Sarah Everitt



Current position: Post-doctoral research RT

Years qualified as an RT: 18 years

Research areas of interest: Lung cancer, PET/CT imaging, toxicity assessment and prediction..

Research qualifications: PhD 2010 Monash University.

What is your greatest research achievement?

Discovering that the PET radiotracer FLT could be detected in lung tumours during chemo-RT.

Why and how did you get involved in research?

I’ve always been drawn to research. My first clinical experience as an RT was in the head and neck clinic, where I was extremely fortunate to learn some research basics from an inspiring clinician-researcher Prof Lester Peters. Several years later, following some travel overseas, I returned to Peter Mac and was working with the lung team. They were undertaking exciting research in PET/CT and lung cancer and it went from there.

How do you balance research/work/family life?

Family time is definitely a priority for me and I work hard to achieve that. Anyone combining ‘roles’ knows this is challenging! Compared to most other RT roles I find that research is like having my own business – a lot of work in a role that is relatively autonomous and flexible. Compared to clinical work my timelines are much longer – my current clinical trial has been going for six years! I have three young children and the flexibility has worked well for my family, although the balance is more difficult to achieve during conference and grant writing periods.

How did you find a mentor/supervisor?

I was working alongside clinicians including Prof Michael Mac Manus and Prof David Ball who were undertaking research and gradually I started my research ‘apprenticeship’ with some data collection and planning. When I enrolled in my PhD I was extremely fortunate to have A/Prof Michal Schneider assigned as my supervisor. Michal’s attention to detail and critical thinking have taught me so much along the way. During this time I was also extremely fortunate that another outstanding mentor started at our centre, Prof Tomas Kron, who has always been extremely supportive and encouraging.

What is your supervisor/mentor’s best advice?

“Nothing to lose” – this applies to many things including initiating challenging studies through to submitting work to high impact journals.

What do you enjoy most about being involved in research?

Working with an amazing multidisciplinary team of researchers. There are so many benefits of collaborating with this team; we are from about eight distinct disciplines and contribute different perspectives to our research projects. I learn so much from our team along the way and ultimately this collaborative approach benefits our patients.

What has been your biggest challenge or barrier to being involved in research?

The lack/absence of research within our professional career structure. Most centres operate with traditional career structures where advanced skill sets and subsequent promotions lead to managerial positions. Like other researchers, my position is solely reliant on external funding and I could not lead clinical trials without this. Without support for research it will be very challenging to encourage staff to undertake research qualifications and compete with other disciplines for funding.

What one piece of advice would you give other researchers?

Find a great mentor! An enthusiastic colleague with lots of research experience who will support you along the way. Prof Peter Doherty’s explains the importance of your research team (supervisors) so nicely in his book “The Beginner’s Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize”.