This special issue of the JNDS showcases some of the presentations and selected posters from the NDS Virtual Research Away Day sessions, which were held monthly from February to May of this year, to give readers a flavour of the breadth of research undertaken in Oxford surgery.
In his welcome, JNDS Editor-in-Chief, Professor Ashok Handa, commented: 'It is to the great credit to the department leadership and the organising committee of the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences that, despite the many challenges the global pandemic has brought about, we are still able to go ahead with a virtual set of "away days”.'
For this special issue, Deputy Head of Department, Professor Ian Mills, has written a forward in which he talks about the highlights from this year's departmental Away Day.
The Away Day sessions included several engaging, reflective talks by eminent invited speakers. Professor Neil Mortensen reflected on the challenges of surgical practices during COVID-19 and the role of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in rising to those challenges. Sir Michael Dixon provided some fascinating insights into the work of the Natural History Museum and its contribution to research and our understanding of evolution and biodiversity prior to becoming Principle of Green Templeton College. Having both took on major leadership roles during the pandemic, they were able to reflect on the challenges that posed.
The sessions also offered an opportunity for new recruits to the department to present their research. Dr Dan Woodcock gave a talk on the use of machine learning to interpret the genomic evolution of prostate cancers. Professor Simon Buczacki presented his research to decipher the lineage of colorectal cancer, charting the changes in differentiation state aligned to genomic alterations.
Professor Mills said: 'The presentations during the Away Day sessions are only snapshots of this important work. Our aim was to capture this breadth as well as possible, and through virtual sessions we created a forum for our DPhil students and postdocs to showcase the work of the Surgical Intervention Trials (SITU) and recent clinical trials, and Colorectal cancer research amongst others.'