Monday, 1 March 2010

The fall and rise of the healthcare mycologist

People most often associate the treatment of their health problems with the doctors and nurses who they see every time they call in to the clinic. There is no arguement with that conclusion however people often do not realise that behind that group of professionals lies another highly skilled group of people: the healthcare scientist.

Healthcare scientists are not medically qualified and so cannot treat patients directly but they are very highly skilled in one of a range of important fields (50 different fields at the last count) closely allied to the frontline of healthcare e.g. genetics, diagnostics, physical engineering, IVF specialists. As medical science advances it also gets very much more complex and thus demands more support from specialist scientists with every year that passes - there are currently 50 000 healthcare scientists working in the UK alone.

One of those scientific specialisations is medical mycology (i.e. the study of illnesses caused by fungi). Up until very recently the UK was depending on a very small group of senior mycology scientists to provide all its expert mycology advice. Professor Malcolm Richardson (based at the National Aspergillosis Centre, Manchester, UK) is one of those experts and he had noticed few new scientists coming through in this field. The existing six scientists seemed to have few candidate to replace them.

However more recently a surge in interest has been noted by Prof Richardson who trains new mycologists. Four graduates are now undergoing training at Manchester participating in a four-year programme funded by the Department of Health.
“That’s quite a change — there have been very few trainees over the last ten years,”
said Prof. Richardson.

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