Meet some of SaTH’s Healthcare Scientists

Jason Kasraie

Jason Kasraie, 43, is a Consultant Clinical Embryologist (Clinical Scientist) and one of two Organisational Lead Scientists at SaTH who led the team that introduced IVF treatment to Shropshire. He is based at the Shropshire and Mid Wales Fertility Centre at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

He said: “I decided on a career in reproductive science after securing a ‘gap year’ undergraduate placement. I have worked at the Trust for over 20 years and began my career here as a trainee clinical scientist in Reproductive Science (Embryology and Andrology).

“Having completed my initial training I had the exciting and character building opportunity of leading the team that introduced IVF to Shropshire over 15 years ago. My role as a Consultant Healthcare Scientist is varied and rewarding.

“In addition to heading up a team of eight scientists and dealing with my own clinical caseload I have extensive management, training and research and innovation responsibilities. The most rewarding aspect of my job remains the ‘hands-on’ patient facing role of a clinical scientist, helping couples to fulfil their dream of starting a family whilst working to develop improved treatment pathways, technologies and algorithms.

“I also share the role of Organisational lead scientist for the Trust, with broad reaching responsibilities for Healthcare Science and scientists in the organisation.

“My clinical role has afforded me the opportunity to obtain a broader perspective of the field as a scientific inspector and advisor to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, who govern all assisted conception activities in the UK.

“I am very much involved in my profession and have had the opportunity to sit on the Association of Clinical Embryologists (ACE) training committee, the National School of Healthcare Science (NSHCS) Themed board and the Academy of Healthcare Science professional board to name a few.

“Growing with my profession and field has enabled me to be involved in the development of the Scientific Training Programme (STP) for reproductive scientists at the NSHCS as lead examiner and the development of the Higher Specialist Training programme in Reproductive Science with the Royal College of Pathologists. My career thus far has culminated in my recent appointment as Chair of my professional body (ACE).”

Yasar Hussain

Dr Yasar Hussain helps to tackle superbugs in Shropshire. Yasar is a Higher Specialist Clinical Scientist in Medical Microbiology at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, who also provides high level advice and guidance on treatments and the use of antibiotics.

He said: “After graduating with a BSc (Hons) Biomedical Sciences degree I started my first job as a Biomedical Scientist in Microbiology at Burton Hospital. I spent one year as a trainee before I was registered with the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC).

“The job in Microbiology involved investigating patient samples for pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses. Antibiotic sensitivity testing was also done to determine whether a particular antibiotic was suitable or not. The job also required evaluation of new laboratory tests that could potentially replace existing ones especially if they proved superior.

“After spending two years as a Biomedical Scientist I was fortunate to be able to undertake a part-time MSc Biomedical Science.  On successful completion I applied for a senior/supervisor Biomedical Scientist job in Microbiology.

“As well as undertaking routine Microbiology I was also the Laboratory Technical Supervisor, produced laboratory rotas, undertook teaching post-graduate and undergraduate students, reviewed standard operating procedures based on national guidance and undertook regular audits. During this period I was also part of the team involved with establishing extended working days in Microbiology. Before this time the laboratory was open between 8 am and 5pm five days a week and 8-12 on Saturday and Sundays. The rest of the period was covered by a member of the on-call team. The change was brought about at the request of service users.

“After several years working as a Senior Biomedical Scientist I applied and successfully secured what was then a four year Clinical Scientist training programme at the Leeds teaching Hospitals. As well as developing my laboratory skills in Virology and Molecular Biology I also began to develop basic clinical skills. The training incorporated a structured programme that covered all areas of Microbiology from routine diagnostic work through to research, public health and reference laboratory work. The clinical work was supervised by the Consultant Clinical Scientist and the Medical Microbiologists. Training included laboratory results authorisation, including advice on appropriate antibiotic treatment, taking telephone calls from GPs and hospital doctors wanting advice on appropriate antibiotic and treatment.  I had to complete another MSc in Clinical Microbiology. On successful completion of my training I sat and passed Part 1 of the Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists Microbiology examination. This is the same examination that medically qualified consultant Microbiologists sit initially.

“I am currently working as a Higher Specialist Clinical Scientist in Microbiology (HSST). The 5 year training programme has three components Leadership and Management, Clinical, and Research.  Completion of all three elements enables the trainee to be awarded a professional Doctorate (similar to a PhD – both awards allow you to use the title Dr). The professional doctorate is a combination of taught elements and research whilst the PhD is 90% research with a small amount of classroom teaching.  A PhD is generally completed for academic careers.

“I am currently heavily involved in clinical work where I authorise clinically significant laboratory results with advice on treatment and duration of antibiotics. I regularly attend ward, Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU) and Haematology Ward rounds and Clostridium difficile ward rounds with the Consultant Microbiologist. Towards the completion of my training I expect to sit the Part 2 FRCPath examination.  Successful completion of the HSST and the FRCPath Part 2 examination will enable me to apply for Consultant Clinical Scientist posts in Microbiology.”

Emily Tonks

Emily Tonks, 24, loves the hope that she can bring to couples. She is a Pre-Registrant Embryologist who works in the Shropshire and Mid Wales Fertility Centre at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and loves having a positive impact on people. She joined SaTH in September 2015.

She said: “Being interested in natural sciences from a very young age, I undertook the BSc in Biological Sciences at The University off Warwick filled with excitement at where it would take me.  I am quite a social person, so I knew my future career would be one which I would find rewarding, varied, involved hands-on lab work as well as plenty of contact with people.  As the eldest of eight grandchildren, I have always been surrounded by very young children and loved caring for them and watching them grow.  Embryology ticks all the boxes:  lab work + patient contact + babies! I first heard about the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) in Reproductive Science through University, and applied after I graduated.  It took me two attempts, and it has been better than I could ever have imagined.

“I am now in my second year of the STP and I am constantly learning new techniques and ideas and able to take on more responsibilities in my role.  The STP is a 3-year work based training programme, with an integrated part-time Masters.  By the end, I should be eligible for HCPC (Health and Care Professions Council) registration and be a fully qualified Clinical Embryologist.

“I am currently training in all aspects of clinical embryology. So far, I have been trained in egg collections, sperm preparation and cryopreservation, IVF inseminations and more.  I am currently working on embryo grading – which is tricky as embryos do not always behave as you expect! As well as lab-based work, I help in other quality-based areas such as equipment maintenance, audits and updating SOPs.

“The best part of the job is hope.  Hope for a child is what brings patients to us, and it is this nervous excitement which carries them through their journey.  It can be infectious!  I love the feeling that I am having a positive impact on lives and take pride in nurturing the embryos in our care.  The role is perfect for me: lab-based work coupled with lots of patient contact (as I am a talker!).  I particularly enjoy egg collections: where we find the almost-opalescent eggs within the aspirated follicular fluid.  It’s a little like treasure hunting!

“Everything we do – in the lab or outside it – makes a difference to our patients.  How we care for and handle the embryos within the lab has a direct impact, but so does the contact we have with our patients.  When we meet them prior to egg collection, we come across as a calming influence to reassure and explain their next steps.  We call them every day to let them know how their embryos are developing, and this can act as a comfort and answer any questions they may have.  Each patient is different: many are anxious and worried, others excited.  However, as IVF is not always successful, it’s not always good news.  This can be heart-breaking, but it is how we convey this with caring and understanding that makes a huge difference to them.”

Marion Tench

Marion Tench, 56, is a Medical Device Training Officer, with 17 years of experience at SaTH and a further seven years with Greater Glasgow Heath Board.

She said: “My role is to train all staff members on how to operate and troubleshoot the medical devices they use on patients

“During my training as a Medical Engineer, many of the faults that I dealt with were categorised as ‘user error’. Not only is this frustrating for the user of the equipment but this could also result in delay of a diagnosis or the type of treatment the patient may require. My goal, through training, is not only to reduce this frustration for the staff and any delay that the misuse of medical equipment can create but to improve the safe use of the equipment for the patents.

“I take great satisfaction in taking a group of staff member who do not feel completely confident in using or troubleshooting the equipment that they use at the beginning of a training session to a group of staff member to being more aware of how to use the equipment not only confidently but safely for their patient and themselves.

“If staff feel confident in the equipment used on the patients, the results obtained from the equipment will be meaningful and therefore this information could lead to a safe and speedy recovery for the patient.”

Ben Woodall

Ben Woodall, 28, is an Audiologist who pursued a career in this field due to his own experiences of hearing loss.

Ben, who has been with the Trust for six years, said: “I decided to pursue a career in Audiology for a number of reasons.

“My own personal experiences of hearing loss made me realise how important Audiology services are for people with hearing difficulties. I felt that I would be able to use my own personal experiences to help others with similar problems.

“My role is to carry our hearing assessments and provide support to people who have hearing loss.

“During an assessment we will explore the nature of hearing difficulties and the impact in home, social and work environments. We will carry out a range of diagnostic tests to assess the type and severity of hearing loss.

“We provide hearing assessments at our two main sites – the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford, as well as 14 different community clinics based throughout the county of Shropshire. For people who are unable to access services at one of our clinics, we also provide assessments for people in their own home or residential homes too.

“We may provide digital hearing aids, advice on equipment that is available whether it is for TV or telephone, or we may refer to other organisations that provide support for people with hearing loss.

“The best part of my job is the positive impact we are able to make for people with hearing loss.

“We know that hearing loss can lead to a breakdown in communication, which can impact on quality of life and is linked to isolation, depression and anxiety.

“In Shropshire, we have access to the latest hearing aid technology and a range of excellent support services to help reduce the negative impact of a hearing loss.

“In Audiology, we see a variety of different people of all ages and backgrounds. Every patient will face different challenges as a result of their hearing loss.

“My role is to identify how their hearing loss impacts upon their lifestyle and provide advice on suitable treatment options. As a result, Audiology can be challenging but is undoubtedly a very rewarding profession.”

Cheryl Bonney

Cheryl Bonney, 25, is a Biomedical Scientist based at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital who joined SaTH in September 2014.

She said: “I have always assumed growing up that I would work in the NHS in healthcare in some capacity although I knew it wouldn’t be as a doctor or nurse. During my A levels I fell in love with Science so a job where I could do both was the obvious choice.

“Day-to-day, my role involves testing blood samples from inpatients and GP services across Shropshire. In haematology, we test patients’s blood counts to determine their haemoglobin, and white cell counts as well as the ability of the patient’s blood to clot.

“Blood transfusion involves testing the group of blood and determining if the patient has any antibodies in their blood that can cause a reaction if they were to have a blood transfusion. Another important aspect of blood transfusion is issuing blood and products to patients that may be anaemic or bleeding in a timely manner.

“For me personally the variation between departments from day-to-day keeps this job interesting and exciting. Knowing you’re using science and technology to really help normal people in a meaningful way is also extremely gratifying.

“One of the key issues facing the NHS is bed availability, being able to send patients home that no longer need to be in hospital is essential and working in the laboratory this is key – patients are often discharged once blood test results are available and so getting our work through as quickly as possible really helps this.

“A large number of diagnoses are made based on laboratory results too so knowing that you are helping confirm diagnoses quickly so that patients can begin treatment makes a huge difference not only to the patient’s peace of mind but also to the effectiveness of prompt treatment.”

Lorraine Frew

Lorraine Frew, 29, is currently in year one of the Scientist Training Programme (STP). Her first year focuses on Reproductive Science, which has seen her based in the Shropshire and Mid Wales Fertility Centre at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH).

She said: “I am a trainee embryologist on the Scientist Training Programme (STP); a three-year programme of work based learning, underpinned by a University accredited master’s degree managed by the National School of Healthcare Science.

“I began this post in September 2016 and as part of my first year training I am been given the opportunity to rotate through several departments at RSH, including histopathology and cytopathology, to help enhance my skills as a healthcare scientists.

“I have always been passionate about the field of reproductive medicine. I completed my undergraduate degree and MSc by research in Reproductive Biology at the University of Edinburgh before studying for a PhD in the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, working in a laboratory focused on pregnancy related disorders.

“Throughout my studies I was fortunate to be involved in patient-facing research. This fuelled my desire to transition to a career as healthcare scientist, working at the interface between science and medicine.

“My role as a trainee embryologist allows me to build on my scientific knowledge, learning new skills that can be utilised for the benefit of patients.

“I thoroughly enjoy getting to interact with patients and being able to translate what goes on scientifically in the laboratory for their treatment and care.

“On completion of my traineeship I aspire to progress to complete higher specialist training and ultimately obtain a Consultant embryologist position, where I hope to utilise my skills and knowledge to implement change in clinical practice alongside the development of research and technology ultimately to provide the best service and care for patients.”

Charlotte Gandy

Charlotte Gandy, 22, is training in our Cardiorespiratory Department at the Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) in Telford.

She said: “I am currently in my first year of the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) here at SaTH. I am currently a trainee Healthcare Scientist specialising in respiratory and sleep science.  My role involves rotations in cardiology and in vascular science during my first year and then specialism-specific work in the second and third year.

“The STP is made up of two components; the approved and accredited workplace-based training and also gaining a master’s degree in clinical science. Once I have completed the STP, I will be eligible to apply for suitable healthcare science posts as a clinical scientist. I have only recently joined the trust in September 2016 after graduating from York University in July 2016, but in this time I have had exposure to many different clinical tests and procedures.

“In respiratory I carried out full pulmonary function tests involving spirometry, gas transfer analysis and lung volume measurements, became competent in analysing overnight oximetry data and polysomnography (sleep study) data and also was involved in routine calibration, cleaning and setting up of equipment. I experienced oxygen clinics, exercise testing, pulmonary rehab and also spent some time with community respiratory nurses.

“In cardiology, I became competent in electrode placements, recording and analysis of ECG. I analysed 24/48 hour tapes and was also exposed to echocardiograms, trans-oesophageal echocardiograms (TOEs), pacemaker fitting, reveal fitting, and angiograms.

“In vascular, my role entails ABPI (ankle brachial pressure index) measurements, ultrasound Doppler scanning of carotid arteries and leg arteries and veins. In each of these rotations, due to my exposure to different clinical environments I have also gained a lot of knowledge with regards to disease pathways and outcomes

“It is my responsibility to learn about the technology, physiology and rationale behind each of such tests and to research and take initiative with new technologies and ideas, hence, I will undertake a final year research project to showcase novel data I have acquired over the three years. The best part of this job is being able to apply science and technology to directly impact patients’ lives and it was this that drove me to pursue the career; it was the perfect opportunity to utilise my biology degree in a patient-facing role.

“I think this role is important within the NHS as it allows for continual development of healthcare based on scientific research. This is the driving force behind new technologies which will enable better/earlier diagnoses, time management, cost and most importantly, public health.”