To support Healthcare Science Week 2024 we will be showcasing several cardiac scientists inspirational career journeys.

Duncan Sleeman – Communications Officer, SCST & South West Physiological Sciences Senior Practice Educator for NHSE & Senior Lecturer at the University of the West of England

“During my school years, I developed a profound passion for science, thanks to the inspiring guidance of Mr. Trower, my exceptional secondary school science teacher. He encouraged us to question the world and challenge existing ideas. Recognising my desire to make a meaningful impact on people’s lives, I decided against pursuing university education after completing my A-Levels.

Living in South Devon at the time, I found the only thing open to me was working in the hotel and catering industry, which I did for six years, although it didn’t really meet my desires. Despite gaining qualifications and advancing to roles in hotel management, I harboured a persistent ambition for something more fulfilling.

In the year 2000, I took a bold step and applied for a position as a student medical technical officer (MTO) at the Heart and Lung Unit in Torbay Hospital. Despite scepticism from friends and family about leaving a well-paid hotel management role, I was driven by a vision of helping others and my love for science.

During the two years of intensive training, I delved into various medical disciplines such as Cardiology, Respiratory, Neurophysiology, and Audiology. Although audiology briefly captivated me, motivated by the incredible head of department at the Royal Devon & Exeter, Jonathan Parsons. Cardiology remained my true calling. I completed the training in medical physics and physiological measurements (MPPM) at Exeter College, guided by inspirational mentors like Dr. Adrian Kendrick.

Following my time in Torbay, I pursued further specialisation in Echocardiography in Plymouth under the mentorship of David Morris. I spent several years working as part of David’s team. Despite my growing interest in pacing, I adhered to my echocardiography role, but eventually transitioned to the device industry, seeking a deeper understanding by learning from those who built the devices. Six years in the device industry, progressing from technical support to research, proved immensely rewarding until a health issue led me back to clinical work.

After three years back in the echo room, and having to regain accreditation, I applied for the head of department role at The Royal Cornwall Hospital (RCHT). In this position, I aimed to provide a 5-star service akin to my hotel trade background, fostering innovation, training and education within the cardiac physiology team.

My frustration with the under recognition of the healthcare science workforce prompted my involvement in the SCST council in 2017. Taking on the role of communications lead in 2018, I aimed to elevate the profile of cardiac healthcare science. Inspired by individuals like Joanne Ashton, Su Baxter, Dr. Nolan Stain and Dr. David Richley, I worked towards recognising the invaluable contributions of cardiac science professionals to the NHS.

In 2021, I embraced a part-time role at the University of the West of England (UWE) as the module lead for the Cardiac Physiology program. This role, alongside my department lead position, brought me full circle, reconnecting me with Dr. Adrian Kendrick, now as a colleague, although I still feel like a pupil in his company!

This part time role, alongside my head of department role led to more engagement with the National School of Healthcare Science (NSHCS). After an inspirational conversation with my now mentor Graham Wilson (HCS regional dean for the NSHCS) I became the Lead Practice Educator for Physiological Sciences at NHSE, focusing on workforce development for the broader healthcare science group in the south of England.

My current life is divided between being the program lead for the PGCert in Echocardiography, part of the ETP program, and the module lead for Cardiac Physiology at UWE. As the Lead Practice Educator for Physiological Sciences at NHSE, I actively contribute to workforce development for healthcare science professionals.

Reflecting on my career journey in Cardiac Physiology, I emphasise the importance of surrounding oneself with inspirational mentors. I express gratitude daily for the guidance and influence of individuals like Mr. Trower, Jonathan Parsons, Adrian Kendrick, David Morris, Joanne Ashton, Su Baxter, Nolan Stain, Dave Richley and Graham Wilson, who have all played pivotal roles in shaping my career”.