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Written By

Nicolette Ward


College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

29 September 2021

Related Study Areas

World Heart Day aims to bring attention to the impact of cardiovascular disease, the world’s leading cause of death according to the World Heart Federation.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is usually associated with problems caused by blood vessels and clots, and for sixth year JCU medicine student Lily Aboud, it is something she has developed a keen interest in.

With support from the medical faculty at James Cook University, Lily was able to explore her growing interest in cardiology by taking a research gap-year where she travelled to the UK to take up a role as clinical trials assistant for the Northwick Park Cardiac Research Charity, a long-standing cardiac research facility that operates out of London’s Northwick Park Hospital.

“In my role as clinical trials assistant I was involved in various projects including the research of new cardiac medications and the practice of using Artificial Intelligence [AI] to help decipher stress echo cardiology imaging,” said Lily.

Her involvement with such cutting-edge cardiac AI research would not have been possible without the support of JCU medicine’s academic staff, says Lily, in particular Associate Professor David Bossingham whose expertise in clinical research and knowledge of the UK research institutions proved invaluable.

“I felt absolutely supported by JCU to follow my research interest. When I suggested taking time out to explore my interest in cardiology, my tutors and professors just encouraged me so much.”

Lily Aboud in Longreach
Lily Aboud at Stockmans Hall of Fame
Lily Aboud on rural placement in Longreach

The future role of AI in cardiology

The clinical trial examining the use of AI for cardiac imaging, known as the EVAREST Study, is being led by the Radcliffe Department of Medicine at Oxford University and has recruited over 8000 patients for the study so far. The study seeks to track how the use of imaging biomarkers on heart scans can improve the accuracy of identifying narrowed heart arteries which can cause ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary heart disease.

“The future role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in cardiology is fascinating. It offers advanced sensitivity and specificity for interpreting stress echo imaging that doctors can then use to more accurately measure signs of ischemia on the heart. It’s a great adjunct and tool for the clinician to use when making a decision about a patient’s treatment.”

Sparking an interest in cardiology

It was while on a second-year placement in the outback regional town of Charters Towers that Lily’s interest in cardiology first developed, as she had the opportunity to be involved with the hospital’s cardiology clinic and the visiting cardiologist consultant.

“On that placement I learnt that by picking up on something otherwise missed, you could potentially save a life,” said Lily. “For example, if a scan shows blood vessels that are almost closed off and it is not noticed, then these patients are at real risk of not getting the right treatment which could be life-threatening.”

Another benefit of Lily’s research gap year was the opportunity to experience the UK health system, especially as Northwick Park Hospital is a major acute, general hospital and also a teaching hospital.

“It has been interesting comparing the Northwick interns’ medical training to my experience at JCU. It has made me appreciate the incredible breadth of what JCU students learn when they are on their rural placements; what we encounter in those settings and the responsibilities that we are given.”

Lily Aboud with Bull on the street
Lily Aboud in front of Buckingham Palace
Lily Aboud with a bull walking the Longreach Streets (Left) and Lily at the front gates of Buckingham Palace in London. (Right)

An approachable and friendly style of medicine

According to Lily, JCU’s commitment to offering students a wide spectrum of rural experiences helps to develop students’ confidence as well as important clinical communication skills.

“Being in a London hospital, my point of difference started to show, both as an Australian and as a JCU student. My peers and I all agree that JCU offers a very approachable and friendly style of medicine, and as a result we’re not afraid to approach consultants and ask them questions.”

Despite her interest in the ‘quiet’ work of medical research, Lily is a self-confessed people person and says this is part of the reason why she became interested in medicine as a career.

“There’s not a job where you will meet such a wide breadth of people and get to assist them in such a meaningful way. The role of the doctor as an advocate for their patient’s healthcare needs is also really important to me.”

Making the study of medicine meaningful

Now in her sixth year of medical studies at JCU, Lily says she was attracted to study medicine at JCU due to its emphasis on social justice and its special focus on training doctors to work in under-served and disadvantaged communities.

"JCU’s strong thread of social justice throughout the entire medical degree is really unique and has definitely made the study of medicine more meaningful for me."

- Lily Aboud , JCU Medicine graduate

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