Today’s profile is a long time friend and indirect colleague of mine: Ms Hayley Pincott from the oral pathology and microbiology department at the University Dental Hospital in Cardiff. Hayley is an essential cog in the very efficient and smooth working machine that is oral pathology, receiving, preparing and processing samples, assisting the consultants with the ‘cut-up’ and interpretation of the samples for diagnosis. Thank you Hayley for all your hard work, and it’s great to get an insight into your experiences – a fascinating read!
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Hayley Pincott and I’m an Associate Practitioner in Oral Pathology & Microbiology. I’ve been working in various disciplines of pathology for nearly 20 years, and have been in my current post coming up to 3 years. I started as a lab assistant in Histology at Gloucester Royal Hospital which was voluntary so when a full time post arose in Biochemistry I moved departments. I then continued to work in Biochemistry for 3 years as a lab assistant. Although Gloucester Royal Hospital isn’t a huge hospital I was very lucky to work there as they have very specialist areas and offer tests that aren’t available in all hospitals or trusts. We did immunohistochemistry (IHC, a staining technique for tissue sections) while I was in Histology and in Biochemistry we offered Downs screening blood test. I then decided to move to Cardiff where again I got a post as a lab assistant in Specimen reception at University Hospital of Wales (UHW). This offered so much insight as I was on a rota where I was able to experience working in various labs for months at a time. I spent time in Antenatal screening where we dealt with Downs screening, I spent time in Blood Bank, Haematology and also Coagulation. It was during my time and gaining experience in a variety of disciplines that I wanted to complete my degree in Biomedical Science so in 2010 I started my HNC at UWIC. During my HNC it was enough for me to progress in a career in Biomedical Science, so in 2011 I started working as an Associate Practitioner in Cellular Pathology in UHW, back again in the discipline I originally started in and I fell in love with my work in Cellular Pathology and I completed my HNC in 2012. Due to family commitments I took a break for a couple of years, and then applied for an Associate Practitioner post but this time working in Oral Pathology and Microbiology at University Dental Hospital (UDH). I was pretty unsure about the post as I’ve never done any microbiology previously, only what little I did as part of my HNC. However I’ve fallen in love again with my role. I get to see some wierd and wonderful things and find it completely fascinating from small routine biopsies like polyps to big cancer resections that might include necks, jaws or tongues. I work with some amazing colleagues that always take time from their busy day to sit and answer my questions and explain things to me. I really enjoy working in Oral Pathology because we have such a great relationship with the PhD students and also the Researchers, it’s a fun environment to work in and I feel really lucky that I’ve found this post. It’s because I love what I do that I’ve started organising public engagement events in schools to hopefully get young children and those that often feel under represented by STEM careers interested in science.
How would you describe yourself in three words.
Fun, inquisitive, and enthusiastic
What are you currently working on/what are your scientific interests?
At this precise moment in time we are quite busy in Oral Pathology as we have a few resections that are being processed. Specimen dissection is one part of the job that I absolutely love, it’s where we get to see what we’re actually dealing with, and I’m forever having a closer look over our pathologists shoulders at things.
I’m also testing the water lines in some of the dental clinics next week which is one job that I really enjoy doing as it gets me out and about, it’s a great way to meet the other healthcare professionals that work in the building that I might not ordinarily get to meet.
Lastly I’m organising a few events outside of the department this year so I’m trying to get things sorted out for them. I’ve been lucky enough to have an incredible offer from the Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath) who have said that although I wasn’t a suitable candidate for their public engagement grant, they’d like to work with me directly instead on one of my events as they feel it would be of greater benefit to offer support than award me a grant. So I’m now very excited about the type of event I can put on for National Pathology Week with the help of RCPath.
What do you like most about science/being a scientist?
I love that my role in the NHS plays a part in the treatment and management of a patient. I find it fascinating how we turn a biopsy into a section on a slide through various processes, and this then gets interpreted by our consultants who feedback their report to other healthcare professionals and between them all they decide the best course of treatment or management for a patient.
Who is your scientific inspiration?
Apart from pretty much everyone I work with, I really respect and admire some of the students I get to work with and also my colleagues in the lab, they’re all fabulous. I’m really inspired by the clinical scientist Jo Horne. She’s doing so much to promote Biomedical Science and the role we play in the healthcare service. She also does a lot to promote women in science. I also admire Professor Averil Mansfield, she was the first female Professor of Surgery and was a pioneer in developing new procedures to prevent strokes which are widely used today.
What keeps you going day to day?
Knowing that my work can make a difference to helping to treat and manage a patient, this makes me strive to provide the best quality work in a quick and efficient time. Although my job doesn’t require it, I still take part in continuous professional development (CPD) as I feel it’s a great way to broaden my knowledge and by doing this I can provide the high quality service that I want to.
Name three things you can’t live without/keep you motivated.
I love a good sing along in the lab to keep spirits up but most people are lucky enough not to hear it, my colleagues and students because we can all have a good laugh together and lastly my family keep me motivated because I want to make them proud so I try my best to do the best I can for the patients.
What are your longer-term career aspirations?
I’d love to have the opportunity to finish my Biomedical Sciences degree. Also I really enjoy taking part and organising public events and visits to schools to promote science, pathology and biomedical science. I’m very fortunate that I have a lot of support and encouragement from my colleagues, the Institute of Biomedical Sciences (IBMS) and Royal College of Pathologists in organising these events.
What is the most pertinent piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out in science (e.g. new PhD student)?
Don’t give up and persevere. Many times things will go wrong more often than they go right but as long as you learn from it then it can only benefit you. It’s easy to feel disheartened when things don’t go to plan but these challenges can improve you and your work, as long as you’re willing to do the reading, listen to advice and constructive criticism, then I think you will be ready for anything especially during your viva [voce; PhD thesis defence]. Having that extra bit of confidence can go a long way, all because you read up around your subject when things didn’t go to plan. I haven’t done a PhD so not sure what weight my advice can carry, however I have seen many students on their path and have seen it’s easy to get overwhelmed. As long as you don’t expect smooth sailing and understand that things will go wrong, as long as you read up and fully understand why your experiment didn’t work then I feel this will really help you achieve your goal.
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