Hazel Rodger - Head of Radiotherapy
“All the staff and patients call me Baz. It’s a nickname from when I was a child and it’s just stuck. I came here after university and I was attracted to the profession because I wanted the technological innovation as well as the patient care. I wanted to make a big difference to people’s lives.
“I’m Head of Radiotherapy now and after 23 years I still love it. I love the fact I have the chance to shape the service for a huge amount of patients in Yorkshire. I don’t have as much direct involvement with patients as I used to, but when I do it really brings it home to me how it’s so important to get right what we do here. The fact that we have a paediatric centre is really great and the team can make such an impact on the children’s lives and those of their families.
“My days vary. I can be negotiating multi-million pound contracts one minute and cleaning the bottom of a patient’s slippers the next! (This particular patient had got his slippers dirty so myself and my deputy set about cleaning them up for him – the patients found it highly amusing.)
“I often say to myself, if it was my mum and dad, what treatment would I want them to have? Would I want it for my family? And that’s what I base a lot of my decisions on. I meet with so many different people and I’m always trying to look outside of here to see where we can work with colleagues better to improve the patient journey. I try and see ways we can bring healthcare professionals together, which I think is important for patients, especially if they’re unwell.
“There are highs and lows in any job, but one of my highs was as a Junior Radiographer. We were treating a 15 year old with learning difficulties from a difficult family background. We treated her for 18 months and every time she came in we would sing a song with her that she liked and we’d all do a dance to go with it. I can still remember the song! I was so proud of our team and what we did to get her through her treatment.
“I’ve also loved the world firsts we’ve introduced with our medical physics colleagues and our industry partners, such as a new treatment machine head that offers more precise radiotherapy. We have also introduced new techniques in collaboration with our physics colleagues to offer even more accurate, high dose radiotherapy such as our stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy (SABR). It’s meant we’ve been able to treat patients who, in the past, wouldn’t have been able to have treatment like this, such as patients with advanced lung cancer. We started SABR treatment in 2009 and now we’re the leading centre in the UK for it. Patients have been living a lot longer and it extends their quality of life. Because of the success of the UK SABR programme, NHS England have launched a programme of SABR treatments for other sites. It’s amazing to think in Leeds that we have been an early adoptor of this fantastic treatment and been able to offer it to our population.
“We’re fundraising with the charity for a new MRi Sim. This will make a huge difference to patients and how we treat them. It will give us much more soft tissue definition so we should be able to see the tumour far better and so change the radiation dose around it which will mean patients will have fewer side effects. You can look at making the dose different for each patient as opposed to a ‘one size fits all’ dose. It’s really important for us in Leeds to be able to do that.
“It’s a really exciting time to be here when all this new technology is coming through. I think in the future, it’s going to change cancer into a more chronic disease where you can manage it for longer.
“In the meantime, there’s still lots for me to do here – and there’s no where else I’d rather be.”