Rad Work/Life: Claire Donaldson, the new President of the SoR

Claire tells us about life and work in Scotland and new plans to boost member involvement in the Society

Published: 28 July 2021 SoR | CoR

Tell us about yourself

I was born and raised in Leeds, West Yorkshire. I grew up in a town called Pudsey, famous for being the place after which Children in Need’s Pudsey Bear was named. A lot of different factors meant I took three years to complete my A levels and felt that, after 19 years, I had seen all that Leeds had to offer me.

I was desperate to get out and away to university and was offered a place on a course in Edinburgh, which I started in September 2001. When I completed the course in 2005, I decided to make Scotland my home.

As of this year, I have lived in Scotland longer than I lived in England so I consider myself Scottish. I have lived and worked on both the east and west coasts of Scotland but, much to my shame and the ridicule of my Scottish friends and family, I haven’t done much exploring in the north. So I am hoping that my presidential year could be the catalyst to finally get me travelling in that direction.

I now live and work in Angus, just north of Dundee, which has some really excellent beaches and I love that I now live ‘beside the seaside’. I share my home with my two children: Ethan (14) and Phoebe (12). We have four fish who are all named after drag queens – Trixie, Katya, Alaska and Bob – and two cats, Simba and Mowgli.

I am very crafty and love to crochet – I also like doodling and baking and try a bit of complex cake decorating from time to time. There are some beautiful areas close to where I live, which I enjoy visiting. However, I am not interested in anything with an incline so I leave the hillwalking and Munro bagging to my friends – they will tell you that my idea of ‘outdoors’ is wine on a patio.

When and why did you become a radiographer?

At school, I was really interested in science and originally thought about studying medicine. At that time, I fancied myself as quite ‘alternative’ – I had short spiky hair and wore my makeup dark and I had a nose piercing. Every time I went to an open day or careers fair, I was made to feel – and once I was told outright – that I would be unsuitable so I started to reassess what I might want to do with my life.

At the time, I played football and rugby and was quite prone to injury. I had the pleasure of engaging with radiographers when attending A&E for facial bones, wrist and ankle views.

I also needed an ultrasound around the same time and I had an ‘aha!’ moment and started to look at radiography as a career. Once I read a bit more about the two professions within radiography, I decided diagnostic was for me.

How did you become President of the SoR?

Growing up Queer and being made to feel ‘other’ made me want to stand up and fight for my rights and those of others around me. Marching in Pride parades and going on anti-war demonstrations lit a passionate desire for advocacy and to do more than sit on the sidelines. During my time as a student I was class representative
and then, when I qualified, I trained as a health-and-safety rep for the SoR. When I moved hospitals in 2008 there was a vacancy for an IR rep. This this led me to engage with the Reps Forum and Scottish Council, which gave me an insight into the leadership of the organisation within Scotland.

I got to speak to UK Council members and then attended ADC in 2012, which really sparked my interest in getting further involved. A Scottish UK Council seat became vacant in 2014 and I decided to put myself forward. To become a Council member, you are elected by the members in your region or country. Once on UK Council, to become President you need to be elected by the other UK Council members. Being a council member was a learning curve and it took me a while to gain enough confidence to put myself forward to join the presidential team. I stood in the vice-presidential elections in 2017 and 2018 and was successful in 2019.

What are your priorities this year?

You will hear and read that the SoR is a membership organisation and that you are encouraged to get involved
to shape and influence ‘your’ society. I understand that, for many members, this statement has not always felt like the truth and that, actually, some members have felt that getting involved with the organisation at the higher levels is unachievable. During this year I want to use my platform to help change this.

The SoR has made commitments to become a truly anti-racist organisation and we have begun this work with an external equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) audit. As the leader of our organisation, I intend to engage with this to the best of my abilities and to work with the UK Council, the College Board of Trustees and the senior leadership team to implement the changes that are identified as necessary – and to plan for how this can be embedded and taken into the future.

I hope to connect with and learn from members of our organisation to encourage them to get involved to make our organisation better, more representative and stronger.

What brings you joy?

Spending time with my partner and my kids, and my close friends, Emma, Steph and Lesley, here in Angus. We call ourselves ‘hip and humerus’ because we are all radiographers. Expressing my creative side with crochet and baking cakes; listening to music, musical theatre, audiobooks and podcasts; watching, listening to and generally consuming anything to do with drag.

How do you like to relax?

I like to swim to keep active and decompress after a day at work. I then spend time at home watching TV and crocheting or doing a bit of gaming on my PlayStation. Whenever I can I like to get together with friends for food, drinks and chat.

What three things would you take to a desert island?

The Lord of the Rings books, crochet hooks and yarn, and a guitar so I can finally learn more than three chords.

What would you say to any member who wants to get involved?

I want to encourage and assure anyone who wants to get involved that the SoR is for you, and will be better for your involvement.

I started by becoming an IR rep but there are lots of other ways of to get involved with both the trade union and professional body. I would encourage you to speak to your local IR, H&S and learning reps, contact the chair of your regional or country council or your UK Council member, or email me at [email protected]