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An interview with Dr Stephen Harden

Dr Stephen Harden is RCR's Vice-President, Clinical Radiology, 2023–2026

What attracted you to your specialty?

The challenge of problem solving in achieving a diagnosis and working as part of a team to deliver high quality patient care.

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

Having completed undergraduate medical training at the Universities of Cambridge and London, I trained in Radiology in Wessex and undertook special interest training in Germany and USA.

I have been a Consultant in Cardiothoracic Radiology in Southampton for almost 20 years. My clinical practice involves the full range of cardiac and thoracic diagnostic radiology including cardiac MRI and CT, thoracic imaging including lung cancer screening, and PET/CT focussing on patients with known or suspected lung cancer.

University Hospital Southampton is one of the largest acute University hospital Trusts in England, serving a wider local population of around 2 million and providing regional services to around 4 million people.

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

I really enjoy working with RCR members, Fellows and staff, and the ‘can do’ and outcome focussed approach to College work improving radiology professional practice and training. I have been a member of several RCR Radiology committees including the Part 2a Examining Board, the Curriculum Committee, the Specialty Training Board and the Professional Learning and Development Committee. I served as the Medical Director for Education and Training in Clinical Radiology from 2019-2022.

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

Workforce shortages, in the face of ever-increasing demand for imaging and interventional radiology. It is important for us to ensure professional standards are maintained, expand and fill the training capacity in our specialty, and support the work to improve working conditions so colleagues choose to remain working in the NHS.

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

The RCR will have increasing influence on UK healthcare policy. Building on the great progress made in the last year, we will continue to uphold the highest standards of patient care in imaging, interventional radiology, and clinical oncology. There will be more face-to-face engagement with members and Fellows through regional and national meetings. The RCR will be more inclusive and our role in AI evaluation and its utility will increase.

What does good governance and leadership mean to you?

Accountability, responsibility and transparency are the cornerstones of good governance, and these are at the heart of the recent changes to modernise the governance of the RCR.

A good leader has integrity, behaves with humility and kindness, and leads by example. They have a clear vision for how things can improve and the courage to ensure it is delivered. I have worked with some inspiring leaders during my career, and I use the fundamental teaching points I have learned from each of them in practice.

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

When President of the British Society of Cardiovascular Imaging, I led a UK-wide prospective audit of radiation dose data in cardiac CT. This brought the cardiac CT community together around radiation dose optimisation to improve service quality and patient care. The outcomes were established national standards of practice, standardised radiation dose levels and equipment modernisation, which form the basis of current daily practice.

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

The ever-increasing demands on our work time mean that getting the balance right is increasingly difficult. However, it is important we continue to protect time outside work and give due priority to the things that make us what we are.

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

Outside of work, I devote time to my family. I also have a great passion for watching live sport, particularly cricket, and having been on the waiting list for around 20 years, I am a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in London.