degree! I studied biochemistry and biological chemistry. Afterwards I wanted to move into medical research and I came across the Newcastle University Masters programme.
For my master’s project, I worked with Professor Matthew Collin’s group on understanding complications with stem cell transplantation. I liked the role and the group so much that I worked with them as a technician and then as a PhD student. I used NanoString technology to profile the genetic make-up of patient samples. I then joined Professor Muzz Haniffa’s group and used cutting-edge gene sequencing techniques to study human development at a single cell level as part of a global research initiative.
When I saw the opportunity to join the MIC, I thought it would be great to apply my previous experience and be at the forefront of medical research and innovation. I think it is great that the work of the MIC helps to direct changes to the NHS and have an impact on patients’ lives.
What does your work at the MIC involve and why is it important?
I am a mixed methodologist and I think the combination is really useful. Sometimes you do need hard figures and yes or no answers. For example, I have done work on some interactive web applications for helping NHS hospitals plan for staff absence based on the prevalence of COVID-19 and the accuracy of the tests. However, currently I spend around 70% of my time speaking to clinicians, healthcare workers and the public to understand the human aspects behind the numbers and the lived experiences that drive decision-making. This work really determines whether a new diagnostic is going to be useful in practice or not. You do not necessarily get this sort of information when you just look at figures.
What have you enjoyed the most about this work?
It’s got to be the objectiveness of it. We are essentially paid to tell the truth and we don’t have to gloss over anything. We are just telling it how it is for the betterment of the NHS and the company’s future decision-making.
What have been the challenges with the work?
The entire time I have been here has been during the pandemic. Therefore, it has brought challenges for the MIC and our work. Staff pressures, time constraints, and the urgency of everything that was going on. Trying to ask clinical staff for time was tough and I am grateful for all their support.
What are the three take home messages you would like the public to know from this work?
Evidence is the basis of science and medicine. From the initial experiments in the laboratory to considerations for NHS adoption. A researcher needs the best, most appropriate evidence to drive the innovation. You could have what seems to be a fantastic test. However, if the evidence is not there, it is never going to progress. In our work that means finding, the right people, condition, and place in a healthcare system to get that appropriate evidence.
A test does not have to be perfect to be useful and a test is rarely 100% accurate. It is very important to find the most suitable context and population for the test and that will link with the accuracy of the test and the repercussions of a false result.
The importance of public engagement in healthcare. There are loads of challenges in medical research and it can take a lot of time before scientific advancements can be available in practice. I think having the public aware of those is really the best thing we can do to get those innovations out as quickly as possible.
What is coming next with your work?
Recently I have been working with the North East and Yorkshire Genomic Laboratory Hub. The purpose of these hubs is to improve equity of access across the UK for genetic testing. It is also aiming to identify new genetic indicators of disease through collecting data from patients who are going through this process.
We are seeing more artificial intelligence (AI) based innovations as well. AI does not have to be the Sci Fi villain that Arnold Schwarzenegger has to go and shutdown! It could help with time-consuming tasks and take the pressure off healthcare workers so they can focus on patient aspects. We will definitely be seeing more AI coming into the NHS in the near future.
Why do you think patient and public involvement and engagement (PPIE) is important in research?
Coming to the MIC has been quite an eye opener because of how well integrated PPIE is throughout the work. The feedback that we have had through the MIC insight panel has been phenomenal. The group’s ideas are outside of our normal kind of thinking processes. The data coming out of the Multiverse Lab could be ground-breaking as well. I think getting involved in any kind of research in any way is useful and I believe everybody involved will get something out of it!
Outside of work, what are you looking forward to during the next few months?
I would like to see the Christmas market up again to get in the mood for the festive season. The surf forecast looks pretty good so I would like to do a bit of surfing too!