Leading up to International Women’s Day on 8 March, we’re sharing the stories of many womxn researchers working in ASSET. Today medically trained Statistician and Epidemiologist from King’s College London, Prof Wei Gao shares her journey by answering a few questions.

Prof Wei Gao

How did you become interested in research?
To me, research is a career in which one constantly faces challenges, and one must learn constantly to deal with those challenges. I am the type of woman who loves to take and overcome challenges.

Describe your research career thus far?

I am a medically trained statistician and epidemiologist. Before I came to palliative and end of life care research in 2007, I had been working across a broad range of health disciplines from public health, clinical and molecular epidemiology to zoonotic diseases. I joined King’s College London as a research fellow 14 years ago, and have subsequently been promoted to Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, and Professor. I lead the methodology group within the NIHR ASSET programme. I am deputy lead for the palliative and end of life care theme, the NIHR Applied Research Collaborative South London. I have thoroughly enjoyed my research career thus far.

Why do you think research in your field is important?

Before joining the Cicely Saunders Institute at King’s, my research was primarily concerned with curing diseases and preventing people from getting diseases. The Cicely Saunders Institute is the world’s first purpose-built institute dedicated to palliative and end of life care research. It is named after Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the modern hospice movement. Palliative and end of life care focus on patients with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions, aiming to maximise the quality of life for both patients and their loved ones. It is one of the most important research areas in which I have ever worked as death is relevant to everyone. We all deserve a good death which could only be supported by rigorous evidence.

However, for those already heavily burdened with their diseases, it is extremely difficult to collect data of research quality. Therefore, a large chunk of my research uses data collected during routine practices (e.g. hospital care, death registration) to evaluate and monitor care inequality, assess care needs and identify gaps.

What is one thing you want to see changed between now and this time next year?

I hope that we could return to campus and pick up the research projects we have to pause due to the pandemic.