Dr G. Neil Thomas BSc (Hons), MPhil, PhD

Dr G. Neil Thomas

Institute of Applied Health Research
Regional Director, NIHR Research Design Service West Midlands
Co-Director, Master of Health Research Methods Programme
Reader in Epidemiology, Director of Research Knowledge and Transfer

Contact details

Telephone
+44 (0)121 414 8696
Fax
+44 (0)121 414 7878
Email
g.n.thomas@bham.ac.uk
Address
Public Health, Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Institute of Applied Health Research
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 2TT
UK

Dr Thomas is the Regional Director, NIHR Research Design Service West Midlands and a Reader in Epidemiology in the Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the Institute of Applied Health Research of the College of Medical and Dental Sciences, The University of Birmingham. He is the Institute Director of Research Knowledge and Transfer.

Dr Thomas has an international portfolio of research in Europe and Asia investigating in the fields of cardiovascular disease epidemiology, prevention and control with a particular focus on air pollution and lifestyle exposures. He has received major funding for work in Hong Kong, China and Iran. Major ongoing studies include the Elderly Health Centres Study (air pollution, lifestyle, mortality outcomes), Hong Kong; the 30,000 plus Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study (lifestyle, chronic disease outcomes), China; and one of the largest CVD endpoint studies assessing the effectiveness of a PolyPill in Iran (CVD, mortality outcomes).

He has published over 250 in indexed, peer-reviewed journals and has an H-index of 48 (Google Scholar). These are predominantly in the area of cardiometabolic disease epidemiology. He is involved in over £17 million in funding (over £6M as PI). He is on the editorial advisory board of 7 international journals and a reviewer for a number of national and international funding agencies, including as Panel Chair.

Dr Thomas has an active teaching role in under- and postgraduate studies. He is currently the Co-Director, Master of Health Research Methods (HRM) Programme and coordinator of the HRM and Public Health programmes dissertation module. 

Qualifications

  • PhD Medical Sciences 1999. Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.  Dissertation title: Anthropometric, biochemical and genetic factors associated with blood pressure.
  • MPhil Pathological Sciences, 1995. Department of Microbiology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.  Dissertation title: Genotyping of the rotavirus outer capsid protein gene (VP7) by RT-PCR
  • BSc (Hons) Applied Biology, 1989.  Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK 

Biography

Dr Thomas completed his PhD in the genetic epidemiology of hypertension at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics. He then took up an academic post in 2002 in the Department of Public Health and Epidemiology (later the School of Public Health) at the University of Hong Kong to help coordinate the initiation of the Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study. In the summer of 2007, he took up the post of Reader in Epidemiology, Public Health and Biostatistics at the University of Birmingham. He is also Regional Director, NIHR Research Design Service West Midlands, and National NIHR RDS Deputy Link Director for Patient and Public Involvement. 

Teaching

  • College Programme Approval Review Committee (CPARC)
  • Co-Director, Master of Health Research Methods (HRM) Programme
  • Dissertation module coordinator; HRM and Public Health programmes

Teaching Programmes

  • Public Health MPH/PG Diploma/PG Certificate
  • Health Research Methods Masters/PG Diploma/PG Certificate
  • MBBS 

Postgraduate supervision

Dr Thomas is interested in supervising doctoral research students in the following general areas:

  • Determinants of cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality.
  • Approaches to attenuate cardiovascular disease and associated risk factors.

If you are interesting in studying any of these subject areas please contact Dr Thomas on the contact details above.

Dr Thomas has successfully supervised 13 PhD/MD students, and is currently supervising 5 more.

Publications from students have included:

AC Jagielski, CQ Jiang, L Xu, S Taheri, WS Zhang, KK Cheng, TH Lam, GN Thomas*. Glycaemia is associated with cognitive impairment in older adults: The Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study. Age and Ageing. 44(1): 65-71; 2014.

Bό Hartaigh, JA Bosch, D Carroll, K Hemming, S Pilz, A Loerbroks, ME Kleber, TB Grammer, JE Fischer, BO Boehm, W März, GN Thomas*. Evidence of a synergistic association between heart rate, inflammation, and cardiovascular mortality in patients undergoing coronary angiography. European Heart Journal. 34(12):932-941; 2013.

T Arora, CQ Jiang, GN Thomas, KH Lam, WS Zhang, KK Cheng, TH Lam, S Taheri. Self-reported long total sleep duration is associated with the metabolic syndrome: The Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study. Diabetes Care. 34: 2317-2319; 2011

M Talaei, M Sadeghi, T Marshall, GN Thomas, P Kabiri, S Hoseini, N Sarrafzadegan. Impact of metabolic syndrome on ischemic heart disease - A prospective cohort study in an Iranian adult population: Isfahan Cohort Study. Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases. 22(5): 434-441; 2012

XQ Lao, CQ Jiang, WS Zhang, P Adab, TH Lam, KK Cheng, GN Thomas. Smoking, smoking cessation and inflammatory markers in older Chinese men: The Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study. Atherosclerosis. 203:304-310; 2009

HB Deng, DJ Macfarlane, GN Thomas*, XQ Lao, CQ Jiang, KK Cheng, TH Lam. Reliability and validity of the IPAQ-Chinese: The Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 40:303-307; 2008 

Research

RESEARCH THEMES

Ageing, Cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Epidemiology, Lifestyle, Public Health

RESEARCH ACTIVITY

Dr Thomas' research is at the cutting edge of understanding cardiometabolic conditions that place a significant burden on healthcare services and society as a whole. This understanding is coupled with intervention studies that inform disease prevention and patient care.

There are two main components to his research: Firstly, epidemiological studies which are designed to investigate environmental (air pollution, temperature), lifestyle (diet, physical activity, sleep) and genetic factors contributing to cardiometabolic disease (Type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension and dyslipidaemia) and associated morbidity and mortality, and; secondly in the treatment and prevention of these conditions, using pharmacological agents and lifestyle/behavioural modifications. His contribution to the first component has resulted in greater appreciation of the pathogenesis of these diseases and has helped in development of more effective therapeutic interventions, which can be used intensively in those identified to be at greatest risk.  In this manner, the application of this scientific research has been directly used to alleviate morbidity and mortality in patients with these conditions and thus provide direct benefit.  Work related to the second component has led to a series of interventional studies targeting physical activity and diet and specific pharmacological agents in general populations and in specific patient groups to improve health indicators and reduce morbidity and mortality.

His work has been recognised as influential in healthcare as demonstrated by the publication in distinguished general medical journals such as the Lancet and BMJ, as well as top specialist journals, including Eur Heart J, Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, Stroke, and Diabetes Care.

Significant specific studies include:

Guangzhou Biobank Cohort study (http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/35/4/844.long) and CVD subcohort (Co-PI, http://www.nature.com/jhh/journal/v24/n2/full/jhh200952a.html)

30,000 subjects recruited over 3 phases to study the pathogenesis of chronic diseases. The first 6 year follow-up has now been completed with 18,000 revisiting the hospital and 2,400 deaths documented. Vital status has been determined in over 99%.

Elderly Health Centres Study

A prospective cohort of over 66,000 individuals, accounting for 9% of the 65 or older population from 18 Elderly Health Centres were established to deliver health examinations and primary care services for older adults in Hong Kong. Over 10,000 deaths have been documented (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27197138).

Hong Kong Cardiovascular Risk Factor Study

A prospective cohort of 3,000 Chinese subjects for which 12 year follow-up data is now available (http://eje-online.org/cgi/content/full/155/4/623)

The Ludwigshafen Risk and Cardiovascular Health (LURIC) study

A prospective cohort of 3,316 Caucasian patients from Ludwigshafen in southwest Germany referred for coronary angioplasty and is designed to evaluate determinants of cardiovascular health. To date approximately one third of the patients have died (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11258203).

Isfahan Cohort Study

A population-based, longitudinal ongoing study of 6504 adults aged equal or greater than 35 years at baseline, living in urban and rural areas from three counties in central Iran (Isfahan, Arak and Najafabad, http://www.nature.com/jhh/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/jhh201099a.html)

PolyIran study

A randomised controlled trial of 7,000 subjects to investigate the impact of a Polypill on primary and secondary cardiovascular events in Golestan, Iran (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1742-1241.2010.02412.x/abstract

Publications

Dr Thomas has published over 250 articles.  Using Google Scholar Citations, his publications have received over 8,000 citations generating an H-index of 48.

A selection of articles from international peer-reviewed journals highlighting the range of interests

CM Wong, H Tsang, HK Lai, GN Thomas*, KB Lam, KP Chan, Q Zheng, JG Ayres, SY Lee, TH Lam, TQ Thach. Cancer mortality risks from long-term exposure to ambient fine particle. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 25 (5): 839-845; 2016.

CM Wong, HK Lai, H Tsang, TQ Thach, GN Thomas, KB Lam, KP Chan, L Yang, AK Lau, JG Ayres, SY Lee, WM Chan, AJ Hedley, TH Lam. Satellite-based estimates of long-term exposure to fine particles and association with mortality in elderly Hong Kong residents. Environmental Health Perspectives. 123 (11): 1167-1172; 2015.

GN Thomas, MP Wang, SY Ho, KH Mak, KK Cheng, TH Lam. Adverse lifestyle leads to an annual excess of 2 million deaths in China. PLoS One. 26;9 (2):e89650; 2014

Bό Hartaigh, JA Bosch, D Carroll, K Hemming, S Pilz, A Loerbroks, ME Kleber, TB Grammer, JE Fischer, BO Boehm, W März, GN Thomas*. Evidence of a synergistic association between heart rate, inflammation, and cardiovascular mortality in
patients undergoing coronary angiography. European Heart Journal. 34 (12):932-941; 2013.

T Arora, S Hussain, KBH Lam, GL Yao, GN Thomas, S Taheri. Exploring the complex pathways among specific types of technology, self-reported sleep duration and body mass index in UK adolescents. International Journal of Obesity. 37 (9):
1254-1260; 2013.

GN Thomas, B ό Hartaigh, J Bosch, S Pilz, A Loerbroks, ME Kleber, TB. Grammer, BO Böhm, W März Vitamin D levels predict all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality in subjects with the metabolic syndrome: The Ludwigshafen Risk and
Cardiovascular Health (LURIC) Study. Diabetes Care. 35 (5):1158-1164; 2012.

GN Thomas*, DJ Macfarlane, B Guo, BMY Cheung, SM McGhee, KL Chou, JJ Deeks, TH Lam, B Tomlinson. Health promotion in older Chinese: 12-mo cluster RCT of pedometry and 'peer support'. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 44(6): 1157-1166; 2012.

GN Thomas*, AC Phillips, D Carroll, CR. Gale, GD Batty. The metabolic syndrome adds utility to the prediction of mortality over its components: the Vietnam Experience Study. Atherosclerosis. 210 (10): 256-261; 2010.

CQ Jiang, TH Lam, JM Lin, B Liu, XJ Yue, KK Cheng, B Tomlinson, KS Wong, BMY Cheung, GN Thomas*. An overview of the Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study-Cardiovascular Disease Subcohort (GBCS-CVD): a platform for multidisciplinary collaboration. Journal of Human Hypertension. 24 (2):139-150; 2010.

GN Thomas*, AWL Hong, B Tomlinson, E Lau, CWK Lam, JE Sanderson, J Woo. Effects of Tai Chi and resistance training on cardiovascular risk factors in the elderly: A 12 month longitudinal, randomized, controlled intervention study. Clinical Endocrinology. 63:663-669; 2005.

SM McGhee, SY Ho, M Schooling, LM Ho, GN Thomas, AJ Hedley, KH Mak, R Peto, TH Lam. Mortality associated with passive smoking in Hong Kong. British Medical Journal. 330: 287-288; 2005.

GN Thomas, JW Lin, WWM Lam, B Tomlinson, V Yeung, JCN Chan, R Liu, and KS Wong. Increasing severity of cardiovascular risk factors with increasing middle cerebral artery stenotic involvement in Type 2 diabetic Chinese patients with asymptomatic cerebrovascular disease. Diabetes Care. 27 (5): 1121-1126; 2004.