Nicola Fearnhead is immediate Past President of the Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain & Ireland 2019-2020.
She has been a Consultant Colorectal Surgeon at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge since 2006. She studied medicine at Pembroke College, Cambridge and Merton College, Oxford where she was a Rhodes Scholar. Surgical training was undertaken in Bristol and Oxford followed by an International Fellowship in Advanced Colorectal Surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio during 2005.
Clinical interests include advanced pelvic malignancy and exenteration surgery, transanal endoscopic microsurgery, management of anal cancer including salvage surgery, inflammatory bowel disease and especially perianal Crohn's disease, rectovaginal fistula repair, and functional consequences of treatments on patient quality of life.
Nicola is active in several areas of clinical research, having led ACPGBI's development of a research strategy with integrated patient and public involvement (the Delphi Research Programme) while Chair of Research & Audit Committee from 2013-2017. She was awarded the Patient Liaison Group Patient Champion Award in 2017. She has been a member of the NCRI Colorectal CSG surgical subgroup since 2014 and was appointed Chair of the subgroup in 2018. She is Principal Investigator for several portfolio trials. She currently serves on the trial management groups of HiP, CReST2, PREPARE-ABC and STAR-TREC, and on the independent data monitoring committee of OPERA.
Nicola served as Honorary Secretary of ACPGBI IBD Clinical Advisory Group from 2016 to 2018, co-authored the 2017 Ileoanal Pouch Report and co-edited the 2018 ACPGBI Guidelines in IBD Surgery. She co-leads the multidisciplinary researcher and patient collaborative group ENiGMA which focusses on research for the benefit of patients with fistulating perianal Crohn’s disease. She has facilitated several meetings between patients and researchers to promote patient involvement in research.
She is Clinical Co-Lead of the National Bowel Cancer Audit, having previously chaired the Clinical Advisory Group for the National Bowel Cancer Audit from 2014 to 2018 and led the national programme for Consultant Outcome Publication in bowel cancer surgery on behalf of the ACPGBI from 2014 to 2016. In 2020, Nicola helped NBOCA devise a national quality improvement programme for colorectal cancer care and advised on how to measure and interpret changes in care due to COVID-19.
Nicola was selected for the inaugural RCS Emerging Leaders programme in 2015 and sits on the RCS Research & Fellowships Committee. She chaired the Steering Group for the trainee-led National Audit of SBO, and was on the steering committee of the NCEPOD Acute Bowel Obstruction enquiry.
She is a former Trustee of the Bowel Disease Research Foundation (BDRF) and a founding Trustee of the new charity Bowel Research UK that launched in September 2020 from the merger of BDRF with Bowel and Cancer Research. She acts as medical adviser to the peer support charities Bowel Cancer UK and Crohn's and Colitis UK.
In 2017, Nicola led the ACPGBI’s IMPACT (Improving Management of Patients with Advanced Colorectal Tumours) initiative, which delivered a national quality improvement programme from 2018 to 2020 in partnership with the Pelican Cancer Foundation and Past Presidents Jim Hill and Brendan Moran.
She sits on the Programme Committee for ESCP. She travelled to Cape Town as the Visiting Penman Lecturer in 2019 and visited Tasmania as guest of the Colorectal Surgical Society of Australia and New Zealand in 2019. Nicola is supportive of the concept of Tripartite and has contributed both to the first Tripartite 2020 Vision collaboration on Low Anterior Resection Syndrome as well as facilitating the Tripartite 2020 (now2022) Vision research collaborations.
She was awarded Honorary Fellowship of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons in 2020. Nicola was recently honoured to be included in an international publication on extraordinary women who have made recent significant contributions to the field of colorectal surgery (Keller et al 2020 A narrative celebrating the recent contributions of women to colorectal surgery. Surgery Volume 168(3) 355-362).
Nicola has invested time and energy throughout her career in training the next generation of surgeons, in one-to-one scenarios, also as educational supervisor and in supporting and promoting trainee interests at regional and national level,
During the COVID-19 crisis, she worked through ACPGBI Executive and Council to support members, working with the Intercollegiate Royal Colleges of Surgery to ensure availability and advice on personal professional equipment, safe surgical practices and protection of patients through testing, isolation prior to elective surgery and provision of COVID-19 free sites for safe surgery. These initiatives provided advice on changes to emergency and elective care, especially in colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease, and established a prioritisation process that was rolled out nationally. She openly supported BAME colleagues, recognising the differential impact of the pandemic on BAME clinicians. Under her leadership, ACPGBI also provided specific advice on recovery and restoration of elective services.
The loss of face to face contact and meetings during COVID-19 meant transition to a virtual world. In order to ensure access of members to the ACPGBI leadership, she hosted weekly sessions through Access ACP to allow members of ACPGBI to seek advice from leading experts within ACPGBI on a range of themes. She encouraged and attended the first virtual Chapter meetings held regionally around the country. The Early Years Consultant Network that had already been nurtured over the preceding 6 months was expedited to provide peer support for younger Consultants. As ACPGBI President, she worked with the Dukes Club leadership to put protection for training in place during COVID-19. In the space of just six weeks, she also led commissioning and delivery of a virtual conference with 19 live sessions over four days on an educational platform. Finally, in order to restore some optimism for the future of colorectal surgery, she commissioned the "Legacy" paper to help members focus on the more positive aspects of COVID-19 and how we might retain some of these changes to improve our future practice and to help provide hope in such constrained times of global healthcare.