Graduate on cutting edge of respiratory testing in UK

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Kellie Strickland at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth

USC Biomedical Science graduate Kellie Strickland had to pinch herself when she landed in England in September last year to take up a respiratory physiologist position at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth.

“This was a prospect I had no idea was possible – being able to work in my field and travel the UK and Europe was a dream come true,” she said.

Kellie had started work in the UK straight after 18 months at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, where she also completed her USC clinical placement and Science Honours project.

“At the Queen Alexandra Hospital, I’m performing lung function testing on patients with asthma, emphysema, lung cancer and scarring (Fibrosis), using high-tech equipment to provide measurements that aid in diagnoses and monitoring disease progression,” she said.

“I also help with pre-operative preparations for patients undergoing major surgery by assisting in cardiopulmonary exercise testing.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the 22-year-old’s career has taken another step along the cutting edge.

“At first, it just meant I wore a mask, gown and gloves for every patient,” said the 2014 Chancellor State College graduate.

“Now, I am starting to test the lung function of recovered COVID-19 patients to see if they've had any chronic effects from the virus.”

Kellie said her University placement with the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service (SCHHS) was invaluable.

“It introduced me to the reality of hospital life and being involved with patients. It gave me direct connection with industry professionals and the specific respiratory training I needed.

“My supervisor Darren Smith (SCHHS Clinical Investigations Unit respiratory scientist) showed me the ropes of becoming a respiratory physiologist and helped me set the strong foundations I use today.”

Kellie said she loved working in the USC laboratories performing microbiology experiments and pathophysiology exercises.

“I am now living very happily in the UK, gaining further experience, becoming more senior and enjoying many adventures. None of this would be possible without the knowledge I gained through my degree.”

While Kellie’s current adventures are tempered by COVID-19 travel restrictions, she said her job provided daily satisfaction.

“I particularly enjoy assisting my asthma patients with their inhalers and getting them back in control of their breathing,” she said. “It is rewarding to see their lung function improve.

“I love teaching and assisting the junior physiologists and seeing them progress. I also learn from seeing different types of lung pathologies every day.”

USC Lecturer in Biomedical Science Dr Michelle Maugham-Macan said clinical placements enabled students to apply the learnings from their degree and establish workplace connections for careers in the discipline.

Kellie said she was delighted with her choice of university and degree.

“Deciding what career to choose was daunting for my 17-year-old self and I felt lost,” she said.

“I always had a strong passion for art, science and medicine and was strongly considering becoming a doctor.

“Biomedical Science turned out to be the best decision I’ve made. It gave me the knowledge to understand the complexities of respiratory pathophysiology as well as a greater understanding of human physiology.

“It also gave me opportunities I would never have experienced if I went to med school, including exposure to different clinical careers and research pathways.”

To take a virtual tour of USC from anywhere in the world, go to https://www.usc.edu.au/virtual-tours

Kellie in Paris, France Kellie in Tromso, Norway
 
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