A Sonographer’s Experience of Winning the BMUS Young Investigator Award 2021

A Sonographer’s Experience of Winning the BMUS Young Investigator Award 2021

I was delighted to be approached by Hazel and Jane to write an article about my experiences of winning the BMUS Young Investigator Award for this year’s Medical Ultrasound Awareness Month, and I really hope this article will inspire other sonographers to undertake original research and enter their findings for YIA. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to win or subsequently represent the UK in Romania – making friends from around the world and brushing shoulders with international giants of the profession! I am a humble working sonographer who loves to scan. If it can happen to me, it can certainly happen to you, so be brave! You will be surprised and inspired by where this journey can lead you…

Where did it all start? First, I must credit Dr. Peter Cantin, Consultant Sonographer at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth. I first approached Pete about wanting to do my MSc in 2019 and his level of support and enthusiasm was unmatched. We discussed different methodologies and ideas until I eventually settled with my proposal. So, my first piece of advice for anyone who is unsure on their research topic, be it for your MSc or otherwise, is to approach your colleagues and consultant team to discuss your ideas over and over (and over)! Not only does this clarify the question you want to ask, but it boosts your level of confidence in the value of your work.

One pandemic later and I was delighted to pass with distinction, with credit also needed for my academic tutor, Rita Phillips at the University of the West of England. Whilst the journey was hard, the sense of relief and achievement that followed was cosmic. When encouraged to submit my findings to the 2021 AGM I never imagined it would be accepted, let alone qualify for the YI competition! I was extremely nervous during the session and had my first manifestation of imposter syndrome whilst listening to the other entries, so I can’t begin to describe how shocked I was to win! I was working a busy inpatient list when I found out; thankfully it was towards the end of the shift as I spent the rest of the day in a daze!

The prize for winning the YIA is to represent the UK at the International Euroson Young Investigator session. So, In May 2022 I departed for Timisoara, Romania after lots of coaching and support from my fabulous and supportive consultant team. ‘The city of flowers’ is beautiful and having never visited Romania before, I was excited to immerse myself in the culture when not busy rehearsing my presentation or attending fascinating lectures by ultrasound experts from across the world. I teamed up with my fellow UK delegates and had the privilege of making friends with the truly lovely Hazel and Carmel from BMUS. EFSUMB really pulled out all the stops, wining and dining the delegates at the picturesque Recas Vineyard and even treating us to a magical evening at the National Romanian Opera House. I made the most wonderful memories and felt just a bit spoilt!

As the European YI session approached, the feeling of imposter syndrome was strong – I was the only sonographer candidate, sharing the stage with experienced doctors and PhD students from across Europe. Furthermore, our unique model of practice in the UK (with most European countries having medical ultrasound practitioners only) had me even more on edge. Surely, the panel and audience will wonder what on earth this sonographer is doing here?! I was the only researcher presenting a thematic analysis which also fed the fires of feeling like the odd one out. My talk was however well received by the panel albeit with some surprise on clarifying that, ‘yes, I am a sonographer!” On reflection, I realise this was a moment of great pride for our profession in showing that we too can stand on an international stage and strive for positive evidenced based change in our profession. Although I didn’t win the European award, it was an honour to hear the winning study which has immense potential for improving IVF success rates and I’m still pinching myself that I shared the stage with such an accomplished group! I also received excellent feedback from various delegates and panellists who enjoyed my talk and its content - a favourite quote from a Norwegian doctor and PhD mentor was “thank you, finally a good qualitative study!” and that it was “fascinating!” Silly how I was in fact so insecure about presenting qualitative content! I may have blushed…

As I reminisce on the whole experience, I realise that with the support of my Derriford colleagues, my newfound lifelong friends from BMUS and others from all around the world, that no sonographer should feel imposter syndrome or daunted by the prospect of engaging in research and entering the YIA. All in all, Romania was a truly incredible experience which has boosted my confidence on so many levels, imparted treasured memories and left me with a feeling of immense pride. I would encourage all sonographers working on a research project to be proud, be brave, and submit it for the YIA! You never know where it may lead you. 

Article by Siobhan Alsop, Sonographer at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Foundation Trust |