Four CDT students gain two weeks clinical experience through Mini MD
In June 2017 four PhD students from CDT, Bianca De Blasi, Ernest Lo, Irina Grigorescu and Guotai Wang, took part in a two week Medical Imaging Mini MD that is organised annually by the School of Life and Medical Sciences and NIHR UCLH Biomedical Research Centre. This course aims to give non-clinical scientists the chance to work within hospitals and gain a better insight into how their work is used in clinical practice.
The first week was spent shadowing doctors and clinicians within the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and the second week shadowing at the Royal Free hospital. The students found that there was no typical day within the hospital and they were able to get involved with multiple interesting and diverse activities. They were given a choice of timetables so that they could tailor their schedule according to their specific research interests and maximise their learning from the experience. For instance, during the first week Bianca De Blasi was able to attend clinics, reporting sessions and meetings that were specifically related to her PhD project in neuroimaging.
They were able to attend a wide range of procedures such as attending imaging reporting with different radiologists, shadowing doctors meeting with patients and assisting amputees’ rehabilitation sessions. A student could begin their day at 8 am by experiencing the ups and downs of a multiple sclerosis clinic then finish the day off by participating in a heated discussion at a multidisciplinary team meeting. Another benefit of clinical work was the ability to see a whole process through from start to end, such as following a kidney transplant from harvesting to grafting using robotics surgery.
This course highlighted the differences and practical challenges faced by using medical imaging within a clinical setting rather than a research lab. In particular, the students were able to appreciate the difficulties of working under time and money constraints, where clinical assessments were primarily carried out visually and qualitatively. Further, they were able to experience the reality of interacting in real-time with patients who were often very traumatised or unwell. Students commented that this reconfirmed to them their belief that the drive behind their research in medical imaging should be patient-focused and be about working towards something that can benefit clinical practice. As Irina Grigorescu states, the experience was “a reminder of what really matters – the patient”. The kinds of new patient-related challenges that students discovered in the clinical context has provided inspiration for future and potential research topics.
Ernest Lo said, “We started the course expecting two weeks of playing doctor. But what we discovered by the end was a greater understanding of the importance and purpose of our role as scientists and engineers in the medical field”.
One of the other main benefits of their experience was the social aspect and particularly that it gave them the opportunity to meet and develop relationships with doctors, radiologists and clinicians that they are hopeful they will be able to collaborate with in the future. These relationships will aid the students by providing a direct insight into the kinds of everyday problems faced in using medical imaging in a clinical setting. This will then help them to develop solutions to these problem through their own research.