Glafkos Havariyoun is a Medical Physicist in the Division of Imaging Sciences & Biomedical Engineering. He is a Trainee Clinical Scientist specialising in imaging with ionising radiation working at King’s College Hospital. Here he talks about his involvement with outreach and what he has learnt by engaging with various audiences. This article was originally posted on the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine website.
When I was in school I unfortunately was never introduced to Healthcare Science (HS) careers through any outreach events. I was very lucky though to have been introduced to Medical Physics as part of my A-level physics, which is where it all started. Outreach events are not only used to promote HS careers but encourage and inspire young people to enjoy and take Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) classes. I’m not planning to be a famous science communicator and don’t plan on being the next Brian Cox but I do take every opportunity I have to talk to students about the importance of HS in the current medical era and try and pass on my never ending enthusiasm for it!
Materials and Methods
I have taken part in about ten outreach events and spoken to about n=100 students (σ=0 :)). Events I have taken part in include university open days, Reach Out for Healthcare Science, I’m a Scientist Get Me Out Of Here, school visits to the hospital, and IPEM outreach events including the recent Light in Medicine event part of the UNESCO International Year of Light at the Science Museum Lates . I am also a STEM Ambassador and I would encourage you to join the STEM Network. They provide all the training you need and can support you in any outreach events you would like to do.
Outreach events co-ordinated by IPEM are very organised and everything you might need is provided! Whether it’s a projector and a screen for your presentation or a portable ultrasound scanner and a phantom! All you need is your enthusiasm, excitement and personal experiences from how you came to choose what you are doing now to what your daily job involves! I have prepared and developed a small PowerPoint presentation on what I do as a trainee clinical scientist and use it whenever necessary. I always try and take some bits and bobs of decommissioned medical physics equipment and show them to students. Practical and interactive events are always more successful I believe.
I won the I’m a Scientist (IMAS) Get Me Out of Here Medical Physics zone which came with £500 to spend on outreaching! I must admit it was a lot more intense than I thought it would be! This was an online X-factor style competition where four other medical physicists and I answered students’ questions through live chats and offline questions, which we could answer later on at our own convenience. We all love number crunching and statistics, right? Well, the Medical Physics zone had the most students and live chats of all zones! My profile page had 2,022 views and as you can see in Figure 1 I tried to answer as many questions as possible and participate in as many chats as possible. Figure 2 shows the words that were most used during the chat sessions! I think this figure sums up really well the type of questions we were most asked.
Figure 1: Scientists activity pie chart
The questions were so varied from ‘Can you weaponise your research?’ to ‘How far do you think the benefit outweighs the risk when using radiation for medical treatment?’ so be prepared for anything and everything! I must admit that I was caught unprepared at times and I had to ‘Google it’ when it came to non medical-physics specific questions. One of the best feelings was when a student said that we helped them see the importance of science and what they are learning at school and will think about a profession in HS!
The Science Museum Lates event was a totally new experience for me on the other hand! Why? The audience was the general public and this involved adults! I made sure I asked their profession before I started talking to them about the dangers and uses of UV rays or how light is used for blood pressure monitoring in hospitals. In this way I could adjust my use of science jargon and not waste their and my time if they already knew about it all. All in all it was a great experience and I often found that the public was so interested in medical physics that conversations drifted away to other areas of the profession. The impression I got, which I think we all know by now, is that not a lot of people know about this career. The reactions I got when explaining what clinical engineers and medical physicists do was truly rewarding!
You get the chance to meet a lot of people as well and the networking throughout the process is invaluable! Last but not least – CV! Participating in outreach events undoubtedly indicates that you enjoy your profession and is proof of your effective communication skills. For those who don’t worry about jobs and have them completely secure I have 3 letters for you, CPD! For trainees I have two words for you, professional competencies!
Conclusions and Discussion
On a personal level I find that being even able to talk about this profession from personal experiences is amazing. I am very lucky to be able to be a part of healthcare science.
I learn new things every single time! You learn how to communicate science at all levels! Not only at international or national conferences which you would do in your day-to-day work. It is a process of learning to explain something in very simple terms and using your own but also the audience’s everyday experiences and knowledge to help understand the importance of healthcare science and grasp the concepts used. At the end of the day we are helping deliver healthcare science to the general public and we should be able to communicate our work to them. Not only will this give recognition to our work, which most of the time is hidden in the background, but will also hopefully inspire future generations!