Interview - Dr Marie Freel


We are excited to welcome Marie Freel as the new Co-Editor-in-Chief for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Case Reports. Marie is a Consultant Physician and Endocrinologist and Honorary Associate Clinical Professor at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow. We asked her a few questions about both her research and new role as Co-Editor-in-Chief for EDM Case Reports.

What are your research interests?

My main clinical interests are in adrenal endocrinology. In particular, I have a particular interest in endocrine hypertension and primary aldosteronism which is now well recognised as the commonest secondary cause of hypertension. However, I am interested in the entire range of adrenal disorders (Addison’s disease, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, adrenal tumours) as well as general endocrinology.

What inspires your research?

I was previously a clinician scientist with a research interest in endocrine hypertension. I am primarily a clinician now but I think it is important to maintain an interest and knowledge of new and relevant discoveries within your field of expertise. It is impossible to separate research and clinical practice as both are dependent on the other. When I am faced with a difficult clinical problem, I always turn to previous and ongoing research to try to find an answer and it is often such problems that drive successful clinical research.

Tell us about your research path

I started training in clinical endocrinology in 2003 and completed a Welcome Trust funded clinical PhD in 2006. I chose endocrinology because of the close relationship between the clinical problems and basic physiology and because of the breadth of disorders that it encompasses. In addition, all my local endocrinology mentors seemed liked good fun and were all very happy in their chosen career! I continued to maintain both clinical and research training for many years and was awarded and MRC Intermediate Fellowship in 2009. I switched to clinical practice in 2014 and now run the adrenal disorders service at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow. However, I still maintain strong links with local and national academics and participate in clinical research studies when I can.

What are the main challenges in your research field right now?

There are many challenges to both clinicians and scientists based within the field of endocrinology (and beyond) currently. For scientists, by far the biggest problem is funding with significant reductions in availability of research funding which leads to significant job insecurity and difficulty in retaining the brightest and best research staff. The impact of COVID on scientific research has been huge- many projects had to be abandoned midway and many individuals lost research funding. It will take a long time to recover from this. Within clinical medicine, lack of funding and the disruptive impact of COVID have been similarly devastating. I work within a large, publicly funded health organisation which is significantly impacted by funding shortfalls and relentless increases in demand. There is also significant backlog in elective services which will take many years to clear- this does impact on endocrine patients who are waiting for elective thyroidectomy, parathyroidectomy and non-urgent pituitary or adrenal surgeries. It is a very challenging time to be a clinician and a scientist but I am hopeful that the green shoots of recovery are around the corner!

How do you feel about your new role as Co-Editor-in-Chief for EDM Case Reports?

I am very excited and honoured to be the new Co-Editor in Chief of EDM Case Reports. The ability to access and publish reputable clinical case reports is of immense value. For many early career clinicians, it offers an exciting introduction to scientific writing and publication and, hopefully for many, sparks a lifelong interest in exploring and questioning clinical cases and scenarios. Furthermore, clinical cases generally report on very novel or niche manifestations of clinical conditions but allow such clinical ‘pearls’ to be documented in order to share learning; it is the only such forum which allows such a valuable exchange of knowledge.

What is your vision for EDM Case Reports?

My ‘vision’ at this stage is to try and increase the profile of this journal and, in particular, highlight its appeal to early stage researchers and clinicians. One of the biggest advantages of clinical case reports is that it is often the first report of a novel case or complication of such a case and this, in turn, can lead to collaborations with others to develop cases series or more robust clinical study. The journal could be a valuable springboard into a career in endocrinology (clinical, research or both) by offering such early opportunities. The open access nature of the journal is pivotal in allowing a broad audience to stimulate discussion and further studies.