Spotlight on Dr Elizabeth Lemmon

We hear from Elizabeth about life as a Research Fellow in Health Economics as well as managing the Early Career Researchers Using Scottish Administrative Data (eCRUSADers) platform.

Life as a Research Fellow

After completing my PhD in Economics at Stirling University, I joined Edinburgh Health Economics (EHE) in March 2019. It's been great to be back working with others, after the isolation of the final stages of my PhD! I really enjoy the buzz that comes from being part of a busy team, working on the UK Bowel Cancer Intelligence (BCIUK) project with EHE Lead, Dr Peter Hall.

BCIUK is a large programme of research being led by Professor Eva Morris at the University of Oxford. The key aim of which is to create a COloRECTal Repository (CORECT-R) of administrative data which can be used to address important questions around patient treatment and care, ultimately leading to improved outcomes. As Research Fellow on the Scottish arm of the project, with clinical input from Dr Catherine Hanna at the University of Glasgow, I am carrying out a detailed investigation into the clinical pathway for colorectal cancer patients in Scotland using a large linked administrative health data set. This data brings together detailed chemotherapy prescribing data with cancer registry and hospital data for the first time on a national scale.  We are addressing a number of research questions (detailed on our EHE website) but I am primarily exploring variation in costs and outcomes of treatment across Scotland. The use of administrative data to study cancer outcomes and treatment at a national level is novel in Scotland and we hope to demonstrate how this data can be used to successfully develop analytical methods with the ultimate goal of improving colorectal cancer outcomes in Scotland and the rest of the UK. 

A typical day on the project (at least since getting access to the data!), is spending the morning in the Safe Haven carrying out data analysis and coding. I then tend to keep the afternoons for reading research papers and drafting/editing the papers that I am writing alongside the project analysis.  In any spare time I update the eCRUSADERS website where researchers are encouraged to share their experiences and learn from working with administrative data in Scotland. One lesson I often share, is to seek clinical input if you are working with administrative health data.

Biggest challenge

Like so many colleagues, the biggest challenge for me was the wait for data.

I began my post in March 2019 and although the Public Benefit Privacy Panel (PBPP) had approved the project in October 2018, the data were not made available to us until July 2020. Whilst the delay was exceptionally frustrating, I was able to fully explore the existing literature and identify some priority areas for our health economics research. At the same time, I was able to set up eCRUSADers, which has proven to be helpful for other researchers thinking about carrying out research using administrative data. 

Outside of work, it was quite challenging to convince my grandmother that I had indeed passed my viva, and would obtain my PhD. Whilst she was very proud, she did question the news initially, as she thought my PhD was rubbish!! I'm sure this says more about the type of character my grandmother was, rather than about my work looking at the provision of long-term care given to older adults in Scotland!!

Some unknown facts

When I am not working I like to be as active as possible. For me this means getting out for walks with my Lhasa Apso Erin or going to CrossFit and throwing some weights around!

You can follow my twitter feed @ElizabethLemm

This article was published on 16 Dec 2020

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