Rising star of Crohn’s and Colitis research

02 October 2019

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Crohn's and Colitis Nurse Researcher Lesley Dibley of the University of Greenwich spoke to us about her career journey. 

We have funded three of Lesley’s studies; faecal incontinence, her most recent research on stomas and stigma, and the needs of gay and lesbian people with Crohn's and Colitis.

How has the Crohn’s & Colitis UK funding influenced your career choices? 

The really brilliant thing about the Crohn’s & Colitis UK funding is that it gives you a start and enables you to get the initial data to make the case for a bigger study and later funding. I wouldn’t be at the point I am in my career without the funding – it has been absolutely essential.

What is your research about? 

My research looked into both patients’ and doctors’ views toward stoma surgery. I found that before surgery, patients were concerned about visibility, leakage and smell, and worried about the impact on relationships and social and sporting activities, but in general stoma patients found their long-term outcomes were much better than expected. Both timing and the way the information was presented to patients had an impact on emotional response. My research is helping to change approaches to patient care, and the hope is that it will inform patient choice and improve patient information for people considering stoma surgery.

Why is your research important for those with Crohn's or Colitis? 

My research has now taken me to the point where it’s having an impact on clinical practice, which is so important.   

The culmination of my smaller projects has over time taken me to my current project which will identify people who are more likely to struggle emotionally with a stoma and who might have a longer adjustment period. This is a several stage project and the end goal is to develop an intervention for the group of people who might find stoma surgery more difficult. This will hopefully allow us to give additional support to people who need it, which could have a significant impact on their well-being.

Why did you choose to specialise in Crohn's and Colitis? 

It was completely serendipitous. My background is in adult and children’s nursing, initially in clinical practice and then I moved into nurse education. After a career break to have children and undertake my masters, I did a google search and found the advert for the job to work with Chris Norton, another researcher the charity has a long-standing relationship with. This happened to be gut-related research and then I started developing projects that were IBD-related, a condition that fits with my desire to give a voice to the hidden and marginalised.

What is your career journey up until now and where do you see it going? 

I’ve always been passionate about working with and on behalf of marginalised and hidden groups, and for people who don’t have a loud voice. IBD is taboo condition that can be socially tricky, which fits with my whole philosophy towards life. My new research project could have a real impact on the well-being of people with stomas, which is really exciting.

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