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An interview with Dr Louise Hanna

Dr Louise Hanna is RCR's Medical Director, Education and Training, Clinical Oncology 2023–2026.

What attracted you to your specialty?

As a medical student and junior house officer, I was struck by the holistic approach to patient care in oncology, combined with a strong scientific foundation and precision underpinning each individual treatment. A six-month rotation in radiotherapy and oncology in Addenbrooke’s Hospital as a senior house officer cemented my ambition to become a clinical oncologist.

Tell us a bit about your role, your trust and how you got there

I work as a consultant clinical oncologist in the Velindre Cancer Centre which is a non-surgical oncology centre in Cardiff in south Wales. The centre has a strong focus on patient care, training and research. I started out in the north-west of England where I was born and brought up. I studied medicine in Trinity College Cambridge and New College Oxford before returning to Cambridge as a senior house officer. After that I moved to Cardiff to train in Clinical Oncology and became a consultant, also in Velindre.

What made you decide you wanted to get more involved with the RCR?

My initial involvement with the RCR was more serendipity than design. As a junior registrar I inherited the role of RCR trainee rep for Wales then as a consultant I became Regional Specialty Adviser. I enjoy meeting like-minded people who share a common purpose, supporting training to improve outcomes for patients, and the RCR provides a forum to do that.

What do you think the biggest challenges facing your specialty are right now?

A huge challenge right now is the 15% shortfall in the clinical oncology workforce, and the need to recruit, train and retain doctors within the specialty. Clinical Oncology is a fantastic specialty and we need to be able to deliver an increasing array of innovative treatments in a holistic way that is sustainable. We need to promote our specialty actively and with enthusiasm.

How do you see the RCR developing over the coming years?

I would like to see the RCR leading the conversation in support of safe and effective patient care within our specialties, involving and connecting with our members and Fellows in defining standards and supporting them in their roles. This includes exploring where innovations such as AI can contribute to ensure that resources are used in the best way. Integral to all of this is the RCR’s continued support of high-quality education and training that is fair to all.

What does good governance and leadership mean to you?

Good governance and leadership mean having a clarity of purpose that ultimately serves our patients by supporting the professional practice, education and wellbeing of our members and Fellows. Accountability is a key component of good governance including learning from mistakes.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve been involved in?

Climbing the Welsh Three Peaks to raise money for women’s cancer and reaching the summit of Pen y Fan in the dead of night using head torches was an exhilarating experience. But perhaps the most far-reaching project has been editorship of Practical Clinical Oncology published by Cambridge University Press and now in its second edition.

How do you balance life and work? Do you think this is getting harder or easier?

The ability to work remotely, the pandemic and the resultant increase in workload have certainly made it harder to balance work and home. I’m a regular parkrunner so, however busy the week has been, I often start the weekend with a 5K run followed by a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

When I’m not working you can often find me up a mountain or in a tent. I grew up in Cumbria where I developed a love of the natural world, and there’s no better way to explore it than to don a waterproof coat and a pair of walking boots.