Q&A with Professor Laura Shallcross
11 May 2022
We speak to Professor Laura Shallcross, Professor of Public Health in the UCL Institute of Health Informatics and Honorary Consultant at UCLH in the Division of Infection, about her research work which has contributed to UCL's outstanding results in the recent REF2021 results.
What is your role at UCL and what does it involve?
I am Professor of Public Health in the UCL Institute of Health Informatics and hold an Honorary Consultant post at UCLH in the Division of Infection. Before COVID-19 most of my time was spent on data science research to combat antimicrobial resistance and was largely focused on hospitals. During the pandemic I have set up a new programme of research called the Vivaldi study which is now running in >300 care homes across England. Now most of my time is spent discussing our findings from Vivaldi with care home providers, academics and colleagues from the UK Health Security Agency and thinking about how we can learn lessons from COVID-19 to better protect care home staff and residents from infection in the future.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I first worked at UCL in 2006 as a pre-doctoral fellow in Primary Care and Population Health with Professor Dame Anne Johnson and Professor Andrew Hayward. I combined my PhD with junior doctor training in public health and so was back and forth between UCL and various places such as the Department of Health (where I worked for Dame Sally Davies the previous CMO) and Genomics England. One of the great things about public health is that you have the opportunity to work for diverse organisations and interact with people with very different skills, training and backgrounds. This brings its challenges but overall has been a very positive experience for me. I have followed a fairly traditional route at UCL, from clinical lecturer to post-doctoral fellowship to associate professor to professor.
What working achievement/initiative are you most proud of?
I am really proud of our work on the Vivaldi study. We set the study up from scratch and it has genuinely had a significant, positive impact on the national policy response to COVID-19 in care homes. It is so rare to get the chance to influence policy, and it has been a real privilege to work with such a brilliant research team, and to get the chance to work with a diverse group of policymakers, providers and care home staff. To top it off, I was recently awarded a MBE for services to adult social care during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was a huge surprise, and it was wonderful for all the great work that the Vivaldi team has done to be recognised in this way.
Tell us about a project you're working on now that's top of your to-do list?
My main focus is thinking about how we can build on Vivaldi to create a post-pandemic programme of research on infection in care homes.
What other piece of research outside of your own subject area interests you?
Since I was a child I have been really interested in astronomy, so anything to do with astrophysics or cosmology always interests me (even if I don’t understand it).
Name one thing that makes you feel proud to work at UCL?
The best thing about UCL is that you can always find an expert to talk to! It is so easy to collaborate and colleagues are always generous in their willingness to share ideas and help people to develop their careers and research ideas.