Hanah Sfar-Gandoura recently joined Mtech Access as a Senior Management Consultant in our Innovation Team. In this interview, we learn about her career in mental health nursing and pharmaceuticals, what inspired her to join Mtech Access, and her experiences since joining the team.
What led you to pursue a career in the health sector?
I started my nurse training in 2000. I originally trained to be a general nurse, but after completing my mental health placement, realised that psychiatry was my calling in life. I have an aunt with significant mental health concerns, so I am fully aware of the stigma associated with having a diagnosed mental health condition, especially when people lose touch with reality.
My career started in the National Health Service (NHS) in frontline psychiatric services, where I developed a passion for service redesign and innovation. I had a specialist interest in forensic mental health and have worked in a medium secure hospital and a prison. In fact, the prison service was the first nurse-led service I set up! It is my mission to achieve parity of esteem with physical and mental health – together we will break the stigma.
I worked in medical affairs within the Pharmaceutical industry, as a Service Development Lead. Here, the focus was to collaborate with the NHS to improve services for people with a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I was able to continue my passion for service redesign and innovation in healthcare, with a particular interest in digital health and remote monitoring of ADHD. This is where I got to know Mtech Access as an agency!
What motivated you to join Mtech Access?
I was looking for a role where I would be supported to drive innovation in the health sector and saw the position of Senior Management Consultant – Innovation, advertised! Having worked with Mtech Access previously, I was fully aware that the company lives their values through the work they deliver, with particular reference to integrity and exemplary work.
I was excited to join an agency that supports the NHS, healthcare sector, the Pharmaceutical industry, and Medtech, with the opportunity to collaborate with all sectors to improve global healthcare. It is an exciting time to be part of Mtech Access with the newly formed Innovation Team. It really feels like we can take on the world by innovating and collaborating locally and globally!
What have you been involved with in your first few weeks with Mtech Access?
Since joining Mtech Access, it has all been very exciting and a bit of a whirlwind. I feel I have achieved so much in just 2 months.
I have been exploring the US domestic market and ways we can offer innovative services. Drawing on my background in medical affairs, I am exploring medical education options to support the NHS, healthcare systems, and industry to upskill clinicians on specific conditions.
I am extremely passionate about real-world evidence generation and how innovations play out in the real world. I have met with a couple of Mtech Access clients to look at future opportunities and determine how we can identify more solutions in this area to meet our clients’ needs.
On another note, the induction was very welcoming! I was lucky to join just before Christmas, which meant that I attended the Christmas Party and went to lots of events in the Bicester office that involved cake! More importantly, we raised £188 for Save the Children on our Christmas Jumper Day.
What has most surprised you about Mtech Access?
I was amazed at how strongly ethics, compliance, and integrity are at the heart of what Mtech Access do. The importance of respecting relationships with the NHS and complying with the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) code of practice is apparent throughout the company. As a result, it really feels as if we are an extension of our clients, as we align with their values and the frameworks they are held accountable to.
How does your work in the NHS fit around your work at Mtech Access?
I am currently working as an ADHD Nurse Specialist for the NHS each Saturday. This is something that is very important to me, and I was delighted that Mtech Access have supported me to continue this role.
I think it is vital that industry stay in touch with the real challenges in healthcare. There is a lack of Adult ADHD Specialists nationally, so being given the opportunity to continue to support patients and the NHS has been invaluable. On a personal note, it means that I am able to keep my nursing registration and the skills of being an independent prescriber.
In your view, what are the biggest challenges facing mental health nursing in the NHS?
As I mentioned earlier, mental health is the poor relation to physical health, and it is a mission of mine to ensure that there is parity of esteem between mental health and physical health.
There is a resourcing issue throughout the NHS, but it appears worse in psychiatry. This can result in long wait times and inadequate access to care for patients who require it in a timely manner.
It would be great to transform our mental health services to ensure that they are easily accessible and focus on hard-to-reach patient groups.
I also feel that we should talk about mental health more and our emotions – it is ok not to be ok! In fact, it is normal to be up and down with emotions and life itself. This needs to be normalised and we need to break the habit of saying we are ok when asked!
If you could swap your expertise and role with a colleague from another team, who would you swap with?
I would love to swap skills with the Medical Writing Team. Probably because I have worked in medical affairs in the Pharmaceutical industry and benefitted greatly from the work of Medical Writers in the past. I am excited to see the skillset applied in areas other than medical education, such as health technology assessments and value propositions.
When you are not at work, what do you like to do?
Outside of work, I am learning how to speak Polish, which is very hard! My late grandfather was Polish and this is why I am trying to upskill. I am mixed race, with my father being Tunisian and my mother being English and Polish; this has enriched my life greatly. I am a proud mother of two beautiful cats, who can be very naughty!
To learn more about our Innovation Team and their current workstreams, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in joining our team at Mtech Access, please visit our careers page for details of our current vacancies.