Lisa Fisher is a Medical Illustration Manager for South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Middlesborough. She told icould how she came to specialise in medical photography.
Tell us about the job you’re doing now. What does it involve?
I manage a medical illustration department in an NHS hospital. We take photographs and video recordings of patients to illustrate their medical conditions, wounds and injuries. The photographs and video recordings are used to assist with patient diagnosis and treatment planning and also may be used for education, research and publication. As the department manager I also have to manage the staff, equipment, finances and business planning.
What is the most exciting aspect of your work?
I work in a variety of different departments, from our purpose-built photographic studio to wards, clinics, operating theatres and sometimes the mortuary. I get the opportunity to see some incredible things in the course of my work, not many people get to photograph open heart surgery!
Every day is different and every patient you meet has a different story to tell. It’s lovely to see the progress and outcome of a patient who has survived cancer and undergone major reconstructive facial surgery or someone who has suffered terrible injuries in an accident and their gradual recovery.
We are always looking at new technology and improving our methods and techniques of capturing images that can be used to demonstrate a patient’s medical condition, you really do keep on learning.
Would your classmates from school be surprised at what you’re doing now?
Yes! I always hated rules, regulations and structure and now I’m surrounded by them, I even create some of them!
Was there a teacher who had a particularly strong influence on you and if so in what way?
Only the ones that were negative – they motivated me to do better and prove them wrong!
What school subjects were you good at and have any been surprisingly helpful later on?
I was good at art and English. Life drawing started my interest in human anatomy and English has helped me write all the policies, procedures and emails that are now part of my daily working life.
How did you decide what you wanted to do after school?
My mum was a careers officer so you would think it would have been easy but it wasn’t – I started my career working with competition horses and racehorses. I loved it but it didn’t pay the bills!
And how did you get into your current line of work?
I had just finished my photography degree in Edinburgh when my sister told me about a clinical photographer working at the hospital where she was a laboratory assistant. I liked the sound of it so I went for a visit and I was hooked. I then persuaded a medical illustration department to let me do some work experience where I worked as an assistant for free so I could learn as much as possible. The internet wasn’t available then so everything was much harder to access and learn about. I eventually got a trainee post and ended up doing another degree.
Did you take a gap year? Did it influence any decisions later in life?
Yes – several! I like to dance to my own tune and make my own decisions – this may be why I became a manager…
If you went to university what was your university experience like?
Amazing, I went to Edinburgh College of Art which was situated in a lovely old building right next to the Grassmarket. Edinburgh has a great social scene and lots of art galleries and cinemas so it was perfect. The university course encouraged experimentation and creativity so learning was fun and expressive. The college used to be open 24 hours a day so we often used to work late hours, it had a great atmosphere.
What are you proudest of achieving?
Anything that requires blood, sweat and tears – I don’t usually take the easy route!
I am proud of the changes and improvements I have made in my department, we have completely changed the way we work in the last few years due to changes in technology and legislation. I am also proud that my department continues to grow and thrive at a time when some services have had to make staff cuts.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Really – I don’t know, I am open to ideas and trying new things. I would love to do a research Phd…but I would also like to travel more…if I can combine the two I will be happy.
What advice would you give someone still at school who wants to do what you’re doing now?
Don’t give up – it’s a very small, specialist profession and jobs are very competitive. I always look for staff who are technically competent and people-friendly. Make sure you get work experience, ask lots of questions and really do your background research.
Can you give us any links for more information?
- Institute of Medical Illustrators
- Committee for the Accreditation of Medical Illustration Practitioners
- Ophthalmic Imaging Association
- British Institute of Professional Photography