Profile: Theo Akudjedu

Making an impact


Profile: Theo Akudjedu

Making an impact

Dr Theo Akudjedus practical approach to teaching and mentoring is inspiring the future leaders of radiography

The early career path of Theo Akudjedu could never be described as a simple case of going from A to B, even though it has literally been a journey from Accra to Bournemouth.

Having missed out on medical school in his home country of Ghana, Theo took a new direction into diagnostic radiography and has not looked back. Qualifying in 2012, he worked in a leading hospital in the capital before gaining experience in the more rural parts of the country.

Moving to London, he completed a masters degree in neuroimaging at King’s College in 2015, before heading to the University of Galway in the Republic of Ireland to continue his interest in imaging the brain, and gaining a PhD in medicine. 

In 2019 he joined Bournemouth University as a senior lecturer, became principal academic in medical imaging, and was recently appointed associate professor of clinical imaging.

“I initially wanted to study for my bachelor's in medicine and didn’t get in”, says Theo. “But ironically diagnostic radiography then offered me the opportunity at the end of the day to be awarded a PhD in medicine. 

“It’s really interesting, because radiography is one of the allied professions to medicine that is able to examine every anatomy or pathology of the whole body. If you think of it from that perspective, it allows you so many opportunities for developing your interests. 

How did you first become a radiographer?

“Radiography is just an amazing career that gives you so much satisfaction working at the interface of patients and technology, and because technology keeps evolving you don’t end up doing the same thing over and over. And of course it’s becoming more interesting with the emergence of AI and its integration with what we do as radiographers, working with the latest cutting-edge technologies.”

Theo’s PhD focused on using automated neuroimaging acquisition and image analysis techniques to study the progression of the brain following the first episode of psychosis. He is clearly not a radiographer who is worried about losing his job to AI, though his most recently published research includes a global radiography workforce study investigating the knowledge, perceptions, and expectations of AI in radiography practice.

“We found that some people are worried about their salaries and their job security and really worried that AI is going to take over their jobs, but I would say that it's going to enhance our work by freeing our time to really focus on the more patient-centred activities.”

Theo was the first permanent academic radiographer at Bournemouth University and worked with colleagues to establish the university’s Institute of Medical Imaging and Visualisation, housing imaging infrastructure such as MRI scanners, ultrasound, and other integrated imaging modalities.

What do you find most rewarding about your academic role?

Innovative new courses followed, including the MSc Medical Imaging with Management, of which he is programme director. “The course is very popular and one of a kind in the UK in that it combines the clinical area of medical imaging with management and leadership. This is designed to align with the Education and Career Framework of the Society and College of Radiographers which combines the pillars of education, research, management, and clinical practice.” 

The programme is run in association with the university's business school: “While we are providing students with their medical imaging and clinical components, our colleagues from the business school will be providing them with things like healthcare management and leadership, so it all ties together.”

The result is a very practical course that supercharges the career progression of its graduates. Theo says that in the cohort finishing in September 2023, almost 80 per cent had already secured employment - mostly in the NHS, some in industry, and some have taken up higher postgraduate training at PhD level, and/or as academics on radiography training programmes.

Accelerated pathways

“The interesting thing is that they go into the NHS on relatively higher bands - so some of them go in at Band 6 and we have people who have started off at Band 7. These bands could otherwise take people working post-qualification maybe five to 10 years to achieve, but with this programme they have an accelerated pathway because of the knowledge and the skill set that they have acquired.”

The emphasis of the course reflects Theo’s focus on the practical application of knowledge, which is facilitated by the university having its own MRI scanner dedicated to teaching and research.

“Maybe my exposure to very rural radiographic practice in Ghana has imposed a sense of questioning the impact of everything I do. So, when I’m designing a programme or I go into lectures to teach students, I always ask myself, what is the essence? What is the impact of this knowledge that I’m going to impart? So I try as much as possible to make it very lively, very practical and very translatable. I like students to see the actual impact of what they are learning.”

Can you tell us about your work at Radiography journal?

In a recent article for the SoR’s Imaging & Oncology magazine, Theo and Professor Marc Griffiths explored the lack of clear routes into academia for radiographers.

“We noticed that there is really no practical pathway to get people into academia. People do come from all different backgrounds and some really do struggle to integrate, to really understand the landscape and the rules of the game. 

“So the essence of that article is to provide some sort of a primer to get people to think about what will be required of them, some guidelines and some tips to help them to really prepare themselves, and understand the expectations of academia before making that transition.”

As a newly appointed associate professor, Theo can offer first-hand advice on progressing in academia as a radiographer. “A funny thing about academia that I’ve learned is that in order to be promoted you have to be working at that level before the promotion comes.

“So I do not see much change in my day-to-day role but the higher you go, your spheres of influence grow - more mentorship and leadership is required of you, and more research and grant applications. So I see it as a gradual transition.”

Mentoring essential

Theo says the support of his wife, family, friends and colleagues ‘from near and far’ have been essential to the success of his career so far. He also credits his mentors, managers and employers for their input over the years: “Growth is so much easier when you have that support”.

For aspiring radiography academics, Theo offers some sage advice on mentorship: “I hope that people reading this will try to find mentors who understand their backgrounds and where they are hoping to travel in their career.

“I would advise them to leverage the power of social media for opportunities because I have found most of my current mentors through Twitter (now X) and LinkedIn.

“People should also think beyond their immediate environment, because it’s very important to have an unbiased, critical perspective from outside. And I believe you need to see that other side to help you develop into that academic or person that’s relevant in your field.”

Find out more...
Dr Theo Akudjedu is an Associate Professor and Director for the MSc Medical Imaging with Management Programme at the Institute of Medical Imaging and Visualisation, Bournemouth University.

Investigate development opportunities for your career in the SoRs Education and Career Framework.

Read Theo's tips on building a career in academia in his Imaging & Oncology article with Professor Marc Griffiths.
Photography and videography: Stephen Williams

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