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Reading University Graduates At The Forefront Of Tackling COVID-19

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University of Reading graduates all over the world are using the skills and knowledge they developed at Reading to help beat COVID-19. 

Reading graduates are producing scientific tests, treating hospital patients, attending Downing Street conferences, and helping communities in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. As part of our #WeAreTogether series, highlighting how the University of Reading community is stepping up to fight COVID-19, we met just a handful of them. 

Read more in CONNECTED, our digital magazine for and about University of Reading alumni.

Mark Stevenson: Scaling up testing

Mark Stevenson is the Chief Operating Officer of global life sciences company, Thermo Fisher Scientific. His organisation developed a test for COVID-19 early on in the pandemic and Mark has personally been involved with advising both UK and US governments on their testing strategies, helping the UK reach its 100,000 tests a day target by the end of April. He continues to work with the governments on coronavirus testing and efforts to develop a vaccine.

Mark studied chemistry and microbiology at Reading, followed by a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Henley Business School, both of which have given him an essential foundation for his career and work today. 

He said: “Studying at Reading has been integral to my career, and is still helping me now during our COVID-19 response. Every day I’m dealing with what is fundamentally about chemistry and microbiology, so to have the level of understanding of this science that Reading gave me is critical. That, combined with the business education I received from Henley Business School, has given me the perfect mix of a foundational understanding of the science behind what we do, and the ability to deal in topics across finance, marketing and people leadership.” 

Tom Clarke: Asking the difficult questions

As the Science Editor for ITV News, Reading graduate Tom Clarke is at the forefront of reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic. His job is to hold politicians to account and ask the difficult questions that get the answers the public want to know.

Reading University Graduates

Tom’s fascination with the natural world led him to study Zoology at Reading, before embarking on his career in science reporting. While Tom didn’t initially plan for a career in TV, he’s grateful to Reading for the springboard it provided him. 

He said: “I love my job and my science background from Reading has been enormously important in helping me to achieve what has turned out to be an exciting, fulfilling, and surprising career.” 

Dr James Cutlan: Stepping up for the NHS

After studying Economics at the University of Reading, James decided to pursue his passion for medicine and was supported by his Reading tutor in his application for medical school. 

Reading University Graduates

James was in his final year of medical school when his placement was disrupted by COVID-19. His graduation was brought forward three months, so he decided to join the NHS earlier than planned to do his bit for his country.

“I see graduating early as an opportunity – I personally feel a sense of national duty to use the skills I’ve built up during my five years studying medicine, and three years studying economics at Reading, to help out as much as I can on the frontline,” he said.  “My job primarily focuses on reducing the pressure on the NHS by being an extra pair of hands to support my hospital colleagues.” 

Jill Rodney: Supporting biomedical scientists

Henley Business School graduate, Jill Rodney, is proud to support the biomedical scientists analysing COVID-19 tests. As Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Biomedical Science, her role is to support biomedical scientists in their crucial work. She believes them to be among the unsung heroes of the pandemic. 

She said: “Now more than ever, it’s crucial that the NHS has all the support possible during the pandemic. Therefore at the Institute we’ve done a lot of work to ensure that biomedical scientists are able to continue to fully support the NHS during these difficult times.” 

In her role as CEO of the Institute of Biomedical Science Jill draws on both her undergraduate degree in Pharmacy from Strathclyde University, and her MBA from Henley Business School. 

“I was enjoying my current management job, but knew that an MBA would differentiate me from other candidates when it came to progressing my career,” she said. “I chose to study at Henley because I wanted a programme with a really good reputation – one that would provide valuable learnings to me, and would also be valued by my peers. I also loved the fact that I could study this MBA part-time, alongside my job.”

Sadek Alam and Adam Calthrop: On the frontline

Reading graduates, Sadek Alam and Adam Calthrop, are just two of a number of Physician Associates working at the Royal Berkshire Hospital after successfully completing the course at Reading. Sadek works within the Surgical Liaison Service and Adam works in the Emergency Department.

Adam said: “The most rewarding aspect for me is the combination of getting the right diagnosis using your knowledge and skill, and watching people improve in front of you. The thanks from patients and family members makes it all worth it.” 

Ivan Kemp: Prioritising the patients

Ivan works at University Hospital Southampton within a team of seven Critical Care Pharmacists, with provision for up to 100 intensive care beds. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges to his team, but despite these they have managed to maintain high standards of care without compromising their own safety or that of their colleagues or patients. 

Reading University Graduates

Ivan studied his Independent Prescribing qualification at the University of Reading, a six-month postgraduate programme designed to accredit pharmacists as independent prescribers within their scope of practice. 

“I chose to study at Reading because the course had a good reputation and used multiple teaching platforms, including practice-teaching days, self-directed study time, assessment and workplace-based learning,” he said. 

“Becoming a prescriber takes your clinical status and ability to another tier, bringing you even closer to patient-focused care which is extremely rewarding.”

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