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15. December 2015

University of Cambridge by Michael Laxy, IGM

A key element of the Helmholtz Graduate School Environmental Health (HELENA) is to promote the international network of graduate students. In internationally renowned research institutes doctoral students can work with and learn from leading senior scientists in their field of research. Michael Laxy, graduate student at the Institute of Health Economics and Health Care Management, took this chance and went from January to April 2015 to the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, UK.

Planning of my research stay

The topic of my thesis focuses on the (cost)-effectiveness of disease management strategies in patients with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular comorbidities. On the World Diabetes Congress in December 2013 I got in touch with colleagues from the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge who run interesting pragmatic trials for preventing and treating diabetes on public health level. In agreement with my supervisor Prof. Rolf Holle, I therefore applied in summer 2014 to work with them and got accepted as a visiting research scholar. In the weeks and months before my arrival we agreed with Prof. Simon Griffin, the leader of the Prevention, and Dr. Ed Wilson, the senior Health Economist involved in the study, on the frame and scope of my project.

My work in Cambridge

At my first working day I had a kick-off meeting with Simon Griffin and Ed Wilson who supervised me during my time in Cambridge, where we concretized the working plan for my project. Part one included the analysis of the adherence of GPs to the ADDITION (Anglo-Danish-Dutch Study of Intensive Treatment In People with Screen Detected Diabetes in Primary Care) trial protocol; part two included the evaluation of the cost effectiveness of early intensive treatment as delivered in ADDITION. I got a working place next to two post-doctoral fellows of the Prevention Team and was quickly integrated into the group. In the following 3 months I ‘cleaned’ the data, ran the analysis and summarized the results for the two outlined projects. During this time I had regular weekly meetings with my supervisors to discuss the progress of my work. Beside my working tasks I attended various seminars at the Institute of Metabolic Sciences and the Institute of Public Health and actively participated in the Prevention-Team meetings.

At the end of my stay I got the opportunity to present the results of my two projects at a Work in Progress seminar at the MRC Epidemiology Unit and at a Lecture Series at the Cambridge Centre of Health Services Research. These results were further summarized in two abstracts to be presented at the World Diabetes Congress which takes place in December 2015 in Vancouver. To be able to finalize my analyses and to bring the results into the form of scientific manuscripts, the Unit extended my visitor status and granted me remote access to their servers until the end of the year.

Living at Wolfson College

During my time in Cambridge, I was lucky to be affiliated to and to live at Wolfson College, one of the 32 Cambridge Colleges. This gave me the unique opportunity to experience the special character of the academic landscape in Cambridge, consisting of various sport events, academic lectures/seminars and official evening receptions. I, for example, joined the table tennis team of Wolfson and watched the traditional Cambridge vs. Oxford rowing competition on the Thames in London. In addition, I had the pleasure to be invited by colleagues to so-called ‘Formal Halls’ which are traditional multi-course dinners in the old beautiful College Halls where students traditionally wear gowns and Senior Fellows eat at ‘high tables’.


All in all, my time in Cambridge was very enriching in terms of academics, networking and social life. I learned a lot during my stay and got to know very interesting and inspiring people. I further hope that these contacts will lead to sustainable and successful cooperations.

I am very grateful that I got the opportunity to do this visiting scholarship and would like to thank HELENA and my institute and supervisor for supporting me with that. I further can only encourage every graduate student to take this wonderful opportunity.