Transplant Research Administration Manager and Executive Assistant (EA) to Professor of Transplant Biology
Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences
Tell us a bit about your role
As EA to Professor Ploeg I manage all aspects of his schedule as well as his travel arrangements, document management and financial transactions, as you would expect. I also filter his inbox and pick up any tasks I am equipped to carry out on his behalf. As Transplant Research Administration Manager, I manage his GL and project accounts, I provide the administrative support to keep our lab running smoothly and am the ‘go to’ person in our research group to answer queries or offer solutions. I switch between bookkeeping, providing HR support, travel agency, project management, communications, marketing and offering a listening ear to anyone who needs it.
I am a non-scientist and there is no one more surprised than I, that I now work in the medical sciences. I studied languages at university and come from a background firmly rooted in the arts. For most of my career, I have held bilingual roles (French – English): supporting leaders, translating, interpreting and teaching. I have worked in publishing, dramatic theatre and fundraising. Aside from French, I speak Spanish and I studied Japanese as a subsidiary at university. Science, I have come to realise, is simply another language. My role is a practical, logistical one which can be applied to any industry.
My first love is writing novels; I have recently published my second and have embarked on writing my third. You can check out the previous two here.
Writing and communication are my forte, they serve me well in editing funding applications, reports, drafting advertising copy for our biobank and all other aspects of business communications. My lack of science knowledge actually allows me to take a step back and make text flow without being distracted by the scientific content.
The Ploeg research group focusses on organ transplantation with the aim of increasing the number of organs available and improving the outcomes of transplantation. It incorporates the Quality in Organ Donation Biobank (QUOD) and the Oxford Transplant Biobank (OTB). In addition, we have eight researchers employed full-time and four or five visiting researchers. We are based in the Oxford Transplant Centre at the Churchill Hospital and the Oxford Blood Donor Centre at the John Radcliffe Hospital.
What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?
For me, it’s all about the people. After all, in medical sciences we share the single unified aim of improving the health of humans.
There are currently ten nationalities in our group, some of whom are well acquainted with Oxford, others are visiting or arriving in the UK for the first time. I really enjoy helping staff settle in to their roles and their environment. Having grown up in this city, I am able to give them local knowledge and point them in the direction of places or activities that will make their stay more comfortable and, hopefully, memorable. Working with colleagues of such diverse origins is enriching and I love learning about their cultures and homelands.
I believe that well supported, guided and rewarded staff give optimum output and the very best atmosphere to work in. I am constantly vigilant for staff members who may be struggling or needing input from either myself or Professor Ploeg to help resolve any issues they may be facing.
I like to think that in a small way, I am facilitating the work of those who have the knowledge and skills to advance research in transplantation.
Can you tell us about something you've done, contributed to that you're most proud of?
My pride has come in successfully navigating the new and the unknown. I coordinated the set-up of a new lab, moving staff from buildings all over Oxford to work together under one roof. I contributed to the establishment of processes for ordering and recharging lab consumables in an auditable manner, and the devising of a comprehensive staff induction process to meet health and safety requirements and ensure the smooth running of the facility. Three years on, our systems are working well and we continue to tweak and streamline where necessary.
What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?
In our research group, there are actually more women than men. However, I believe the situation is the reverse across the University. We have come a long way since the day women were first admitted to the University, but we still have a distance to go. I would like to see an equal number of women and men working in scientific research and an increase in the number of female PIs.
On a more pragmatic level, I think I would not be alone in hoping for a closer collaboration between the University and hospital infrastructures, though I can see clearly how high a mountain this is to climb. I believe a good first step would be to appoint at least one designated member of staff in each hospital/site with the sole purpose of finding ways to harmonise systems and processes between the two organisations. The outcome could only be advantageous for patients and research whilst making both the University and OUH staff’s working days smoother and necessarily more efficient.