Dr Elizabeth Loney is Chair of the BIR Leadership and Management special interest group (SIG). She is Associate Medical Director and Consultant Radiologist Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS FT.
Find out more about Elizabeth and her vision for the new SIG.
In your opinion, what are the key issues and challenges for the radiology and radiation oncology workforce?
I think we need to be prepared to move with the times and embrace new technology. When I started in radiology we loaded up manual viewers with sheets of film and dictated to a secretary or into a tape machine. Now we look like call centre operators with our headsets on, glued to a screen. It’s easy to think that artificial intelligence will replace us but if we get involved from the outset we have the chance to shape the future and determine how it can make our lives better rather than feeling threatened by it.
And of course the workforce, or lack of one, is another major challenge. Our roles are constantly changing and the boundaries between professions becoming blurred. In my opinion it is patient outcomes that matter. Provided the person doing something is suitably trained/qualified and is doing it to a high standard, does their job title matter? If we always put the patient at the heart of what we do we can overcome professional boundaries and work together to improve services. After all, we are all patients “waiting to happen” and will at some point need the NHS to care for us. Sharing skills and knowledge will ensure that we have a workforce fit for the future.
Tell us about the new group and what you hope it will achieve.
To me the BIR is pan-imaging. It works across professional boundaries and is there for everyone. That is what the new SIG will be: a place for everyone interested in leadership and management in radiology, no matter what their background – inclusive, innovative and insightful. I believe it can become the “go to” place for information, networking and peer support in its field. The annual meeting will be a key date in your calendar where you can meet like-minded people and take a moment to consider your personal leadership journey and those you manage. Our website will provide a sharing platform for useful documents and templates, saving you from “reinventing the wheel” each time you start a new piece of work. I envisage a peer support network where users can contact one another for advice and mentorship. Leadership can be lonely, we all need someone to talk to and bounce ideas off. I hope that the new SIG will provide a forum for sharing experiences, troubles and success stories. Please get in touch if you are interested in getting involved.
Can you sum the BIR up in three words?
Collaborative, inclusive and friendly.
Why did you originally become a radiologist?
I was a senior SHO training to be an ENT surgeon and had completed both general and ENT FRCS examinations but found there were no registrar jobs available. A friend from medical school had gone into radiology and told me about the great lifestyle – no on-calls for 2 years, being taught formally on the job and going straight into a registrar programme. At the time I had a young son whom I saw occasionally on weekends when he came for dinner in the hospital canteen. I thought “I can still do ENT, just as a radiologist, and have a life”. I’ve never regretted my decision to change.
What is your proudest achievement?
As President of the British Society of Head and Neck Imaging, welcoming radiologists from all round the world to the joint European and British Society Meeting in London in 2018. It was such an honour to represent a society I love and a privilege to meet so many amazing people. Rik Harnsberger (a famous American Head and Neck Radiologist) even signed my “Handbook of Head and Neck Imaging”. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that he would know who I was when I bought his book as a new Consultant in a small DGH. Wow! It just goes to show that anything is possible.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Try to care less about what other people think of you. You can’t please all the people all the time so you should just be yourself.
What advice would you give to a young person starting out as a radiologist?
Be prepared for a rapidly changing world. How you work now won’t be how you’ll work in 5 or 10 years, and that’s a good thing. Have a flexible attitude, stay positive and most important of all: be kind to yourself and others.
What might we be surprised to know about you?
The only exam I’ve ever failed is my driving test… twice! The first time I reversed up a curb and the second time I changed lanes without using my mirrors. I think it made me a better driver but my husband says otherwise!
When you are not working, how do you like to spend your time?
I enjoy doing cross-stitch and making cards. It allows my brain to switch off and it’s “not work”! My 12 year old and I devote 2 hours each Saturday to being together and doing something fun… going to the cinema, playing board games, on the PS4 or doing crystal art. I have often sacrificed time with my family for work in the past. I’m trying to find a better work life balance.
Which actor would play you in the film about your life?
I’d like to say Nicole Kidman because I think she’s amazingly talented and beautiful but back in the real world it would probably be Rebel Wilson or Melissa McCarthy! Neither is afraid to go out there and be themselves. That's how I try to live my life… you only get one chance so you have to make the most of every moment.