Research Heroes of the Month - January 2023

This month we want to give a shout out to the STRATA study and the Leeds Autistic Diagnostic Service Team

Research heroes are individuals who are part of a hidden army of staff supporting research across the organisation. We want to take the opportunity to celebrate their contribution and thank them for making a difference.

Members of the LADS Team

This month we would like to focus on a particular study and the clinical team that have made it a success; The Leeds Autistic Diagnostic Service (LADs) and their work on the STRATA study.  In particular, we want to mention the lead clinicians who have made this research possible, Dr Conor Davidson, Dr Alwyn Kam and Dr Keri Lodge.

The STRATA study aims to test whether the medication Sertraline is an effective treatment for anxiety in autistic adults.

Conor and his team actively identify eligible patients for this study, review their medical records to ensure they are safe to be recruited onto the trial, and randomly allocate the participant (using a computerised system) to either receive Sertraline or a placebo.  In addition, they recruit people external to our trust, collaborating with a number of trusts and universities across the nation and even recruiting from the wider Great Britain. They then prescribe the medication and monitor patient safety whilst on the trial.

Dr Alwyn Kam comments: “The STRATA study is a really innovative research trial to be involved in.  I’ve benefited from learning about the teamwork, training and organisation that goes into research work, and am grateful to be working in collaboration with so many skilled and dedicated people.

“It is truly exciting to be part of the discovery and exploration of yet to be answered questions – particularly in the field of autism.” 

Different members of the LADs team have attended training to be able to deliver this study effectively.  Conor, Alwyn and Keri undertook Principal Investigator training for this study, and currently work together supervising staff and study delivery, also encouraging recruitment using various methods.

The STRATA central study team have praised us on reaching our set target in advance of what we predicted, and for our efficiency in recruitment; they are even distributing our methods and successes to other trusts across the nation.  This is a fantastic achievement; it raises the profile of the Trust and the service and has been a brilliant experience for all involved.

Dr Conor Davidson adds: “I have thoroughly enjoyed becoming a Principal Investigator for the STRATA study.  It has helped develop my service’s research portfolio and research profile and has led to a number of new exciting opportunities.

“It is also rewarding to know that we are contributing to new knowledge and best clinical practice around mental health in adult autism, which has been an under-researched area in the past.

This opportunity for staff development has also led to a boost in interest amongst the LADs team to become involved in further research activities.  They are currently working with the research department to embed research activities into their clinical practice, an opportunity they have found has benefitted them in many ways, and an initiative that will likely improve the future of healthcare for LYPFT patients living with autism.

Dr Keri Lodge said: “I’ve found the Principal Investigator training from the research and development team, along with their support with the practicalities of being involved in research alongside clinical work, invaluable. 

“We share the research and development team’s enthusiasm for embedding research within clinical teams, and I’m excited about our future research plans.” 

The STRATA study has been extended for recruitment until November 2023.

Anyone interested to know more about research and/or become a participant then please contact the research department at

Find out more about research on our Research website pages.