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Dr Sam Hare
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Diagnosing COVID-19: imaging taken centre stage in story of the disease

In a series of stories looking at how Fitzwilliam College members have been helping with frontline support in the coronavirus pandemic, consultant chest radiologist Dr Sam Hare reflects on the past month in a busy London-based hospital.

Dr Sam Hare (Medicine 1995) has been working on the frontline alongside colleagues at the Royal Free London NHS Trust during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

He says that chest x-rays and imaging have been at the centre stage in the past few months.

Sam has been working from home after coming out of self isolation after having the virus a few weeks ago but has been able to look at x-rays and scans remotely.

He says: “My daughter Annika has severe special needs so I got tested as she is in a high risk group – I tested positive with very few symptoms, just a little chest tightness. Annika is fine for now but will be continued to be shielded.

“The radiographers are the real heroes in this pandemic – every person who comes to hospital has to have an x-ray and the radiographers then pass them to radiologists like me via a digital system. They’ve been doing portable x-rays, which means a report is available within minutes. It has been a really important element of treatment and has made a massive difference.”

Sam and colleagues from the British Society of Thoracic Imaging (BSTI) have provided guidance and protocols on how to use x-ray results to quickly diagnose patients, which have now been rolled out internationally. This system of reporting has ensured that all radiologists can keep to consistent guidelines and provides important data should there be a second peak in the future.

He says: “We are seeing the end of the tunnel now in London, and are past the peak of this – just a couple of weeks ago we had so many cases of coronavirus and on a night shift last Sunday I only saw two positive COVID-19 cases of about 40 patients.

“I’ve seen SARS and MERS previously but coronavirus is a different thing altogether. We’ve been seeing people in their 40s and 50s whose lungs are in terrible state and people in their early 40s – my age – having to go on ventilators to help them breathe. London has been a bit ahead of the curve, and it’s been very difficult.

“Now we are investigating scarring in the lungs with the BSTI – as you can imagine, we are learning as we go.”

Sam advises we should still be careful and take precautions as a second wave could swamp the NHS.

“My colleagues in the NHS have done a fantastic job so far – if we can hold on for just a bit longer and see it out then we will be in a good place.

“The medical training I received at Fitzwilliam College was second to none. You go into medicine with a bit of trepidation – asking yourself if I can do the exams, will I be a success – it’s a lot of hard work. The confidence I gained from one-to-one supervisions has really helped me in my career.

“Fitz often prides itself from its diverse make up, with students from different backgrounds, including BAME and state school – not just privately educated students – this is very much what the NHS is like too.”

See Dr Sam Hare's website for more details and his Twitter feed.

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