Professor Val Lewington
Professor of Clinical Therapeutic Nuclear Medicine
Programme Director, MSc/PG Dip in Nuclear Medicine
Imaging Sciences & Biomedical Engineering
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
I was very lucky to have an inspirational boss early in my training who opened the door to molecular treatment targeting. Nuclear medicine is at the forefront of medical imaging and research. It allows me to work with scientists and clinicians of the highest calibre and to translate drug discovery directly into patient care. The work is hugely varied and brings me into contact with specialists and experts from many other fields.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
My career focus is the development of molecular imaging and radiotherapy using drugs that target cancer. Tagged with radioactive isotopes, these drugs can be used for diagnostic scans or for high dose radiation treatment. This approach avoids many of the side effects associated with conventional cancer therapies and has the potential to transform the management of cancer in the future.
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
Being appointed to the only Chair of nuclear medicine therapy in the UK opened unrivalled opportunities to explore new types of cancer treatment and to work with an outstanding multidisciplinary clinical and scientific team. Teaching both at King’s and as Chair of the European School of Nuclear Medicine gives me the platform to share my continuing enthusiasm for the subject and to pass on knowledge and skills. It is tremendously rewarding to see students begin to apply what they have learned into practice and rise to the challenge of developing their own research programmes.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
My role allows the best possible combination of face to face contact with patients, students, an amazing clinical team and with inspiring scientists who work at the top of their field. My job is varied, challenging and intellectually stimulating.
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
Juggling priorities is a huge challenge. My patients and clinical responsibilities come first, always. Supporting my team and teaching come a close second. Administration is a never ending chore. Easier to do some every day than to allow a backlog to accumulate.
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
With huge difficulty. Requires careful organisation, attention to detail and time management. It was particularly important to separate work-time from home-life when my children were young so that I could focus on one priority at a time. That meant working at odd times of the day and night when the house was quiet and they were asleep. Tough, but do-able and surprisingly productive.
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
Set the highest possible standards for your own practice and never compromise on these. Lead from the front, set clear goals and develop a supportive atmosphere to encourage discussion of new ideas. Acknowledge and share successes but be prepared to support your team and take responsibility if things don’t go to plan. Learn from mistakes but don’t dwell on them. Work out how to do things better in future, take calculated risks and then have the courage to try again.