How medical photography can lead you to research

  • 15 November 2022

A smartphone and mounted camera showing image of man with mask

Anni King has been a Senior Research Associate in Medical Imaging at the Bristol Centre for Surgical Research since 2017. She began her career as a medical photographer. Here she reflects on how her background in medical imaging ultimately led her to a career in research and how her role has expanded over the years.

After completing my post-graduate certificate in Medical Illustration, I worked at various UK hospitals as a medical photographer for 10 years. Medical photography is helpful to healthcare workers because photos enhance written hospital records and can be used as educational resources.

Medical images are beneficial to patients because they help healthcare staff clearly and accurately monitor a patient’s condition. Photos can also be used to raise public awareness of specific diseases, as medical photographers often work across a whole range of specialties, from surgery and dermatology to burns, ophthalmology, medico-legal services and public relations.

A particular highlight of my time as a medical photographer was undertaking a studio-based project, photographing a fascinating collection of historical pathological specimens, dating from the late 1700s to late 1800s.

In 2017, I joined the Bristol Centre for Surgical Research as a Senior Research Associate in Medical Imaging. Initially, this was on a two-year secondment. It sounded like an exciting opportunity to gain experience in research and work more closely within a team of healthcare professionals and academics.

The Centre needed someone with a background in medical photography to support them during a randomised control trial (RCT). An RCT is a trial where participants are randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group often receives a newer treatment that may be being investigated, and the other group receives a more conventional treatment. This way the effects of each treatment can be more easily compared.

The Centre needed my help during this trial because they wanted to collect videos and images taken during surgery. These images and videos would then be used for novel quality assurance purposes (QA). I was able to successfully support the trial by helping to collect the thousands of photos and materials that were needed. Once the trial was over, my secondment became a fully funded role.

Over the next few years, I worked closely with members of the study team, helping to develop methods for analysing the images and videos we had collected. I also provided valuable feedback to surgeon participants.

My role expanded during this time and I was able to use my expertise in graphics and videography to create patient facing trial materials, including instructional videos, animations, and infographics. This work is very important to me, as for patients to fully understand the risks, and benefits of partaking in trials there must be clear and engaging public facing information.

Visual materials and multi-media can enhance information sharing. Using them can help disseminate complex trial methodologies and results to the public. Working in and supporting research in this way means that my role remains varied. I am fortunate enough to collaborate with many members of the Surgical Research Centre as well as patient and public contributors, on various studies and projects.

Working in research has been an incredibly rewarding experience. The role has presented me with multiple opportunities to further my knowledge and expertise, as well as learn invaluable new skills. I must admit, since joining the Bristol Centre for Surgical Research I’ve not looked back!