Cathy Dunlea

Please briefly describe your clinical/medical experience to date?

I am currently the paediatric and teenage young adult specialist therapeutic radiographer at UCLH where my role is predominantly to oversee all paediatric patient pathways and referrals to UCLH for both photon and proton beam therapy (PBT). My clinical experience as a therapeutic radiographer expands across all areas of the patient radiation oncology pathway including consent clinics, treatment immobilisation and planning scans, radiotherapy planning and dosimetry, treatment delivery, on-treatment imaging verification and independent review. I have also gained credible experience as a key worker in supporting patients and families throughout their radiotherapy treatment journey. Lastly, I have established longstanding inter-professional relationships across the large paediatric radiation oncology MDT at UCLH, but also with colleagues both nationally and internationally within this specialism.

What motivated you to enter paediatric care in the first place?

My ambition in paediatric medicine stemmed from an early age experience of a close friend being diagnosed and treated for a childhood cancer. I remember the pathway that the family experienced from first symptoms to diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. I distinctly remember the impact the treatment pathway had on both my friend and the family unit, including how what seemed to be smaller offerings, such as my mum covering the school run for siblings in the family, made a big difference at that time.

How will the funding from The Evie Dove Foundation help you to advance your career and your impact/services to children?

Funding from the Evie Dove Foundation will support my attendance at the 2024 Paediatric Radiation Oncology Society’s annual conference. Experts from various fields including paediatric oncologists, surgeons, radiographers, physicists and dosimetrists are invited to attend the congress to exchange knowledge to promote research and education encompassing the role of radiation in paediatric cancer. Furthermore, the congress addresses innovative findings and visions in paediatric radiation oncology and new strategies in the multimodal treatment of childhood cancer, while also focussing on the needs for low- and middle-income countries. Attendance at this conference will allow me to enhance my skills and knowledge in paediatric radiotherapy, to improve clinical practice in the UK, to consider innovations and research based on worldwide practice and to progress in my own specialism within paediatric radiation oncology.

How did you find out about The Evie Dove Foundation?

I was introduced to the Evie Dove foundation by a colleague within the UCLH MDT who sent me through details on the foundation. I then continued my research and discovered the fantastic work the foundation is carrying out in support of health care professionals working within paediatric care.

Tell us about yourself!

I grew up in Cork, Ireland where my hobbies and interests included sports in particular hockey and a love for music. I started to learn how to play a couple of instruments from a young age, however piano was the only one which I continued into my teenage years. I am still a huge music fan and love to attend live music gigs and concerts in my spare time. I really enjoy exploring all kinds of music and look forward to discovering new artists and genres. I also enjoy exploring new places and hope to travel more over the coming years as Uni had taken priority over travels for some time. In my earlier years as a therapeutic radiographer, I installed music streaming and music device connections into our treatment rooms so that patients had the opportunity to listen to whatever music they like while having treatment. I think this is incredibly important for patients, both young and older, to have some control over their surroundings on treatment. I hope to have completed my MSc in radiation oncology ahead of travels to Sydney for the PROS 2024 annual meeting.

Anything else you would like to tell us about your experience, future aspirations and motivations?

My future aspiration is to continue to progress in the field of paediatric radiation oncology. I hope to continue to work closely with radiotherapy services across the UK and NHS England to ensure that the paediatric radiotherapy referral pathways provide high-quality clinical care, safe and efficient treatment delivery and patient and family experience remains at the core of the pathway.