Curriculum vitae: Andrew Rice
Authors: Anne Gulland
Publication date: 13 Jul 2017
Andrew Rice, professor of pain research at Imperial College, fell into clinical academia by a happy accident. His research and clinical work has focused on neuropathic pain, particularly in HIV and other infections, and elucidating the analgesic effects of cannabinoids.
I studied at St Mary’s, London, which had an ethos that medical students should be well rounded people—it wasn’t all about the academic side. I spent a lot of time rowing, climbing mountains, and at St Mary’s mountain hut near Snowdon.
I did a general medical rotation at Mount Vernon Hospital, London, where I had a particularly formative experience. There was a young man on the ward with a Pancoast’s lung tumour invading the brachial plexus. It’s a form of neuropathic pain and a horrible way to die. My boss, who was a good and caring physician, seemed to avoid this patient. I think he was frustrated there was so little we could do to relieve this poor man’s pain. I thought about that patient a lot afterwards.
I became interested in pain and I resigned from my rotation to take a job at St Thomas’ in anaesthetics because I wanted to specialise in the emerging field of pain management. There I met Stephen McMahon [now Sherrington professor of physiology at King’s College, London] a talented scientist with an infectious enthusiasm for research. I thought I was going to do three years’ research to improve my CV but I was completely enthused by the experience—research placements need to carry a health warning!
Learning from patients
The biggest change I have seen in clinical research is the active engagement of patients. Chelsea and Westminster has a major focus on HIV and when I moved there I started doing research on neuropathic pain and HIV. The HIV community is probably one of the best informed and most active groups of patients around. They have been incredibly helpful in providing critical but constructive input.
I have never really plotted my career. Serendipity and being open to collaboration have played a major part. The cannabinoid studies came about because several patients told me that they were smoking cannabis for pain relief. This coincided with advances in cannabinoid pharmacology.
I take part in regional pain camps for the International Association of Pain, the most recent of which was a South East Asian one in Myanmar. The value for the students is not only from the teaching also but also from the peer networks and interactions that start at the camp. A doctor from Cambodia and a doctor from Bangladesh realise that they share the same barriers and clinical problems and they end up communicating with and supporting each other.
History and medicine
At Imperial we have a medical historian in residence, Emily Mayhew. I am collaborating with her to explore the chronic pain suffered by amputees from the first world war. The records of this cohort of 60 000 people are only now becoming accessible and studying them informs our research, especially since limb trauma is one of the most survivable injuries of conflict.
Prisoners of war
I’m very interested in the experiences of prisoners of war in the Far East (FEPOW) during the second world war. The FEPOW doctors were real heroes—they practised compassionate medicine at the highest ethical level and in the most difficult circumstances. I’ve written a paper with one of the survivors, Bill Frankland, on neuropathic pain in FEPOWs suffering from malnutrition. He’s an amazing man—he’s an allergist and invented the pollen count. Not many people can say they’ve written a paper with a 105 year old!
I’m half Swedish and it’s an important part of my life. My wife and children have wholly embraced the Swedish side of my family and we spend much of our holiday time there. Swedish values such as equality, tolerance, and life in the open air are important to me.
1971-1982 St Mary’s Hospital Medical School
1982-1986 House officer and senior house officer posts at Hillingdon, St Mary’s, Mount Vernon, and St Thomas’ hospitals
1986-1990 Registrar in anaesthetics; research fellow in Sherrington School of Physiology, St Thomas’ Hospital, London
1990-1995 Senior registrar, Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics, Reading/Oxford
1995-2004 Senior lecturer; reader in pain research, Imperial College
2000 to present Honorary consultant in pain medicine, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
2002-2015 Principal investigator, London Pain Consortium
2008 to present Professor of pain research, Imperial College
2010-12 Chair, neuropathic pain group, International Association for the Study of Pain
2016- Councillor, International Association for the Study of Pain
- Roocroft NT, Mayhew E, Parkes M, et al. Flight lieutenant Peach’s observations on burning feet syndrome in far eastern prisoners of war 1942-5. QJM 2017;110:131-9. [Link] .
Anne Gulland London