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IDWGS2021 - Leila Alwadi, Trainee Clinical Scientist at Cardiff and Vale UHB

As a child, when I was asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, my reply was ‘to work in a flower shop’. Twenty five years later, I can confirm that my passion for floristry still stands, alongside a desire to improve healthcare outcomes and reduce the burden of cancer. 

I had always been inquisitive and in secondary school I became increasingly interested in the field of biology. This led me to studying for an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science, where I found myself captivated by the immediacy of healthcare science and soon developed a strong desire to contribute to this ever changing and ground-breaking industry. I went on to complete my IBMS registration and worked as a Biomedical Scientist for Public Health agencies and the NHS. I enjoyed these roles and learnt a great deal about scientific service provision and diagnostic testing – to me this was an ideal environment for my scientific skills to develop. Despite this, I began to crave a more diverse role with longer standing impacts, so I applied for a Senior Scientist position in the private sector. There, I was able to work in the field of personalised healthcare for a molecular diagnostics company, developing diagnostic solutions which would be used in tandem with targeted oncology drugs. I embraced the change; the science was fascinating, and it was both rewarding and exciting to be contributing towards improvements in patient outcomes.

My career experience thus far had taught me three major lessons; firstly, I wanted to return to the NHS – I had a huge passion to provide a first class clinical service and I was unable to fulfil this working in private diagnostics development, away from the hospital setting. I also knew that I wanted to be in a role that allowed me to apply my scientific skills to develop innovative processes and deliver improvements. Finally, I knew that I wanted to continue contributing to the field of cancer genomics. With that in mind, I decided to apply for the Scientist Training Programme (STP), which is a post graduate training programme that supports the development of HCPC registered Clinical Scientists both academically (through an accredited masters) and professionally (through work-based learning). The programme is extremely competitive, and it took numerous attempts over a few years to land a role. But in 2020, I began my training in Cancer Genomics.

My route into science has been a winding one, and there have been several unexpected turns in the road which have led to me beginning a new career entirely. But, ultimately, many paths into your field may not be linear, and I feel that through my experience of multiple roles and sectors, I have been able to really find my passion and calling. Some people will know what this is from the outset of their studies, and some realise it further down the line, but I believe that by following my interests and instincts, my career has been both rewarding and exciting. My advice for women and girls who are interested in a career in science is believe it to achieve it. Embrace any opportunities that feel right for your development, then persevere and be open to adapt.