What does it feel like to be a woman transforming health and care in 2022?

Emma Hayhurst

Published:

In recognition of International Women’s Day, the Bevan Commission would like to share three personal blogs written by three very different and inspiring women involved in transforming health and social care services in Wales.

I’m excited to have the opportunity to make a difference! It’s so easy to accept the status-quo but when something isn’t working as well as it should I think it’s important that we highlight that and do what we can to improve things. I consider myself very lucky to be in a position to try and do just that.  My background is in academia – I’m a lecturer in microbiology at the University of South Wales and my research was mostly on the topic of antimicrobial resistance, or AMR, second only to covid as the most pressing global health challenge we face. One of the best ways to combat rising AMR levels is by improving diagnostics at point of care – making them quick, easy to use, affordable and suitable for use in any setting. If we diagnose people better and quicker then we treat them more appropriately and this will reduce the millions of unnecessary or inappropriate antibiotics that are currently prescribed.

I’ve always wanted to do science that makes a difference and I’ve always believed in the power of science (and especially microbiology) to make the world a better place but I’ve been frustrated in the past by the disconnect between academic research and the real world. There’s a huge bottleneck of exciting work which never leaves the labs and therefore never has the positive impact it has the potential for. The Covid-19 pandemic changed all of that and showed the world just what a difference we could make if everyone works together to solve a problem. Covid-19 was the turning point for me in my career, too. We used our technology and our expertise to develop a diagnostic test for Covid-19 and things that usually take years were happening in just a few weeks. Suddenly I found myself as Chief Executive of a new medtech company – Llusern Scientific. We worked harder than I’ve ever worked before – the pressure was immense and the whole team felt a moral obligation to overcome every obstacle we encountered and keep going. My learning curve for all things business and diagnostic was dauntingly steep!

(Hopefully) now coming out of the other side of the pandemic, I have the chance to reflect on that time and look forward to the future. I want to develop Llusern Scientific as an ethical business with social and environmental impact at its heart. Our Covid-19 testing technology is suitable for the diagnosis of any infectious disease, so we have lots of opportunity to make a difference in other areas. We’re starting with UTIs – one of the most common infections in the world, with a dire shortage of true point-of-care diagnostic tools.

I am very lucky to have been awarded an Innovate UK Women in Innovation award too. This will help fund some of the UTI project work but will also allow me to do what I am most passionate about – to encourage others from all walks of life to follow their dreams and become innovators. The more diverse our innovators are then the more diverse our innovations will be. We face perhaps more challenges than ever before in our history and the best way to overcome them will be for all of us to work together to empathise, educate and innovate – just like we did during covid.