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My job explained: Medical devices consultant

medical devicesWant to make a difference with your life? Alan Kent explains how a physics degree can help you save lives by working in the field of medical devices.

What’s your job?

I am a medical devices consultant and I chair a Department of Health committee, which reviews applications for grants to develop and commercialise new medical devices.

We are responsible for handing out grants of up to £300,000 per year to organisations developing medical equipment which can be used by the NHS.

I also do international committee work to do with medical devices and equipment.

What are medical devices?

Medical devices are effectively the future of medicine. They refer to anything that’s used for a medical purpose which isn’t a pharmaceutical product.

So, it’s not pills and potions. It is things like: tongue depressors, surgical gloves, hospital beds, MRI scanners, x-ray equipment, pacemakers, artificial hips and heart valves.

There are around 18,000 different types of medical devices, so there’s an enormous spread.

The types of applications which I review can range from new developments on imaging to the less fashionable areas such as devices for disabled or elderly people.

How did you get involved in this field?

I got a physics degree from Exeter University. Back then there were a lot more job opportunities than there are now.

So I did a two-year post graduate apprenticeship with an engineering firm. I ended up specialising in defence, research and development.

It wasn’t until nearly 20 years later that I became involved with medical devices.

I was invited to work as a research scientist for a small medical branch of Vickers and eventually became the managing director.

What could it lead to?

Medical equipment companies are no different from any other industrial organisation. They get a full spread of technical and development people.

The area of quality assurance and regulation is one which people don’t often think about but which is growing.

Then there are things like marketing, sales, financial work and administration.

How could I get into this field?

You will most likely need a physics degree. Whilst my job does not always directly involve physics principles, it’s been a good spring board. You know where to start and some of the terminology. From there you are able to learn more.

Once you’ve decided the type of role you would like in this field, you need to apply to companies which you are interested in.

What’s the best bit about your job?

The end result is very rewarding as you can see when you visit any hospital.

But I also really like the people. Having been involved in the medical industry since 1976, it’s very commonplace to meet people who have worked there for a long time. As a result, you meet a lot of very dedicated people from all walks of life.

What’s the worst bit about your job?

I’ve always been very lucky in that I’ve always enjoyed the jobs I’ve done.