Meet Chris Lamb


Chris is a Consultant Gastroenterologist at the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals and a Principal Investigator in the Translational & Clinical Research Institute at Newcastle University. He has a specialist interest in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and his research focuses on the intestinal immune system, how this maintains health or can drive inflammation, and how our immune system interacts with, and is shaped by gut microbiota (bacteria, viruses and fungi). A previous Wellcome Trust Clinical Fellow in Translational Medicine and Therapeutics and an NIHR Clinical Lecturer, Chris is now the Chief Investigator for the national IBD-RESPONSE and CD-metaRESPONSE studies funded by the Medical Research Council and Helmsley Charitable Trust which aim to use machine learning to develop a predictive model of response to immune modifying therapy in IBD based on gut microbiome and metabonomic data. Chris is the lead author of the British Society of Gastroenterology guidelines for the management of IBD and is the Secretary of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease section committee of the British Society of Gastroenterology.

What attracted you to a career in gastroenterology/hepatology?

The most attractive thing about gastroenterology as a specialty was the diversity of clinical practice. I liked the fact that you care for patients across the age spectrum, with a real variety of diagnoses, ranging from inflammatory diseases to non-inflammatory conditions and cancers. Within one specialty, there are multiple systems to consider. In gastroenterology the impact of the condition is so heterogenous and as much as I find the biology underpinning pathogenesis and treatment fascinating, it is understanding and minimising the impact on everyday life that drives my enthusiasm for each clinic I attend. From early in training, what I loved about gastroenterology was the combination of medicine with practical applications like endoscopy and increasingly in the last 10 years, the ability to become more involved in clinical and laboratory research with great potential to improve the lives of the patients we treat.

What advancement in gastroenterology/hepatology are you most excited about and why?

My area of interest is inflammatory bowel disease and there are two aspects that I’ve been most excited about in the last few years. One is our understanding of the biological processes which are important in disease onset and progression. There is still a lot to learn, but we are getting there and new technologies are helping to make big leaps forward. The other is the exciting progress in development of treatments for inflammatory bowel disease and increasingly, those treatments are being developed specifically with inflammatory bowel disease in mind. This takes us to the big unanswered question for the future; how to use these drugs most effectively in individual patients. This is personalised or precision medicine which is where we are going to make big advances in the next 5 years and that’s a real research passion for me.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Without doubt the people I get to work with. Both the patients and the professional relationships I have. The varied nature of these interactions has always been something that attracted me to clinical academia. I love the fact that in the morning, I get to do an endoscopy list or a clinic where I work with patients and the multidisciplinary team including IBD and endoscopy nurses and my consultant colleagues. In the afternoon, I’ll be in the lab working with my scientist colleagues thinking about the next research project that we are planning or reviewing data fresh from the bench.

What is the one thing you would change?

Not so much something I would change, but that I would like to support is for everyone to have the opportunity, both in clinical training and following completion, to develop an area of interest that isn’t necessarily part of the standard clinical job plan. Whether that is to undertake research and to receive mentorship, or to develop as an educator or leader, or perhaps to work with a professional Society or Royal College. I think the clinical job is so busy now that it is sometimes hard to find that time and to be supported to do so. I’d love to see change and I think a Society like the BSG and its network of members and infrastructure can be central to making this a reality.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given in your career?

To find mentors that will support you. People often assume that you have one mentor in your career or at a particular timepoint in your career. I’ve been advised and found it extremely useful to have multiple mentors that I can go to and rely on for different aspects of my professional and personal life. Many of those mentors have been consistent throughout the last decade or more and it has been a real pleasure to be able to interact with them at different points in my career, and also in their careers too. Mentorship can be mutually beneficial; it is not always a one-way street, and sometimes the best and most fulfilling relationships are bidirectional.

What does being a BSG member mean to you?

The BSG has been really important throughout my professional working life. I became involved as a trainee and have stayed part of the BSG ever since. It provides networking, which is really crucial for support, to share experiences and build resilience. The BSG also provides fantastic clinical guidance on how to best treat our patients. The Society provides up to date and clinically relevant education for its members, delivered by its members, and that is something we should all be proud of.

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