When you talk to Rebecca Fitzgerald, it’s hard not to be struck by the sheer quantity and quality of projects and organisations to which this ‘clinician scientist’ is committed. Appointed in 2014 as Professor of Cancer Prevention with the University of Cambridge, Rebecca has a formidable CV focussed on research and medical practice in gastroenterology and oncology. Professor Fitzgerald currently leads a world-beating research team at the MRC Cancer Unit, tackling early detection and treatment of cancer of the oesophagus. She combines this with supervising for undergraduates and directing the studies of medical students at Trinity College, Cambridge, and a position as an Honorary Consultant in Gastroenterology and Oncology at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. Astonishingly, in 2016, she has found time to become a trustee of the Evelyn Trust – one of the trust’s two medically-qualified trustees.
“When I was approached to become a trustee, I found it hard to refuse because the Evelyn Trust does such fantastic work. I was drawn to the work of the trust as it’s a highly respected Cambridge institution that has supported some truly ground-breaking research – including a project of mine at the Cancer Unit working on ‘biomarkers’ that reveal the presence of squamous cell cancer of the oesophagus at an early stage. This cancer is very common in developing countries where they are keen to do screening in areas with a high disease burden. We previously developed a non-invasive procedure using CytospongeTM - a small sponge that’s easily swallowed in a capsule, expands in the stomach and is then drawn back up the throat carrying the samples we need. Funds from the Evelyn Trust have been critical to adapt these biomarkers to samples collected using the CytosongeTM.
“Colleagues of mine have also benefitted from the trust’s generous research grants, so I felt that, if I became a trustee, I could give something back. When I started to get involved in reviewing the medical research applications, I realised how essential it is for the trust to have advice from clinicians to help them target their funding at the ideas with the most potential,” says Rebecca.
“I’m a very new trustee, but it is rewarding to work with such a diverse group of talented and dedicated trustees who all bring something different - but complementary - to the discussions and decision-making. I’m looking forward to learning more about the health and wellbeing projects we support around Cambridgeshire. I live in a village just outside Cambridge with my husband and four children, so local community life is important to me and I know that local charities and voluntary groups use our funding to do vital work helping individuals face day-to-day challenges.”
When Rebecca is not in the lab, or working with patients, she indulges her passion for music. As an undergraduate, Rebecca was a Choral Scholar and now her whole family enjoy performing music at home and in local groups. “That shared passion brings us together as a family and encourages us to make more time for music and for each other in our busy lives.”
You can read more about Rebecca’s research here: