Head of School - Medical Ultrasound, Warren Foster
In this interview, our Head of School of Medical Ultrasound, Warren Foster, discusses his fascinating career in diagnostic imaging, working for the NHS in both the UK and abroad in Africa. He has a wealth of valuable expertise and insight to share with our students.
BSc (Hons), DR. MSc. MU - Head of School of Medical Ultrasound
Warren graduated from Portsmouth University with a BSc (Hons) Degree in diagnostic radiography and subsequently worked in the NHS within diagnostic imaging. During his career in the NHS he has worked in angiography, CT, MRI, and trauma both in this country and abroad in Africa.
“I started as a general Radiographer. My first interest was plain film, so A&E work and general X-ray. As part of one of my first job roles I went out to Africa and worked in third world provisions, providing imaging for TB clinics and working in mud huts in remote informal settlements. We had no electricity, so to take X-rays, we had to wind up the Capacitor Discharge X-ray tubes with a hand-winding dynamo. I also worked in East London South Africa in a dedicated trauma hospital taking X-rays for knife and gun crime victims.
“When I came back to the UK, I worked in Dorchester Hospital where they had just set-up an A&E department and my first senior role was as the A&E Lead.”
Leading the industry
“We built an angiography department at Dorchester - the study and treatment of vein and artery disorders. You put small wires into blood vessels under imaging and use balloon catheters to blow up the blood vessels to remove blockages and obstructions. I became the Angiography Lead. Alongside that I started my CT and MRI training before being offered a training post in ultrasound. So, I had a really crazy job at one stage where I was doing X-Ray on call, angiography one day a week, ultrasound training two days a week and I was working in CT and MRI two days a week. You wouldn’t usually work across the whole diagnostic imaging department and especially not in today’s world, but Dorchester was expanding and I had a boss that supported me in my ambitions.
“I moved over to Poole NHS Trust to do my fetal medical training and my pediatric training before I got my first musculoskeletal training post. At this point in my career, I moved down to Lymington as part of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust as the Ultrasound Superintendent. On my arrival we had one Ultrasound room and when I left, we had nine!”
Why Choose a Radiology Career?
“I fell into Radiology really - I had considered a place for Medicine at University and I didn’t want to do it as I decided it was too much hard work! I knew I wanted to do something in healthcare and helping people and then a careers advisor asked if I’d thought about Radiography and so I went for my interview at Portsmouth and it took off from there. During my first placement in a Radiology department, I thought, yes, this is where I want to
be. I felt like I could have an effect on all patients – around 80% of all patients at a hospital go through imaging, so having contact with a wide variety of patients definitely was a draw.
“That drove my senior aspirations, to make changes within the system – I’ve been really proud of what has been achieved in places like Lymington New Forest Hospital where they’ve now got a completely different way of operating their imaging services. My whole career has always been about making things work better, so that I can positively affect more people. This is true of my work in education also because I can either see a couple of patients and do a really good job or I can teach ten students and, between us, we can all see lots of patients really well. That drives my desire to teach. For me, teaching is about quality, I want the best students leaving here, so that I’m indirectly affecting thousands rather than a few hundred.
“A career in Radiology also offers so much choice. You can work in different areas at different times and you can go across the sector. The first five years of my career was very A&E oriented, very trauma oriented – with the here and the now and things have to be done quickly. But then you get to the point in your life when family life may take precedent, kids come along and you can’t be on call all the time and actually that was an opportunity to move into another area, so I went into CT and MRI. If something isn’t quite for you then you can step back and move elsewhere. Moving into ultrasound was like a candy store for me with all the choice of areas to specialise in.”
Always with a keen interest in education, Warren has interlaced his responsibility in the NHS with lecturing commitments at Exeter University, The University of the West of England and AECC University College.
“I have five or six students I’m currently mentoring on research projects at AECC University College. We have one that’s looking at MRI technique that measures prosthesis in ankles – we’ve found that it’s cost effective to do with ultrasound and a bit of geometry, it’s about £250 cheaper and there’s no difference when the results are compared with MRI. Also, from a safety point of view, Ultrasound is a completely inert technique of doing it so we don’t have to do safety checks on patients that have had previous surgeries on valves etc., so it makes everything easier. No-one has ever done this before, so we will be looking to publish the research shortly.
“Another piece about to be published is looking at how good computer algorithms are at finding nodules in people’s thyroids and characterising them appropriately, so that if they’re benign they get ignored and if they need intervention this is taken forward. Then there are some equivocal ones in the middle and it’s whether the technology puts them in the right category as those are the ones we worry about!”
AECC University College
“I came here because AECC University College is a small institution that has fantastic resources and the opportunity to treat people as individuals. When I’m teaching, I want people to be really good at what they do and for each of my students to benefit from the experiences I can tell them about.
“The Medical Ultrasound faculty is fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a wide variety of healthcare professionals, including top sporting teams. We provide MSc level education in all areas of diagnostic ultrasound training for English premier league doctors and medics. We regularly work with AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool Football Club, working with the clubs’ medical teams, some of who are past students, to provide the latest insight and guidance to support their Musculoskeletal Ultrasound practice. We also support the national rugby teams of Wales and England. In turn our students get the opportunity to learn from those within the sporting industry too.”
If you’re interested in a career in medical imaging, you can find out more about the courses AECC University College has to offer here.