2018 recipients of funded Aspire Fellowship Awards in RCPI announced!

Congratulations to Dr Scheryll Alken and Dr Colin Davenport on their achievement

ASPIRE Fellowships are a programme of highly prestigious fully-funded post-CSCST Fellowship training opportunities that provide structured, certifiable educational experience

We are delighted to announce this year's recipients of NDTP Aspire (Post CSCST) Fellowship awards in RCPI.

  • Dr Scheryll Alken, SpR in Medical Oncology, has been awarded an Aspire Fellowship in Adolescent and Young Adult Medical Oncology.
  • Dr Colin Davenport, who completed HST in Endocrinology and Diabetes in 2017, has been awarded Aspire Fellowship in Obesity.

They will start their Fellowships in July 2018.

The NDTP Aspire (Post CSCST) Fellowship awards have resulted from the collaborative efforts of HSE’s Acute Hospitals’ Division, National Doctors Training and Planning (NDTP) and postgraduate medical training bodies. Six Fellowships in total will commence in July 2018.

Doctors eligible to be appointed into one of the NDTP Aspire fellowships must be within two years of CSCST and have completed their HST training within an Irish Postgraduate Training Body. 

Meet the Aspire Fellows: Dr Scheryll Alken

Scheryll has had an interest in Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Medical Oncology throughout her medical oncology training.

She told us, "Over the past number of years, I have continued to develop an interest in AYA Medical Oncology. Whilst a clinical fellow in the Royal Marsden, I acted as a link person for those patients transitioning from the AYA service to the adult service. During my HST training, I have attended clinics and multidisciplinary team meetings at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin to further my knowledge. In addition to this, I have collaborated on a body of work with the National Cancer Registry, the Irish Sarcoma Group and the paediatric oncologists examining outcomes for AYA patients treated in Ireland and continue to drive this collaboration forward. To date, I have presented our data at both national and international meetings; publications are in process." 

Scheryll completed Basic Specialist Training in General Internal Medicine in 2008. She then embarked on a career in medical oncology, initially training as a registrar on the RCPI Registrar Training Programme. After this, she spent two years as a Clinical Research Fellow in the Royal Marsden Hospital, within the Neuro Oncology and Drug Development Units. While working in the Drug Development Unit at the Royal Marsden Hospital, she was subinvestigator for many phase I trials with responsibility for all study related patients encounters, including patient consent, along with liaising with other study sites on regular teleconferences to achieve study targets.

She commenced Higher Specialist Training in Medical Oncology in July 2015. 

Scheryll was a member of the London Cancer Alliance Brain Tumour Group, 2013 – 2015, with a role specifically focused on creating harmonised treatment guidelines across all centres. She is a Trainee representative on the Specialty Training Committee for Medical Oncology 2017 – 2018, with a role focused on advocating for trainees.

"It is clear there is a need for dedicated AYA-trained medical oncologists"

Medical oncology is traditionally divided into paediatric and adult oncology, with a threshold of 16 years old used as the time point at which newly diagnosed patients will be seen in an adult hospital. However, it is increasingly recognised that adolescents and young adults (AYA) have different requirements of their care than older adults and are a specific group requiring specialist input. 

Scheryll explained, "It is clear there is a need for dedicated AYA trained medical oncologists. Indeed, training and education in this area is mentioned within this year's National Cancer Strategy. There are few AYA fellowship training programmes with most fellowship programmes being disease focused. The Aspire Fellowship provides the opportunity to create such a programme in Ireland.

"This fellowship is planned as a 24-month programme, with a six-month period abroad within a dedicated, established AYA unit. I will be based primarily in Our Lady’s Children’s’ Hospital Crumlin (OLCHC), with links to St James’s Hospital.

"At present, there are two research tracks planned for this role. The first builds upon collaborations already in place with the National Cancer Registry Ireland. We are currently working on the first reported national data on AYA patients in Ireland. Using available data, the disparities in outcome for Irish AYA patients will be further analysed to identify underlying causes. This will include evaluations of tumour subgroups, seeking to identify any specific issues with each. 

"The second research track focuses on the genetic components to these malignancies. Whilst single gene inherited predisposition syndromes are relatively rare, there are some who advocate moving from a criterion-based testing algorithm to a more population based one. Genetic predisposition syndromes have implications from both a wider, familial perspective but can also have a very specific individual application, most notably in patients with p53 mutations in whom avoidance of radiotherapy is imperative. It is therefore planned to offer germline genetic testing to all AYA patients. Such testing has several applications in this population.

"It is not uncommon for AYA patients to enquire as to the aetiology of their disease and although not every cancer will have an underlying genetic predisposition, expanding access to testing will allow us to answer this question for each patient and establish the prevalence of such conditions in Ireland. Secondly, the identification of genetic predisposition syndromes may have both survivorship (in terms of modality of imaging, for example) and prevention of future malignancies implications. Adequately identifying those at risk offers the opportunity to reduce the risk of cancer for these patients in the future. It may also have a wider implication for the families involved. Thirdly, tumour genetics can guide treatment selection and hence early genetic testing is vital to appropriately select treatments for these patients."

Scheryll's mentors will be Professor David Gallagher, Consultant Medical Oncologist and Geneticist, St James’s Hospital and Dr Cormac Owens, Consultant Paediatric Medical Oncologist, Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin.

Meet the Aspire Fellows: Dr Colin Davenport

Dr Colin Davenport completed Basic Specialist Training in General Internal Medicine with RCPI in July 2007. He commenced Higher Specialist Training in Endocrinology and Diabetes in 2008.

During his HST programme Colin was awarded a HRB Research Training Fellowship which allowed him to complete a PhD at RSCI in 2013 on The role of osteoprotegerin and receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa beta ligand in vascular calcification and the effect of insulin and liraglutide on this process in type 2 diabetes. He obtained a Certificate in Healthcare Management from Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and Smurfit Graduate Business School in March 2016.

Colin was awarded a Certificate of Satisfacory Completion of Specialist Training in 2017. He is currently Locum Consultant in Endocrinology and General Internal Medicine at St Columcille’s Hospital. He is a member of the Committee for the Establishment of Guidelines for the Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus in Adults in Ireland since January 2016.

Colin was Secretary of the RCPI Collegiate Members Committee (now called the RCPI Trainees' Committee) from 2008 – 2010. He was also Lead NCHD Representative, European Working Time Committee, Naas General Hospital 2013 – 2014, Trainee Representative for RCPI, Naas General Hospital 2013 – 2014, and Lead NCHD, Mater Misericordiae Hospital 2014 – 2015. He was a co-investigator on the international LEADER (Liraglutide effect and action in diabetes: Evaluation of cardiovascular outcome results - a long term evaluation) study and has 31 peer reviewed publications.

Colin told us, "Having completed the endocrinology and diabetes training scheme in July 2017 and working as a locum consultant since then, I successfully applied for the Aspire Fellowship in Obesity in March of this year.

"For a number of years my research and clinical interests have focussed upon the exceedingly high rates of cardiovascular disease in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. My interest in obesity arose as it is a major risk factor for both of those conditions, and I believe it is the single most important target for intervention if we wish to see significant reductions in diabetes and death from heart attacks and stroke in the Irish population.

A focus on the newest weight-loss medications

"While the Aspire Fellowship offers me experience in all aspects of obesity care, I plan to focus on how the newest weight-loss medications can be best used to help our patients, how to care for patients during and following metabolic surgery, and how these interventions affect diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

"At the conclusion of this Fellowship I plan to use the knowledge and experience gained to help me to develop and lead multidisciplinary interventions for patients with obesity in Ireland.

"With regards to what the Fellowship means for me personally, while I certainly wanted to develop my career post-CSCST I also wished, for various reasons, to stay in Ireland as opposed to spending a significant time period training abroad. Aspire allows me to do exactly that, and in doing so I also feel Aspire recognises the ability of Ireland to support Fellowships of high calibre and to allow doctors like myself to immediately give back to the healthcare system in which they trained.

"My advice for potential Aspire applicants next year is to prepare for significant competition for these Fellowships and also to have a good idea of what you want to achieve from the fellowship by the time of the interview.

"I would also like to make the point that it will not just be SpRs who apply for this fellowship, you are eligible if you are within two years of finishing your CSCST, so new consultants are also eligible."

Colin's mentors will be Professor Donal O’Shea, Consultant Endocrinologist in St Vincent’s and St Columcille’s Hospitals and HSE Clinical Lead for Obesity and Professor Carel le Roux, Director of Metabolic Medicine, Diabetes Complications Research Centre, UCD. 

Contact us

Higher Specialist Training

Tel: +353 (0) 863 7624

Contact our Higher Specialist Training department for information about HST and how to apply.