On 1st February 2019, I was delighted to finally see the results of weeks of organisation - the DHEZ Women in Medtech event.
The event was sponsored by Translate MedTech and co-organised by One HealthTech. It brought together academics, healthcare and business professionals to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing women working in medical technologies. We also had a couple of great presentations from two early stage researchers.
We kicked off with an introduction from Louise Sinclair, the co-founder of One Healthtech: “a grassroots community that campaigns for the need and importance of better inclusion of all backgrounds, skill sets and disciplines in healthtech”. I then spoke about the Digital Health Enterprise Zone, and its role in supporting academic-healthcare-business collaborations to develop digital health solutions for clinically-driven challenges. Lisa Hill discussed Translate Medtech’s aim to support the translation of “ideas into new medical technologies” to improve health. She reminded us that there are significant opportunities in the Leeds City region which is host to over 250 companies specialising in medical technologies as highlighted in the recent Science & Innovation Audit. Lisa also highlighted the opportunities afforded to academics, healthcare and business through Translate Medtech secondment resources, as demonstrated by the work of Dr Sareen Galbraith who developed wearable sensor technology to assess movement abnormalities in Parkinson’s disease.
We then heard from our three invited speakers Professor Ruth Wilcox, Charly Massey and Sue Clarke putting forward their academic, business and NHS medtech perspectives, respectively. Ruth highlighted the importance of multi-disciplinary working and collaboration in medical engineering; emphasising how her own work has been informed by contributions from biology, chemistry, medicine, social sciences and business. In terms of the challenges facing women in medtech, she said that whilst at the University of Leeds, women accounted for 50% participation in medical engineering (across undergraduate, PhD and all academic grades); this picture is not replicated at other institutions where the level of participation is at 15%. More still needs to be done, and part of this will be for the profile and visibility of women in medtech to be promoted. Charly presented some recent work she has completed with Open Medical Ltd on the implementation of new service models – delivery of remote dermatology (e-derma) and fracture clinic (e-trauma) services. The need for clarity of purpose and effective communication when it comes to implementing technology in healthcare was further emphasised by Sue’s experiences over a number of NHS technology implementation projects with her observation that “it’s as much about people as it is about tech”.
Our next two speakers were early stage reseachers: Dr Bana Shriky from the Polymer Interdisciplinary Research Centre Research, University of Bradford presented a fantastic talk about her research on hydrogels for controlled drug release; Dr Alicja Piotrkowicz from the University of Leeds Institute of Medical Education presenting some fascinating insights into the use of Artificial Intelligence to analyse text-based data – reminding us of the importance of diversity in relation to AI tool development.
The event was rounded off by a panel discussion in which the speakers were joined by Dr Liz Breen and Kersten England in a stimulating Q&A session around inclusion, education, and the importance of not only promoting STEM subjects but also remembering important input from the Arts & Humanities if we are to realise the potential of technology in healthcare. Discussions continued over lunch, and many new friends and plans for collaboration were made.
A great event!
My thanks go to everyone at One Healthtech and Translate Medtech for all of their support in the organisation (Andra Vlaicu, One Healthtech) and sponsorship (Lisa Hill, Translate Medtech). Nearer the day, Jurata Reed (DHEZ Ltd) and Tricia Steele (Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Bradford) made sure that venue, car parking and registration ran smoothly. Finally, my thanks to all of our speakers for providing us with their insights and passing on some of their experiences; our audience for their enthusiastic participation and Dr Liz Breen and Kersten England for joining our panel discussions.
Great team work – thank you all!
I am looking forward to our next event…..