Former Miss England's Global Healthcare Vision

Siobhan Harris

Disclosures

October 06, 2021

Dr Carina Tyrrell/Miss England

Dr Carina Tyrrell was working with the World Health Organisation investigating pandemics when COVID-19 emerged. She was then part of the team at Oxford University which carried out crucial work on coronavirus vaccines.

Dr Tyrrell has an impressive list of qualifications. She has a first-class medical degree from Cambridge University and a Master's in Public Health.

She's also a former Miss England and Miss UK winning the titles in 2014 and becoming runner up in Miss World in the same year.

Medscape UK asked her about her work on COVID and her vision to build a global digital future for healthcare.

Q&A

Dr Carina Tyrrell

Can you tell us about your work during the pandemic?

Following my work with the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) at the World Health Organisation, I have supported efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This started with accurately modelling our healthcare system capacity, how to manage resources in the intensive care setting, development of vaccine trials, and more recently, preparing us for other new respiratory viruses. 

Initially, global healthcare systems faced enormous pressures on their capacity, so we published data to predict the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic to inform planning and surge capacity.

As the pandemic progressed, we published guidance in the BMJ on managing intensive care admissions when there are not enough beds. This work supported clinicians making extremely difficult decisions on the front line and highlighted the importance of a multidisciplinary approach combining clinicians, ethicists, policy makers, and researchers.

Finding a vaccine to end the pandemic became a focus and at Oxford University we published a study looking at COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutic trials to identify and assess promising candidates, ensuring safety and efficacy, to provide guidance for funders.

I am currently revising guidance to make recommendations to improve our preparedness for other emerging respiratory viruses, including influenza. The adoption of technology has been critical to our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to make healthcare systems more resilient in the future.

What are you working on at the moment?

At RYSE Asset Management, which is a healthcare, technology, and impact venture capital firm, I have supported founders in validating their technologies and mentored entrepreneurs on the KQ Labs accelerator at The Francis Crick Institute.

At the University of Cambridge, I have been the public health lead for the Fenland COVID-19 study, partnering with digital healthcare companies. Using the Huma smartphone-based app, we measure heart and respiration rate, oxygen levels, and temperature in a large population remotely. In collaboration with Drawbridge Health, we trialled a device that allows people to take their own blood samples at home.

This will enhance the design, speed, and quality of clinical trials, and provides people with the tools to improve their own health and wellbeing.

Did you always want to be a doctor?

I grew up appreciating the impact of healthcare and science, in Geneva, Switzerland, where my mother held senior global healthcare roles at the World Health Organisation and my father was a particle physicist at CERN working on the discovery of the Higgs Boson.

My passion for healthcare developed from my work with international health organisations where I spent time in India, Rwanda, Ghana, and Brazil, treating diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, and leprosy. I studied natural sciences, focused on genomic medicine, and read medicine at Cambridge University. After graduating, I worked on the front line as a physician at Oxford University Hospitals with clinical responsibilities in hospital and community care. I completed a Master of Public Health and worked in local councils, clinical commissioning groups, and with local and national government.

I am a Governor for Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, helping the Trust to overcome the challenges faced during the pandemic, and my work is focused on driving the translation of technology into healthcare systems and investing in biotech, digital health, and MedTech to provide enhanced patient-centred care.

What are your feelings about the future regarding COVID and beyond?

The COVID-19 pandemic has fostered innovation, streamlined public health surveillance, accelerated therapeutic development, built world-wide collaborations, and begun to strengthen the resilience of our healthcare systems. Secure data sharing platforms have helped improve timely disease surveillance and mRNA technology is now being tested for other indications. Research collaborations are already enabling more powerful data, through increased sample sizes, to benefit patients more quickly. 

COVID has taught us how to deliver care virtually to increase access, reduce cost, and improve the quality of care. This wave of technological growth also has its challenges, including data ownership, data protection for patients, fragmented databases, data interoperability, and inaccurate data. Overcoming such challenges are critical for harnessing the potential of digitalisation.

These learnings will help us tackle future health threats. The innovation that has grown over the last months will help provide patients with the tools they need to improve their own health and wellbeing, take ownership of their own healthcare data, and provide care that is personalised and delivered at the point of care.

You are a former Miss UK and a women's advocate. Can you tell us more about that?

At Cambridge University, I was very fortunate to go to Murray Edwards College, one of the few women only colleges that focuses on empowering women and supporting them through education, their career, and beyond. It was during this time that I became a charity ambassador for the Miss World Organisation as Miss UK. The charity has raised over one billion dollars supporting women and children globally, and I continue to support charities fostering education and opportunities for women around the world.

Having been mentored by many influential women, I believe the role of a leader is to create other leaders and I have spoken about the importance of gender diversity at the Oxford Union, in press, and in television interviews.

Many influential women have been highlighted for their work during the pandemic and such role models are important in inspiring and encouraging women in considering what’s possible in their careers!

Credits:
Lead Image: Dr Carina Tyrrell.
Image 1: Miss England
Image 2: Dr Carina Tyrrell

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