Suganya Jacobsen is PhD student at Center for Liver Research and responsible for the Profermin Study - the fourth clinical trial in GALAXY
What is your current research focus?
I am doing clinical research with alcohol related liver injury as main target and my current project seeks to explore if we can diminish the scar tissue (fibrosis) in the liver due to alcohol. We do this by changing or manipulating the gut-liver axis with a dietary product. We commenced the project in January 2019 and now we are more than 50% done with inclusions of participants, so we are ahead of time.
What is the relevance of your research?
For me having a background in medicine and being an MD, I think this research could have a huge clinical impact since we at the moment with these patients having liver cirrhosis cannot provide them with anything to reduce the amount of scar tissue in the liver: There is no medication, no product that can reduce the scar tissue formation so basically the only thing we as doctors can do is to encourage the patients to change their lifestyle and follow how fast the disease still progresses. So, if we can show that the dietary product can have a role by reducing fibrogenesis, we then suddenly can give them some tools to work with instead of leaving them to do it all by themselves. So a huge clinical impact if the project shows positive results.
Suganya Jacobsen, PhD Student at Center for Liver Research at Odense University Hospital
My parents told me, that I could be anything I wanted, so why not a medical doctor, a lawyer or an engineer?
As a medical student I did an undergraduate research project in basic science with mice, it was a very fruitful project but it wasn’t my field of interest at all. Therefore, during the last bit of medical school I thought; “well science is not for me, I will pursue a career entirely in the clinic”. So that was my plan. Then I got a job at the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Odense University Hospital and met Professor Aleksander Krag. He thought it was a mistake not to do research and every time I met him in the clinic, he asked me to reconsider science and research. Then the GALAXY project was launched and Aleksander Krag asked me: ‘Well, I have this project and I think it will be perfect for you’. It is a relatively small project and you can start with this project and see if this research is something for you.’ He also assured me it would be much more fun for me with my medical background to spend some time in the field of clinical research, and he was right! So that’s how I got into research and now I cannot imagine a career without it.
Have you always known that you will be a medical doctor?
Well, I think I have always known that I could use my skills well in that field. My parents told me, that I could be anything I wanted, so why not a medical doctor, a lawyer or an engineer -that was the highest on their list, so quite early I knew about these career opportunities. I have also always known that I wanted to something with people, I wanted to help people. And then when I found out that I actually had the grades to enter medical school I decided to go for it and luckily I got in, so that’s how I got into the medical doctor career and I chose correctly.
What is a ‘day in the life’ of Suganya?
Due to the fact that we do clinical research here in Odense, I think I will take an example of a day with patients or participants in the Profermin project. On such a day, I get up early and start with liver focused ultrasound scans and liver biopsies and try to get eligible participants included in the Profermin project. Since we have already included many patients in the Profermin project, we also have a lot of follow-up visits where we meet the participants for the second or third time. Usually around noon, I get back to the office and try to recruit more participants to the project. The time now is mainly focused on including as many participants as possible and as quickly as possible. Since I am also a PhD student affiliated to the PhD School at the University of Southern Denmark, I also participate in PhD courses. Although most of my working days are spent with the participants at the moment.
What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?
I am definitely going back to the clinic some day. I became a doctor to work with the patients, so I need to get back into the clinic. With that said, I really can’t imagine being a full time clinician after getting enrolled in research. I feel like I am just getting started with research and there is so much unexplored still, so I definitely hope to keep doing research and find a way to combine the clinic and the research. It is very important for me to have a bit of both and I believe it is not unachievable, I think it can be done.