Six researchers from the Bartlett, Engineering and Maths and Physical Sciences faculties gathered in a pub last week to tell an audience, and their comedian compere Lloyd Langford, how they’d like to do some good for the world. Their ideas and passions ranged from connecting older people with technology to improving the placement of orthopaedic implants, but all described their problems and pitched their fixes in just five minutes to those who had come to the ‘Focus on the Positive’ event in a pub in Cavendish Square.
Six good ideas, but only two could receive funding – raised from ticket sales and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council – and the final decision was down to an audience vote. Second prize of £1,000 was awarded to Michael Fell (UCL Energy Institute) to support inner city schoolchildren to learn about gardening, and the top prize of £2,000 to Dr Kate Ricketts, representing the paRTner project from UCL Medical Physics & Bioengineering.
paRTner is a response to the lack of provision for cancer treatment in African countries. Not only do many lack the equipment to offer radiotherapy to all the patients who need it, the equipment they do have is not used to its best advantage due to a lack of knowledge and skilled technicians to conduct maintenance and repairs.
UK radiotherapy facilities are working 99% of the time. Ghana, with a similar population, has only a tiny amount of those resources and the machines are only operational 60% of the time. Through the paRTner project, radiotherapists from UCL Engineering and UK hospitals provide training and support to Ghanaian radiotherapists and technicians so the machines can be working longer and treat more people.
Project Leader Dr Kate Ricketts says:
“We will use the £2,000 to send two highly skilled UK radiotherapy professionals to give a two week training course in Ghana, and to buy necessary equipment for departments there. The course will train hospital engineers to perform a predictive maintenance programme – routinely used in UK radiotherapy departments and responsible for our equipment’s low breakdown rates. After the training course, we hope to reduce radiotherapy unit breakdown rates in Ghana to 5% over a 2 year time period. This means an additional 750 Ghanaian cancer patients will be able to receive treatment.”
The paRTner project was able to do its initial fact-finding mission thanks to a UCL Friends award from UCL Engineering, and has since secured funding from the Tropical Health Education Trust. Focus on the Positive is supported by the EPSRC, and is currently recruiting researchers to pitch at the next events in the series, taking place in 2013.