Long-standing SoR member Adele Lyons has announced her retirement from Varian Medical Systems after more than 25 years with the company.
Ms Lyons, a former therapeutic radiographer and now Great Britain & Ireland zone head for Varian, is retiring in December after a varied career in radiography.
Having provided vital expertise in creating cutting-edge radiotherapy equipment and supported radiographers across the country in its use with Varian, Ms Lyons has also been a member of the Society of Radiographers for the entirety of her career.
“I have been so fortunate to have worked with so many talented and special people across the world in Varian,” she told SoR. “I think radiotherapy attracts a certain type of person, one who wants to build relationships and do something meaningful.
“And the technology is so interesting. When you think the technology can not be developed any further, the incredible engineers introduce new products that are literally game changers... it is truly inspiring.”
Ms Lyons started her career as a radiographer after her father met the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle’s head of the school of radiography on a train.
“He mentioned that I was looking for a career direction aged 15 and he said to bring me along to visit the school,” she explained.
“He showed me around the department and introduced me to the different careers as a diagnostic or therapy radiographer. Once he described the role of a therapy radiographer and building a relationship with your patients, that was it – and I never looked back!”
My Lyons trained as a therapeutic radiographer at Cookridge Hospital in Leeds on a DCR(T) course, before getting her first job as a dosimetrist in radiotherapy physics.
She added: “This gave me a great insight into planning, and the importance and principles of how the dose was calculated. This was all hand planning! So the theory was well embedded.”
After then moving back into the department, treating patients, she then became part of the team introducing and implementing CHART radiotherapy in Leeds, working alongside Adrian Crellin, the NHS England national clinical lead for proton beam therapy, alongside the rest of the “amazing team.”
As Ms Lyons looked to her next steps, she was invited to apply for the role of applications specialist, at Philips Medical Systems in Crawley.
The position was “really varied” and involved “training all products globally”, she said. The role also involved giving input on the requirements of new products from the user point of view, and testing them before release.
“I travelled to some amazing places - South America, Japan, all over Europe and the US - and I worked with amazing clinical teams in many different environments,” she said.
Ms Lyons was eventually approached by Varian, to take on the role of imaging and simulations product manager, where she was responsible for providing product specifications to the engineering team, based entirely on her clinical experience.
She supported sales for the Ximatron, and the Acuity simulation system, where she headed up development of the new simulator, which was a “very exciting and challenging time.”
In 2010, she moved to sales and became responsible for UK customers in the south, as she “absolutely loved” travelling and developing strong relationships.
“Sales in Varian is not your typical sales role as you may think,” she added. “It is more a consulting and advising role. Informing customers and working in partnership to advise the right products to deliver the best service and get the best value for money.”
In 2015, Ms Lyons was promoted to head of sales for UK and Ireland, and in 2019 she was offered a leadership position for the newly-combined sales and services organisation.
“I was fortunate to be offered this position and together we have developed an even stronger team as one than the two separate teams. You will often hear talk of the Varian Family – but in the UK and Ireland it really is, with many of the team having worked for 20-30 years.”
Though nervous of moving out of work and expecting to miss her colleagues, friends and customers, Adele is “excited” for the next chapter and “new possibilities”, adding she is “incredibly proud of and fortunate” to have worked across her many roles.
“Working in partnership with customers, I know we have really turned around the level of technology that is installed in the UK and Ireland for the benefit of cancer patients – which is important as we all know someone or are affected ourselves by cancer. Obviously there is work to do as funding is always a challenge and why we are supporting Radiotherapy UK to raise the profile of radiotherapy and get more investment.
“Radiotherapy really is the unsung hero of cancer treatment and although great strides have been made on raising the profile, until continual managed funding is available and new innovations are adopted more quickly to help improve outcomes and workforce issues there is still a lot of work to be done!”
On her retirement, Ms Lyons admitted she is nervous to be leaving the workplace, but has plans to first take a holiday, then spend more time with family, catch up with friends, travel, and spend more time on hobbies. She also intends to continue supporting the work of charity Radiotherapy UK.
Ms Lyons' mum recently passed away suddenly, and she said that she is saddened to have not retired earlier to spend more time with her.
She added: "I will miss my work colleagues, friends, and customers but as my fiancé is still working for Varian, I am sure I will get change to tag along on some trips and keep in touch. I think this is probably making the transition easier for me.
"My career has meant a great deal to me. It is a career that really impacts people’s lives and that is important to me."