New QUOD Colleague Questionnaire: Philippa Wren – QUOD & Transplant Research Groups Administrative Assistant

In June, QUOD welcomed our new QUOD & Transplant Research Groups Administrative Assistant – Philippa Wren. Philippa has kindly agreed to share a bit more about herself and her role at QUOD:

Philippa Wren

What were you doing most recently before joining QUOD?
Surviving lockdown and home schooling my beautiful daughters, Grace 9, and Evelyn 2. My previous role involved PA, Administrative and Secretarial support for a Regional Manager. I also have a background in Marketing and Events organising.

What interested you about working with QUOD?
I have missed working within a team and hoped to work within a reputable academic organisation. I have always been fascinated with surgery and liked the thought of working somewhere that makes a difference. The two together seemed like the perfect opportunity for me..

What does your role in QUOD involve?
I provide administrative support for the QUOD and Transplant Research teams. I maintain the contact@quod inbox, social media platforms and website as well as take minutes for various meetings. I also place orders, liaise with suppliers of lab consumables and support Prof Ploeg’s EA in looking after his diary, organising his meetings and travel arrangements.

Lightning round time. Tea or coffee?
Tea – I love it!

Favourite place in Oxford?
There are so many. I would have to say the view of Oxford Skyline from the top of South Parks.

Best holiday trip ever?
Venice. There’s no other place quite like it.

Primary COVID-19 lockdown survival method?
Lots of long walks… and wine!

Finally, what kinds of inquiries should people bring to you, and how best can they reach you?
All inquiries are welcome. If I can’t answer it I can redirect you to someone who can. You can contact me via email contact@quod.org.uk or philippa.wren@nds.ox.ac.uk

Spotlight on a QUOD Colleague – Maggie Stevens

by Susan Patchett

For this edition of the QUOD Newsletter I was delighted to be able to catch up with Maggie Stevens, ODT Specialist Nurse for Research at NHS Blood and Transplant.  Maggie is responsible for the operational and service delivery for the great number of research studies that NHS Blood and Transplant operate and support alongside QUOD.

Hers is a varied role and involves setting up Specialist Nurse training, carrying out risk assessments for new studies, and helping teams draw up action plans and standard operating procedures (SOPS) ensuring that they comply with their ethics approval, regulatory requirements, and are fit for purpose for Specialist Nurses in Organ Donation (SNODs) to follow safely and effectively.

When I asked Maggie if she could describe a typical day she told me that there was no such thing.  One day she can be going through a risk assessment with the ODT Research Team and Quality Assurance for a large clinical trial and identifying potential operational, regulatory and safety risks.  Other days she will be auditing consent records to be sure all has been carried out to the letter.  She meets regularly with research leads in all the regions, ensuring they are up to date with studies that are being set up and also cascading training that they will undertake with their teams. 

Problem solving is a large part of her role and can range from SNODs raising issues if they aren’t comfortable with a particular process, to a shortage of boxes. 

Maggie works very closely with QUOD and helps us iron out issues that may arise in terms of sample collection, logistics, and other operational problems.  She forms the crucial link between QUOD and the SNODs.  After QUOD’s activity was paused during the first wave of COVID-19, she helped us with the mammoth task of restarting operations, updating SNOD training and finding ways around getting QUOD boxes delivered when so many personnel were working remotely between on-call shifts.

The elements of her job that she likes the most are the people and the research and innovation – ‘There is always wonderful new research going on such as the SIGNET trial and I find contributing to this work is really satisfying.’  She also said that her job is made very special by her colleagues, Hannah Tolley (OTDT Research Project Manager) and Emma Lawson (OTDT Innovation and Research Lead)). They work closely as a team linking in with other stakeholders to ensure that ODT research is facilitated safely and effectively. They also sit together alongside QUOD’s National Management Team.

I asked her if nursing was the career she had envisaged.  She laughed and said when she decided on nursing she was actually working at an agricultural college in Chelmsford, driving tractors and fruit picking.

Like all of us through the pandemic, Maggie has had to decamp her office to her home but she said she was one of many NHSBT staff who couldn’t bear sitting still when there were those working themselves to the bone on the front line so, she got herself deployed back to her original A&E department for six weeks.  She loved being back with her former colleagues.  I asked if she felt worried during that stint and she said ‘you just do what you have to do.’

Maggie Stevens is not all about work and loves an adventure in the great outdoors.  She has climbed Ben Nevis with colleagues for organ donation week and spent a couple of months travelling alone around Alaska where she saw whales and bears and met some wild and wonderful people that she will never forget.  She is also a fan of rock music and has tickets to see the Foo Fighters very soon!

Meet the Team: Sheba Ziyenge, Data Analyst and Coordinator

In September, QUOD welcomed our new Data Analyst and Coordinator Sheba Ziyenge. Sheba has kindly agreed to share a bit more about herself and her role at QUOD:

What were you doing most recently before joining QUOD?
I was doing my Master’s degree in Cognitive Neuroscience in Barcelona.

What interested you about working with QUOD?
From my prior experiences, I knew I wanted to transition to using my data management, statistical and analysis skills in scientific research. QUOD stood out to me for their fantastic work in supporting contemporary transplantation research.

What does your role in QUOD involve?
My main duties include the management and development of QUOD databases, the extraction and allocation of biobank samples to research projects, supporting researchers with analysis and reporting. I also produce periodic statistics about QUOD activities for stakeholders and collaborate with NHSBT to process data relevant for the research projects.

Lightning round time. Tea or coffee?
Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon!

Favourite place in Oxford?
I love walking by the river up to Christ Church Meadows, it’s especially nice in the summer.

Ideal holiday destination?
I love travelling so this is a hard one! My favourite place I’ve been to so far is Mexico, and I have my eyes set on New Zealand and Hawaii for my next big trips!

Primary COVID-19 lockdown survival method?
Enjoying the little things such as burning scented candles, listening to nice music and looking after my plants.

Finally, what kinds of inquiries should people bring to you, and how best can they reach you?
I can be reached at sheba.ziyenge@nds.ox.ac.uk, I’ll be happy to help with any QUOD data related queries.

Meet the Team: Bhee Bellew, Transplant Research Project Manager

At the beginning of September we welcomed our new Transplant Research Project Manager, Bhee Bellew. You can look forward to hearing more from Bhee as she settles into her new role, but for now here’s a short introduction:

What were you doing most recently before joining QUOD?
Decorating!  HR emailed to chase the photo required for my University Card, so underneath the dress I threw on there’s a paint-splattered t-shirt.  Work-wise, before my between-jobs break I’d spent many years at the University of Oxford, most recently managing a large grant in the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages.

What interested you about working with QUOD?
I’d applied for a number of roles when my last contract ended, and was in the fortunate position of having some options to choose from. I imagined waking on a dark, wet February morning during a difficult work week (all jobs have them), and which role would most motivate me to get out of bed…and QUOD was the answer. It’s the opportunity to support research with such fantastic impact.  Also, everyone seemed really nice at my interview!

What does your role in QUOD involve?
It’s my 8th day in the job so this is question I’m currently asking other people!  I support Professor Ploeg in managing his portfolio of research projects in transplantation.  This includes maintaining core project documents, financial administration, meeting arrangements, helping prepare reports for funders, and supporting bids for additional funding. In addition to QUOD, I provide support for the Consortium for Organ Preservation in Europe (COPE).

Lightning round time. Tea or coffee?
Tea.  The only acceptable place for coffee is in tiramisu.

Favourite place in Oxford?
Wytham woods.

Best holiday trip ever?
New Zealand. I’m fascinated by geothermal landscapes, and bathing in natural hot water is wonderful.  Easier to get to on a regular basis, I love the Isle of Wight.

Primary COVID-19 lockdown survival method?
My favourite yoga studio’s classes live-streamed to my garden.

Finally, what kinds of inquiries should people bring to you, and how best can they reach you?
Email me at bhee.bellew@nds.ox.ac.uk with QUOD admin or finance queries.

Meet the Team: Dr. Sarah Cross, National Operations Coordinator

After seven years, QUOD’s founding National Operations Coordinator, Sandrine Rendel, moved on earlier this year to a new role at Imperial College. We remain deeply grateful for all that she has done to establish and grow QUOD! Fortunately, we have found an excellent new Coordinator in Dr. Sarah Cross, and we are quite excited for the depth and breadth of experience that she brings to QUOD. You’ll be hearing much more from her as she settles into the role, but here’s a little introduction.

What were you doing most recently before joining QUOD?
I have spent the past 14 years working as a Research Scientist in Islet Transplantation and as the Deputy Manager of the Human Islet Isolation Facility here in Oxford. This involved many long hours isolating islets for both clinical transplantation and research purposes, as well as leading a small team of researchers studying the impact of donor variables on isolated islet quality and function.

What interested you about working with QUOD?
Having been immersed in the field of transplantation for my entire career, I have seen the incredible impact that transplantation has on the lives of recipients. I have been aware of QUOD for a while and wanted to use the knowledge and experiences gained through my academic background to help drive QUOD forward to fulfil its amazing potential as a national bioresource to facilitate world-class research.  

What does your role in QUOD involve?
I’m only a few weeks into the role so I’m currently discovering this myself! However, my main duties involve coordinating the QUOD team both here in Oxford and at our hub sites throughout the country. I am responsible for the governance of QUOD and all the regulatory aspects of the QUOD biobank.

Lightning round time. Milk chocolate or dark?
Both, all chocolate is greatly appreciated!

Favourite place in Oxford?
As a keen runner I enjoy discovering the quieter parts of Oxford – an early summer’s morning run around Christchurch Meadow is idyllic.

Ideal holiday destination?
I absolutely adore New York and am fortunate to have a local guide whenever I visit as my brother lives there. 

Primary COVID-19 lockdown survival method?
I’m extremely thankful that I moved house last year to a home that has a separate office for me to shut myself away in and a lovely garden so the kids can run around and burn off their endless energy!

Finally, what kinds of inquiries should people bring to you, and how best can they reach you?
Please get in touch with any queries via my email – sarah.cross@nds.ox.ac.uk. If I don’t have the answer myself, I’ll pass it on to one of the other very knowledgeable members of the QUOD team!

Meet the Team: Suzannah Laws, QUOD Administrative Assistant

In March 2020, QUOD was very excited to welcome our new Administrative Assistant, Suzannah Laws. We are already thrilled with the impact that she’s having on the team, and many of you will already have received various messages from her. You can look forward to meeting her at upcoming QUOD-related events; in the meantime, Suzi has kindly agreed to share a bit more about herself and her role at QUOD.

What were you doing most recently before joining QUOD?
Before joining QUOD I worked on a school-based research trial at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford

What interested you about working with QUOD?
It’s exciting to be involved in world-leading research and to work in a multidisciplinary team.

What does your role in QUOD involve?
I provide administrative support to the QUOD research and management team. This involves ordering laboratory supplies, taking minutes at management meetings and assisting with communications.

Lightning round time. Tea or coffee?
Neither, hot chocolate!

Favourite place in Oxford?
Ultimate Picture Palace Cinema!

Best holiday trip ever?
Graduation trip to Tallinn, Estonia.

Primary COVID-19 lockdown survival method?
Yoga With Adrienne on YouTube.

Finally, what kinds of inquiries should people bring to you, and how best can they reach you?
Contact me via suzannah.laws@nds.ox.ac.uk with any enquires regarding QUOD meetings and orders.