Healthcare Science Week – ‘ask me about genomics’

dna strands and binary code illustration

It’s Healthcare Science Week 2020 and teams across Birmingham Women’s and Children’s have been celebrating and sharing their passion for science. Our hundreds of scientific, technical and clinical staff members play vital roles in delivering world-class care to thousands of our patients and families every year. 

Find out what our staff love about working in Genetics (transcript below video): 

Video transcript:

Hello, I’m Mike Griffiths, I’m Director of the West Midlands Regional Genetics Laboratory here at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s.

We are the largest NHS genomics laboratory in the UK, and we provide a comprehensive range of genetic tests for the benefit of our patients. This ranges from diagnosis of rare disease, to monitoring treatment response in cancer; from whole-genome sequencing to target tests detecting a single-base variation – or even one cell in 100,000 of residual leukaemia.

Genetics is a rapidly developing and exciting science, with new opportunities to help patients emerging every week.

We have a team of brilliant scientists, technicians and support staff, working at the cutting edge of medical knowledge.

Sannah Khan, Genetic Technologist:

I’ve been interested in genomics since I started learning about it at University. I had a really enthusiastic teacher who drew me in, and I’ve been fascinated ever since, and now that I can use my practical skills to help patients get that long-awaited result, I feel really proud of the work that we do here – and I’m really excited about the future of genomics.

Alison Foster, Genomics SpR:

Genomics is a hugely powerful tool that enables us to make diagnoses in patients with rare disease, and also guides patient care. From a research perspective, genomics increases our understanding of the molecular causes of rare disease, and provides insight into ultimately how we might develop targeted therapies. For me, working in genomics is hugely satisfying; as a doctor and researcher I can see first-hand how developments in the research setting can translate into benefits for patients and families in my clinics.

Usman Mahmood, Genetic Technologist

My fascination into working in genetics was influenced by modern research and advances in technology to bring the best result to our patients. We’re in an area of discovery through whole-genome sequencing, adopting genetic screening and further education for the public. This promises to deliver precise diagnoses, coupled with medical treatment to change people’s lives, making genetics the future of our healthcare system – and, as a lab technician, an exciting and rewarding place to work.

Emma Douglas, Genetic Study Co-Ordinator

Working as a clinical research practitioner, I have a patient-facing role. I specifically work within the clinical genetics department with clinicians, to let them know of opportunities for patients to be involved in research. I like working with the genomic medicine patient group because I’m often working with such engaged and motivated families. Working in the powerful field of genomic medicine feels an important and helpful career because of the impact that it has on health and disease for these patients.

Scientist working in the West Midlands Regional Genetics Laboratory

Florentina Sava, Clinical Scientist (Cancer)

This is the genome age, which is a time when whole-genome sequencing is easily possible in the national healthcare system for patients with rare disease and cancer. Therefore, I think it is a great place to be, knowing that if you decipher the genome of this patient, it will have a significant impact on their treatment – and in most cases, will lead to an increased quality of lifespan. This of course does not have an impact on the patient only, but also their family, friends and colleagues.

Emma Huxley, Senior Clinical Scientist (Cancer)

Working within haemato-oncology, you can really see how genomics impacts on the patients’ journey through their cancer – from diagnosis, to treatment monitoring, to transplantation. Genomics can help how the patient is treated and ensure they get the most effective treatment. Every day is different and the satisfaction you get when you deliver that all-important result to the clinician is so rewarding.

David Walker, Genetic Counsellor

The reason I love working as a genetic counsellor is that it perfectly combines my love for the hard science, with the ability to apply that directly to patients. And it’s not just genomics that we work in – it’s also cardiac services, it’s paediatric services, it’s pre-natal services, it’s neurological services – so it’s exciting, and a privilege to be able to work in all areas of the NHS.

Sarah Clinton, Training Manager

Genomics is undoubtedly a really exciting specialism within healthcare science and as such, we have excellent technical, scientific and bioinformatics staff, working in our lab and also across our consortium. I’m motivated by them, their achievements, but also their potential. It’s hugely motivating to be part of their education and training, to ensure they deliver the highest-quality service and, in turn, patient care.

Mike Griffiths, Clinical & Scientific Director

This is Healthcare Science Week, and as part of my celebration of it, I’m going to be wearing this [t-shirt] this Saturday at Park Run, so that everyone can ‘Ask Me About Genomics’.