Professor Karim Raza – Director of Research and Development

He’s a leading medic who is dedicated to finding a treatment that can cure rheumatoid arthritis – a condition that affects well over 500,000 people in the UK.

Professor Karim Raza is the Director of Research and Development (R&D), and a Consultant Rheumatologist, at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust (SWBH).

He is also the Arthritis Research UK Professor of Rheumatology at the University of Birmingham. His work has focused on understanding rheumatoid arthritis, a long-term condition that causes inflammation in the joints and that can eventually lead to joint destruction.

Professor Raza, aged 48, said: “Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition. It causes patients lots of pain and when it progresses, can lead to deadly complications, such as heart attacks. About 1 in 100 people in In Sandwell and Birmingham, are affected by this disease.

“No one fully understands what causes it. Whilst we have good treatments for the condition, there are some patients in whom we still really struggle to get the disease under control and we certainly can’t cure it at the moment. From early in my career as a doctor, I knew I wanted to learn more about the disease and find a way to help patients get better. That’s largely why I have been focusing on R&D, as I know that research is the key to developing better treatments to improve patients’ lives.”

But R&D means more than that for the dad-of-three. He continued: “R&D plays a really important role in the NHS. It pushes the boundaries of medicine further every day and gives many of our patients increasing hope for the future.

“When I see how the outcomes of our research makes our patients’ lives better, I feel all of the hard work is worthwhile.”

Since becoming the Director of R&D at the Trust in 2014, the organisation has been commissioned to conduct hundreds of studies and now manages to recruit over 3,000 patients to participate in studies per year.

One of Professor Raza’s biggest achievements to date was when his department secured funding from the European Union (EU) to lead a research project into arthritis across Europe, putting Birmingham at the centre of this £4 million international project.

So what is behind Professor Raza’s motivation? “I enjoy being part of both the Rheumatology team and R&D team at the Trust, looking after patients who suffer from arthritis and trying to develop better treatments for them.  Our close links with hospitals and universities across the world helps us to carry out large-scale research which can make a significant impact on patients’ health and wellbeing.”

Despite the demands of his job, Karim tries to maintain a good work life balance. He smiled: “Outside work, I enjoy spending time with my family. I also like swimming, running, yoga and taking part in my fitness class in Perry Barr. Exercise is the key to keeping me healthy and sane!”

And who is his NHS hero?  “There are so many unsung heroes in the NHS – for me some key people are our medical secretaries. Sandra, Harpal and the other secretaries in the Rheumatology team work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the show on the road.”