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 19 March 2018

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Photo of <div style=fiogf49gjkf0dSimon Murch" align="left">


Simon Murch is Senior Lecturer and honorary Consultant in Pediatric Gastroenterology at the Royal Free and University College School of Medicine. He qualified at Westminster Hospital in 1980, before spending five years as Surgeon Lieutenant in the Royal Navy in return for financial support through medical school.

His conversion to pediatrics followed a 3-month crash-course in June Lloyd's department at St George's Hospital in London. He then spent a couple of years as a fairly elderly pediatric SHO before taking up a post as Lecturer at St Bartholomew's Hospital with John Walker-Smith and Kate Costeloe in 1988, homing quite quickly to Tom MacDonald's lab.

The timing was fortunate, as TNF-alpha was coming into focus as a potential mediator of mucosal inflammation. Dr Murch worked on the role of cytokines in both IBD and neonatal respiratory distress syndrome during the next three years on an Action Research fellowship.

After some indecision between gastroenterology and neonatology, he became Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer in Pediatric Gastroenterology at St Bartholomew's. The team then translocated to the Royal Free Hospital in 1995, led by John Walker-Smith until his retirement in 2000.

Dr Murch's research is based on study of the mucosal responses in pediatric enteropathy and allergy. He also tries to maintain an increasingly busy tertiary service in pediatric IBD and food allergy.

What made you decide to become a gastroenterologist?
Having decided on pediatrics, I was undecided between neonatology (which would have led to a consultant post earlier and a relatively clear field in mucosal inflammation) and gastroenterology (which included more chance of sleep on-call, much more conceptual interest, and the chance to talk to my patients). No contest, really.
Who was the teacher you admired the most?
I feel that I have been very lucky. I learned a huge amount about the qualities needed to be a good pediatrician from June Lloyd and Kate Costeloe. I couldn't have had a better mentor in endoscopy than Christopher Williams. Tom MacDonald opened my eyes to so much in the research field, and I owe him a great deal. Overall though, John Walker-Smith's influence has been central in my development. All shared, in very different ways, a laudable refusal to settle for anything less than the best in their work and for those in their care (albeit rodents in Tom's case).
Which research paper influenced you the most?
The deepest influences are often the earliest. I saw Yvonne Jones' paper in Nature in 1989 (338: 225-8) in which she showed that the TNF molecule had dramatic homology to a primitive plant virus and had been maintained through evolution with great stringency. I knew then that I was in an important area, and it opened my eyes to the importance of evolutionary perspective.
What is the most important fact that you have discovered?
I was fortunate to be in Tom's group when we were first suggesting a role for TNF in Crohn's disease, and I think this was influential in the advent of TNF monoclonal therapy. I am beginning to think that the most important single fact may be the role of epithelial glycosaminoglycans in preventing protein-losing enteropathy.
What is your unfulfilled ambition?
That I didn't get to row in the world championships or win a Henley medal. I misspent most of my medical school days in an eventually unsuccessful attempt to do so.
What is your greatest regret?
Taking work far too seriously for far too long.
How do you relax?
Sport (cycling, running), music, reading, and red wine. Playing with my 7-year-old daughter, Rosy
What is your favorite sport?
Rowing (early influences again). Once you have experienced that moment when a crew 'clicks' there is no way back. As in memories of childhood, the sun always shone, the river was calm, and the boat moved like a rocket. Whether mediated through endorphins, nostalgia, or stupidity is uncertain, but most old rowers report the same sorry symptoms.
What is your best place in the world?
The Greek islands probably (disco-negative parts anyway).
What is your favorite film?
Having just sat through "Austin Powers" with my daughter and her friends, I have to say that this is a fine and noble example of the cinematic art, and I have at last found a worthy role model.
What car do you drive?
Just about to become Estate Man again (Saab). It's spooky how you turn into your parents.
What is your best electronic 'toy'?
Although my Palm Pilot has converted me from completely to just partially disorganized, pride of place has to go to my Linn record deck after many years of sterling service. My neighbors might of course disagree
What books are you reading at the moment?
"Mr Phillips" by John Lanchester. His "A Debt to Pleasure" was excellent, and this is shaping up well.
Why did you get in involved in
Same as all the others. I got Poundered. And he's right to do so - this is an important venture, and I applaud his initiative

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