NES Events | NHS Education for Scotland | Paula McDonald

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Dr Paula McDonald

Quality Lead, Biomedical Scientist and Clinical Scientist

NHS Tayside

A major part of Paula MacDonald's current role has been developing the laboratory service provided by NHS Tayside to the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme. In November 2017 the programme changed from manual, qualitative screening to adopt an automated quantitative test that can be used to investigate personalised risk of developing colorectal cancer. She also investigated the potential use of the screening test in symptomatic patients and this is being adopted across the UK.  During the seven years of research she worked part-time on a PhD with the University of Dundee. To date she has had two papers published as the first author and has been involved in writing more than ten papers. Paula still has unpublished data and continues to peer review academic articles.

Paula had the opportunity to extend her scientific role to include advising at a national level on ways the laboratory can improve the delivery of screening, the efficacy of test modality and algorithms and the effect of age, gender and deprivation on clinical outcomes. She was also involved in the cost benefit analysis, business case and implementation of the new test. She spent time working with NHS QIS developing standards for bowel screening and ‘Detect Cancer Early’ to get funding for new initiatives.

During the period working on her thesis she was a guest lecturer for Prof Chen of the National Taiwan University, presented research at the United European Gastroenterology Week (Nice) and Digestive Diseases Week (Chicago) conferences. Paula has also chaired a session at one of the UK Bowel Screening ‘Hub Club’ meetings. She also lectures at Abertay University on the Biomedical Science degree.

Embarking on a PhD challenged her to take on new responsibilities. It provided access to people with skills she would not normally have come across within the laboratory environment. It was hard work, running a national laboratory service and doing a PhD, however, she would recommend to anyone that they take any opportunity to develop their role through academic research.

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