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michelle leech

Associate Professor and Head of Discipline, Discipline of Radiation Therapy, School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin 

 

And - April 2020 will receive Emmanuel van der Scheuren award for dedication to radiation oncology education and advocacy

The only limits that you have are the ones you place on yourself so trust in your abilities.

What do you do?

I teach radiation therapy, which is the therapeutic use of radiation in the treatment of cancer to undergraduate and postgraduate students.  These students go on to graduate as radiation therapists- the professionals who plan, deliver and support cancer patients throughout their radiation therapy cancer journey.  I also research this area and have special interest in improving the education of radiation therapists around the world.  To that end, I work in close collaboration with the European Society of Radiotherapy and Oncology as well as conducting expert missions globally on behalf of the International Atomic Agency’s section on applied radiation biology and radiotherapy. 

Why did you choose this field?

I studied radiation therapy at University as the combination of technical ability and accuracy, together with the focus on patient-centred care really appealed to me.  While an undergraduate, I had a really visionary Professor who inspired me to enter academia and instilled in me a love for this field and profession. 

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

Next April 2020, I will receive the Emmanuel van der Scheuren award for dedication to radiation oncology education and advocacy at the 40th European Society for Radiation Therapy and Oncology congress in Vienna, Austria.  This will be the highlight of my career to date and I would never have thought that this would be possible 10 years ago when I first embarked on this work with this society.  So I would tell my younger self that hard work and enjoying what you do can lead to unexpected highs in your career.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love working in my field as it is a constantly advancing branch of medicine.  Every year there are new and improved advances which have the potential to lead to better outcomes for cancer patients.  Who wouldn’t love waking up to such an exciting prospect every day?!

Best advice for the next generation

For girls interested in this field, my advice is to find what you are passionate about, work hard and take opportunities that come your way.  The only limits that you have are the ones you place on yourself so trust in your abilities and most of all, work in an area that you really enjoy and that inspires you.

Fun fact

Radiation therapy is responsible for 40% of cancer cures, whether by itself or together with other modes of cancer treatment.  Very few people know this!