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Dr Michelle Foster | My CSO WISE Fellowship Journey

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As far back as I can remember, I have been fascinated by science. In particular, I find the human body incredible: how such an intricate and complicated series of bio systems work together as a masterpiece.

8 June 2018

At school I found that Biology came naturally to me so at university I studied Medical Biochemistry and went on to do a PhD researching diabetes in pregnancy. It was this point that I also found I enjoyed the patient contact, and with this in mind retrained on the Clinical Scientist route into Audiology.

Audiologists are part of the Healthcare Scientist discipline, and we diagnose hearing and balance problems across all ages, from babies to the elderly. As Audiologists we have the privilege of helping patients connect with the world; as a profession we get to use our science to benefit peoples’ lives.

I have enjoyed my clinical work and as my experience progressed I have started to initiate several projects across different services. This was exciting: I loved the collaboration, and the energy from working with other professionals. I knew I had the ability to initiate, establish and create new projects collaboratively with others, but I needed to overcome some limitations and political barriers that I felt had been placed around me. I felt I needed to fly and be set free! So I applied for the Chief Scientific Officer Women In Science and Engineering (CSO WISE) Fellowship via NHS England and was accepted this year.

The fellowship has given me a new lease of life, restoring hope and reigniting the passion for my career. As part of the fellowship you get to know the three other fellows, all outstanding for different reasons and through this I have gained three great friends.

However, the fellowship offers much more than just supportive friendships. Amongst other things, the four-day leadership and career development programme has taught me how to have assertive conversations and state the specific outcomes that I desire. It can be hard to be assertive, especially with senior members in the team, but equipped and empowered with simple strategies from the course I have been able to take hold of the opportunities that arise.

2018 has brought a lot change for me. I have embarked on a secondment to Leeds Teaching Hospital, where I am now the Head of Adult Audiology. Leaving my comfort zone in this way has been a challenge, not least getting used to travelling every day. However, it’s in these moments that I have started to see what I am capable of: I have followed my intuition, my ideas, and my desires to support and nurture the team.

I have often looked back and considered who has inspired me and why. The main theme I notice is the inspirational leaders in my life have allowed ideas to flow and for people to be themselves, encouraging them to bring their enthusiasm, passion and skills to the situation. They create time for people and set a vision for everyone to move towards. With this in mind my aim is to create an atmosphere in my team so they can grow and flourish.

Finally, I am truly looking forward to the mentoring through the CSO WISE fellowship. I have been mentored before in a non-work capacity and have found it to be one of the most significant points where I have grown. The fellowship came just at the right moment for me to be able to facilitate the change that I needed, as well as empowering me to manage and make the most of the opportunities available.

Follow me on Twitter @michellerfoster

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