FESO Interview with Alastair Webb

Last year, the PR Committee interviewed prominent young ESO members in a well received monthly series featured in the newsletter. In 2019, by request, the PR Committee will interview an ESO Fellow (FESO) to feature in the newsletter each month.

To qualify as an FESO, members must demonstrate scientific quality and a willingness to actively volunter in ESO. There are no age requirements, but FESO must meet minimum standards. FESO receive additioanl benefits, including participation in the Council of Fellows. Visit our website for more infomraiton on how to distinguish yourself as a FESO.

We hope you will enjoy getting to know the Fellows who participate in the 2019 interview series and thank them in advance for taking the time to share with our readers.

To kick off this series, we have Alastair Webb, University of Oxford, UK. Alastair has served as a speaker at ESO Conferences and an active member and former Chair of several ESO committees. Currently he is a member of the Conference Planning Group (CPG), the PR Committee, Education Committee and the Scientific Abstract Grading Subcommittee.

What are your main fields of interest in stroke medicine and research?

 I am interested in the interaction between the changes in blood pressure, cardiovascular physiology and cerebral blood flow, aiming to identify novel factors that increase the risk of acute stroke, chronic cerebrovascular injury and resulting cognitive impairment in order to develop new treatment approaches. My work is grounded in epidemiology, particularly the risk relationships between cardiovascular physiology and stroke outcomes in large patient cohorts, including measures such as blood pressure variability, arterial stiffness, arterial pulsatility and cerebral autoregulation. It has subsequently developed into more detailed studies of cardiovascular physiology, analyses of brain imaging and the development of early clinical trials to test potential interventions. Ultimately, the aim is to carry out larger clinical trials to develop new treatments to prevent stroke and chronic cerebrovascular injury.


What is the role of ESO in facilitating and promoting the projects you are coordinating or where you are involved?

 A vital first step in any research program is understanding what current practice is and any novel treatment approaches therefore only make sense when developed in parallel with strategic approaches to do the simple things well and to maximize the benefits from established treatments. ESO is vital to achieve this at a European level through its support for efforts such as the ESO/SAFE Survey of Secondary Prevention in Europe, the European Brain Council Value of Treatment Initiative and particularly the European Stroke Action Plan, initiatives I have been involved in. Looking forwards, developing a successful program of trials to bring new treatment strategies to clinical practice requires collaboration across centres and ESO is critical to support the establishment of research networks and as the principal forum for promoting successful research and bringing it to clinical practice.


What do you expect from ESO in the future to support research?

The greatest contribution of ESO in the past few years has been the tremendous success of the ESO Conference (ESOC) and so the ongoing development of the conference’s profile is vital. ESO also provides an infrastructure for building research collaborations and facilitating exchange of personnel between centres, especially at the early career stage (i.e. Department to Department Visit Programme). Finally, ESO provides a coordinated voice for the stroke community in Europe, which can magnify our impact at the political level to help prioritise political interventions to improve stroke care and provision of funding for research, and a focus on this role will be increasingly important.


How do you match clinical and research activity in your daily routine? 

 I am fortunate to be supported by a research fellowship that provides financial support and the time to focus on research but also allows for clinical work as well. This enables me to devote sufficient time to my research whilst maintaining my clinical skills in neurology and acute stroke. This is manageable by carefully segregating any non-research related clinical work from my research time, but integrating clinical work related to my research within my research program. Although this works well most of the time, inevitably clinical responsibilities still impact on my research time, whilst a lot of research still has to happen outside of normal clinical hours.