LMS COVID-19 stories: Harry Leitch

 10 September 2020   COVID-19

What’s your role at LMS?

Normally my time is split 50:50 between being a specialist registrar, seeing patients in Clinical Genetics, and running my lab at the LMS. In reality, this feels a bit more like two full time jobs.

What are the main work challenges for you at the moment?

The major challenge was redeployment. I was asked to give up my 50% academic time and use this to assist with clinical service. I did this by returning as a specialist registrar in neonatology, working shifts in neonatal intensive care at Queen Charlotte’s and St. Mary’s. I was happy to do my bit, but of course my laboratory responsibilities didn’t just stop.

I manage a team of seven people: three postdocs, two PhD students, a visiting masters student from France and an undergraduate – and I take this responsibility very seriously. No-one was going to step in and take over while I was away. I tried my best to manage them remotely. Each of them had different challenges and deadlines during this time, and I did everything I could to support them. Luckily, I am blessed with a fantastic team, and they have made it easy for me.

How have you found the balance of working at home?

Difficult and exhausting. I’ve tried my best to muddle through, but it’s been like a third job and there’s only so long you can run at 300%.

What’s worked well, what have you found difficult?

I’ve been lucky in a way, as I’ve not really felt like I’ve been in lockdown. I’ve been working every day, seeing patients in hospital and even more busy than usual. However, it’s taken its toll. While I’ve been trying to highlight good working practice to my team, it’s been impossible to follow this myself. There’s also a realisation that despite all this extra effort, there will be no credit at the end of the day. No-one will take this into account in the research world, or in my specialist training. There’s been a lot of lip service in this area, but no meaningful action from anyone.

What are your personal tips for working from home?

I’m simply not the best person to advise on this. I have pointed my team towards the best advice and met with them regularly to check on their well-being and to try and keep them motivated. I think Imperial College and the MRC have done a good job of circulating tips. Personally, I’ve bought more underwear which has saved time with laundry.


This story was originally published on the UKRI Infohub. You can read more about Harry’s emergency COVID-19 response here.