Be still my heart – Rohin Francis joins Real Scientists!

We’re very happy to welcome our next curator, Dr. Rohin Francis (@MedCrisis), to Real Scientists! Rohin is a research fellow & cardiologist at University College London, UK. As usual, we asked Rohin to answer our usual set of questions, and his responses are below. Rohin did also provide us with a bio (much appreciated! We dont’ always get these from our curators), and we couldn’t not post it, due to its amazingness:

You’ve all heard the name, now meet the legend himself. Dr Rohin Francis is such a celebrated and unique doctor that he was the inspiration for House, the EmergencyRohin4 Medical Hologram, George Clooney and Dr Zoidberg. Stories abound of how he can defibrillate patients in cardiac arrest using only his hands, which are insured by Lloyd’s of London for six whole English pounds. CLEAR! He once smiled at a patient in crashing pulmonary oedema and that patient won the Boston Marathon later that day. So uncanny were his doctoration abilities that speculation became rife he must be a secret Deep Learning project from IBM, such that he had to publicly challenge Watson to a game of competition diagnostic-chess. 3 agonising days later, he emerged triumphant and Watson was so traumatised he attempted a prostatectomy on a wheel of cheese. 

Dr Francis has 64 diseases named after him, of which 63 are not real and the 64th is that feeling you get when you look at a clock and the first second appears a bit longer than the other seconds. Sound familiar? Congratulations, you have Francis Dropsy and your black bile must be expunged post haste.

Dr Rohin Francis finds writing about himself in the 3rd person quite challenging.

See? I told you it was amazing. Anyway – here are Rohin’s answers to our questionnaire!

How did you end up in science?  In contrast to the amazing curators that have preceded me, I feel a bit of an imposter saying I’m a scientist as aside from a PCRtastic genetics project as an undergrad, I’ve spent most of my career being a full-time doctor. I have only recently embarked upon proper doctoral (different kind of doctor) research, at University College London.
I was a sciencey little geek at school. Many would argue, with a reasonable degree of validity, that I remain all three of those things. My first love was physics (don’t tell medicine but it still is) yet my maths was pretty ropey (don’t worry I only use it to calculate doses of potentially lethal drugs these days – nothing serious) so decided medicine offered a nice mix of many things.
I’ve decided to come out of full-time doctoring to undertake research to really get stuck into an area that interests me, hopefully offer something new and relive my heady student days by downloading some garage tunes off KaZaA onto my iPod and hitting a Scream pub for Thursday night £1 a pint. And then complaining it’s too loud and falling asleep in the corner.

Why did you choose your current field?  I tinker with tickers. I knew the heart was where my home was early on in medical school because let’s face it, it’s as cool as hell. And blood is pretty much the only bodily fluid that isn’t utterly disgusting, so thankfully I don’t have to deal with the others very often.
I’d say maybe 95% of the reason I enjoy cardiology is when people ask me what I do, I lean in and say “baby, I mend broken hearts”. Then my wife clips me around the ear and reminds me what an idiot I am. In all seriousness, it’s an amazing feeling to treat someone whose heart may have stopped beating, end their heart attack and watch them walk out of hospital or laugh with their family a few days later. It’s a privilege to be able to do the job.
My interests within cardiology are coronary artery disease, heart attacks, cardiogenic shock (where the heart suddenly pumps very weakly, normally due to a heart attack), mechanical cardiac support and transplantation.

Tell us about your work! I’m studying people who have suffered a major heart attack, when an artery supplying their heart blocks completely. They are brought to hospital as an emergency and have their artery unblocked. Whilst they’re in hospital I take some blood and perform a scan on them, and I repeat both 6 months later. I’m using a hybrid of two imaging modalities, positron-emission tomography (PET) and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (CMR). I am studying a number of different variables in both scans and hoping to learn more about the inflammatory process and metabolic changes that occur at a cellular level during a heart attack.

Why should the lay public care about your work? It’s easy to get myself motivated for this work. Heart disease continues to be the biggest killer in the world (WHO). The human race is keeping us cardiologists in work by getting larger and less active, triggering a cascade of metabolic problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal blood lipids and of course, cardiovascular disease.

Do you have any interesting external/extracurricular obligations? Teaching has been an interest for a decade and I’ve imparted my limited knowledge onto unfortunate students from Cambridge University and Imperial College for quite a few years, alongside teaching junior doctors on several courses. I am now working towards a qualification from Cambridge. I’m a former Chief Resident and dipped my toe into medical politics (and rapidly removed said toe).
I used to write a lot years ago and lapsed into laziness. Thankfully I joined Twitter in October 2015 which has led to new opportunities such as writing a few articles, joining the @Heart_BMJ social media team and setting up a monthly medical journal club with several other Tweeting doctors, @GIMJClub.

Any interesting hobbies you’d like to share? I like racing cars, racing motorbikes (just crashed: but don’t worry, I’m a registered organ donor with at least 3 viable organs), racing autorickshaws, racing around a cricket pitch, racing to see who can eat the most chicken wings, racing through DIY projects, racing to the emergency department after injuring myself in aforementioned DIY project, racing home before my wife finds out what I’ve done (again).
I’ve recently become a father to a boy that I now spend my time turning into 1. The musician I always thought I should’ve been 2. A living weapon in human form like Dhalsim or Sonny Chiba and 3. The breakdancer I always thought I should’ve been. The rest of the time I spend chastising people who force their failed dreams upon their poor children.

What do you do on your ideal day off? The evening would begin at the gentlemen’s club, where we oft discuss Wittgenstein over a game of backgammon.

> Mr Simpson, it’s a felony to lie to RealScientists.

OK we sit in Barney’s car eating packets of mustard, you happy?Rohin2

If you are a strange person who feels you’d like more of this nonsense, you can find me at, (sporadically updated) or (under construction).

Please welcome Rohin to Real Scientists!

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