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Abbie's story

Behind every one of our nutritional solutions there is a dedicated team of people whose mission it is to make the lives of patients and healthcare professionals, easier. #NutriciaLife

Dr Abbie Cawood is Head of Scientific Affairs at Nutricia and a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Southampton. 

My route to Nutricia began with a BSc in biomedical science at the University of Southampton, which involved studying physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, and nutrition. I always particularly enjoyed my lectures in nutrition, and this is when I started to become passionate about the subject.

I carried on my studies at Southampton with a PhD in Clinical Nutrition, which helped me focus on what I wanted to do with my career - Clinical Nutrition is all about putting patients at the heart of everything that you do.

I worked with an amazing group of patients with cystic fibrosis and a fantastic multidisciplinary team, and it gave me an awful lot of energy because I could see that the research I was doing was really helping patients. After my PhD, I stayed in academia working as a postdoctoral research fellow - still in Clinical Nutrition, investigating how fish oils can help patients with atherosclerosis. All of my work had that core value of placing nutrition at the centre of helping patients, which was key to what happened next.

I saw an advert for a one-year fixed term contract as a clinical research associate at Nutricia, and this immediately sparked my interest because I was keen to get a broader and more rounded experience in the commercial field. As someone working in academia, within an NHS environment, I could already see how Nutricia would be aligned with what was important to me: placing patients at the centre of everything you do. At the time, I envisaged returning to academia with my newfound experience after the one-year contract was up, but clearly I very much enjoyed working for Nutricia - because I’m still here 17 years later!

As the Head of Scientific Affairs, my role involves generating evidence to support our products and services, working across the whole portfolio of our healthcare business; I work with the adult category, the paediatric category, with metabolics and ketogenics, sometimes I work with the nursing team. Having that breadth of work across the entire business is really gratifying.

I also work very closely with healthcare professionals leaders in the field of Clinical Nutrition, building relationships and working collaboratively to not only generate research, but to disseminate that research and translate it for a variety of audiences - talking about the research in different ways to different people. At the same time, we aim to publish our research in academic, peer-reviewed journals.. We also write up our research in the form of abstracts, and then go to national or international congress to present that data to others. So it’s not only people within Nutricia we’re working with; we work externally and collaboratively with healthcare professionals in the NHS and academia.

What always excites me about our team is when we can use the research we generate to work with colleagues in marketing and sales and integrate the data into our campaigns. This means our research can help ensure that the right patient gets the right product, so it can benefit them and their nutritional care. 

The projects I’m particularly proud of are those when we partner with healthcare professionals on research. Such as a project where we worked collaboratively to implement the Malnutrition Pathway, which is an externally endorsed document by 10 professional organisations which acts as a guide for community health care professionals to manage adult malnutrition and has a pathway for management based on MUST score (the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool). Patients with disease related malnutrition were managed by a dietitian according to their MUST score over 12 weeks. In particular those at high risk of malnutrition received dietary advice and oral nutritional supplements, health care use was assessed 6 months before and 6 months after implementation of malnutrition management.  Amongst other outcomes the study showed reductions in hospital admissions, length of hospital stay and antibiotics following appropriate management of malnutrition. Once the research was complete, the full paper was published and the project even came runner up in the Health Service Journal Awards.

A more recent example is when we worked with external experts to write and publish a systematic review and meta-analysis analysing all the available data on amino acid formula containing synbiotics in infants with Cow's Milk Protein Allergy.

That’s my favourite part of my job: seeing a project that we work on or the evidence we generate making a real difference. It’s great to see the journey of the research we generate, from translating it so that our field teams can communicate it, to seeing them integrate it into campaigns, and seeing it being presenting externally. Ultimately, it’s great to think that we are able to support healthcare professionals to make evidence-based clinical decisions about the management of malnutrition potentially as a direct result of research we have generated or supported to be generated, ensuring patients getting the nutritional support they need. That’s what makes it all worthwhile.

I have an early memory of wanting to help patients, from when I spent time in hospital as a child - I would watch the doctors, nurses and everyone else, all helping people to get better. It really inspired me to want to be part of that environment and sparked my interest in understanding how science can help people feel better - myself included, because I felt really quite poorly when I went in and came out feeling much improved.

We can’t lose sight of how important that sense of wellbeing is to people. When we meet patients or their families we are reminded of how crucial our products are. For some of them, Nutricia is nothing less than a lifeline - it’s absolutely integral in order for them to live their lives. This is the idea that we need to hold onto, because some of the products we make can change people’s lives and means they can experience life in a way that would otherwise be impossible. It’s amazing what nutrition can do, and the role Nutricia is able to play to help facilitate it.

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