Interview with breast radiologist Dr Hilary Dobson OBE

Tuesday 8 November 2016

To mark International Day of Radiology, which focuses on the essential role radiology plays in breast healthcare, Dr Hilary Dobson talks about her work as a breast radiologist.

What made you choose breast radiology as your specialty?

Early on in my first house job I quickly realised the pivotal role of the diagnostic radiologist. I embarked on radiology training in the West of Scotland, initially under the guidance of Dr Wilson James who provided breast imaging services for the West of Scotland. In those days however the reporting of mammograms was very much the domain of a very few consultant radiologists. The NHS Breast Screening Programme (NHSBSP) was being implemented throughout the United Kingdom and I was immediately impressed by the opportunity involving direct patient contact. I was fortunate to be appointed to set up the first NHS funded screening unit in Scotland in 1988. As the screening service was rolled out, the first cohort of screening radiologists worked together to develop standards which have now been embedded in general clinical practice. Working in this environment of continuous quality improvement was a significant factor in influencing my choice of breast as a sub specialism.

What does a breast radiologist do on a typical day?

In my role as Clinical Lead of the West of Scotland Breast Screening Unit there is no such thing as a typical day! Breast radiologists’ workload comprises of outpatient work in various different types of clinics which range from one stop diagnostic clinics which has a high level of images to be reported (mammography and ultrasound) as well as interventions. Breast radiologists are also heavily involved in audit and quality assurance and meet together to learn from the outputs of these activities. 

What is the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is the multidisciplinary team working and immediacy of feedback in relation to my particular contribution at patient and unit level. 

What has been the highlight of your career?

Both on a personal level and on a national level, recognition of the contribution to patient care that my team has provided.

What advice would you give young women who are currently not of age to take part in the National Screening Programme?

If any woman, regardless of age, has symptoms that are concerning or is worried about their risk of breast cancer due to family history they should contact their GP who can refer you appropriately either to the genetics service or a symptomatic service.

What piece of key information should the public know about radiology?

Radiology continues to play a pivotal role in the diagnosis or reassurance of the absence of disease. The public should be aware of the high level of training and commitment that goes into training a radiologist who has an increasingly important role in the multidisciplinary team approach to the diagnosis and management of modern clinical conditions.

Dr Hilary Dobson OBE is Chair of the British Society of Breast Radiology and the Clinical Director for the West of Scotland Breast Screening Unit which oversees over 80,000 women per year and is one of the largest screening centres in the UK.