Thomas R Hird

PhD Student


This person is a member of Sanger Institute Alumni.

Tom is a PhD student at the University of Cambridge. His research uses population-based epidemiological studies to examine the distribution and determinants of chronic diseases in sub-Saharan Africa, with a particular focus on diabetes in the townships of Durban, South Africa.

I am a NIHR/BRC PhD fellow with the Sandhu Group at the Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge and Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. My supervisors Dr Manj Sandhu and Dr Liz Young span both institutions. The main focus of my PhD research is the Durban Diabetes Study (DDS), a collaborative initiative between the Oxford and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

The DDS is a population-based cross-sectional survey of 10,000 individuals in an urban black population in the eThekwini Municipality (city of Durban) in South Africa. The survey combines health, lifestyle and socioeconomic questionnaire data with standardised biophysical measurements, biomarkers for non-communicable and infectious diseases, and genetic data. We aim to utilise this rich platform to investigate the distribution, interrelation and aetiology of a broad range of lifestyle, medical and genetic factors and their association with diabetes—the primary research focus of the study—together with other chronic diseases and traits including hypertension, dyslipidaemia, HIV and hepatitis C (HCV). Understanding the burden of these diseases and the individual contribution and impact of their risk factors is critical for developing health care policies for disease management and prevention in the region.

Before starting my PhD I completed an MPhil in Public Health at the University of Cambridge and BSc in Biology from Imperial College London. I have also worked on the policy side of global health research undertaking projects for the Ministry of Health in Botswana and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health (UK). I maintain this interest alongside my PhD research, most recently co-editing a report for the Africa All-Party Parliamentary Group on community engagement in health crisis response and health systems strengthening in the context of the recent West African Ebola crisis.