Having a ball for research

At the BHF we fund researchers at all stages of their career — from PhD students just starting out to Professors who are leading major research programmes. All of these scientists share a common goal — finding ways to improve and save the lives of people with cardiovascular disease.

Emma Steer (Image credit: University of Leeds)

Emma Steer is in the final year of a BHF-funded PhD at the University of Leeds. She’s trying to find a new way to treat deadly heart rhythm problems. Last month Emma attended our annual fundraising ball — Roll out the Red 2016 — and helped us raise money to fund more PhD students like her. Emma explains what it was like to help fight heart disease without wearing her lab coat and wielding a pipette.

“Hugh Grant is here???” I don’t think I had ever sounded quite that high pitched. Then again, I had never been in the same room as Hugh Grant before either. I probably won’t be again; I don’t exactly hang out in celebrity circles. However on February 11th 2016, I was rubbing shoulders with the stars at Roll out the Red 2016 at The Savoy.

Newsreader and television presenter Natasha Kaplinsky was hosting, Lord Jeffrey Archer was auctioneer and BHF Ambassador Pippa Middleton gave an incredibly moving speech all in aid of BHF research. It was a brilliant event supported by many talented high flyers and a fantastic £170,000 was raised by the end of the night.

Donations drive research

All donations are crucial to the BHF, but when a number that big flies in, just what can the BHF do with it? Well this is why I was asked to attend this event. I am a BHF-funded PhD student and this year, some of the money will go towards two PhD studentships to allow crucial heart research to continue. I was honoured to be asked to be asked to represent BHF PhD students, talk about my research experiences and be able to meet people who have benefitted from the BHF’s life-changing research.

One of these people was Kitty Buchanan-Gregory with whom I shared the stage alongside Natasha Kaplinsky. At 36, Kitty was diagnosed with a severe form of heart block and needed a pacemaker implanted immediately. Thanks to BHF-funded research, undertaken by professors, post-doctorate researchers and PhD students alike, she is alive and well today.

Kitty shares her experience of heart disease at the ball.

Answering questions through research

Hugh Grant arriving at the Roll out the Red Ball 2016

Yet heart disease in all its forms still affects far too many of us and Roll out the Red underlined the importance of PhD studentships in the fight against heart disease. These studentships provide three to four years of in-depth training to enthusiastic and able scientists. The training covers detailed theoretical knowledge and complex technical skills to better understand how the heart works. This allows us to ask the right questions and successfully answer them — all to help beat heart disease.

Roll out the Red was a star-studded success. The food was amazing and the entertainment a great mix of classical and modern music. Most importantly a lot of money was raised. It was fantastic to see so many people standing up against heart disease by supporting the British Heart Foundation. And Hugh Grant was there too. That was pretty cool.

Find out more about the BHF’s research into heart rhythm disorders.

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