06 May 2022

Students are speeding up genetic analysis of blood cancers at a new centre that remembers a pioneering laboratory manager.

The Julia Garnham Centre is run jointly by the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.

It provides work placement opportunities for genetic scientists, enabling them to train in genetic analysis, according to its developers.

The university says this is now helping to speed up diagnosis of blood cancers in northern England as the students are preparing cancer samples, making them ready for specialist geneticists in the NHS to conduct analysis.

The Centre is named after Julia Garnham, a genetic technologist who spent 30 years in Sheffield training other clinical scientists, and who died in 2018.

The centre’s academic lead Dr Adam Hodson said: “Our students are at the beginning of their scientific careers, and they relate to Julia’s story. The new facility will provide them with the opportunity to use their intellect and education to save lives right now - during their degree. Julia’s example inspires our students, sharpens their enthusiasm for knowledge, experience, and service to others.

“Julia served our local community by helping to save lives - she was a true NHS unsung hero because many of the people and families that she helped to save wouldn't know her name. I wanted to name the new centre after Julia to help share her story of selflessness and dedication, so that it may help to inspire others, and as a way to thank her and her family for her years of service.”

Dr Polly Talley, lead scientists for haemato-oncology, said: “The Julia Garnham Centre is a truly symbiotic way of providing support to the diagnostic service and offering specialist career skills to the students. The team have demonstrated that students can make a true difference to managing analysis backlogs and improving the turnaround times for cancer patients, and this is a model that is being considered for national roll out.”

Lead clinical scientist Duncan Baker said: “This unique collaboration has been successfully helping the genetic analysis of samples from patients with leukaemia. The students have already been trained by the University so that they are immediately beneficial to the service.

“They learn diagnostic skills, an understanding of patient pathways and the importance of the results. These students then go on to work within the NHS all over the UK.”

Source: University of Sheffield


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