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Honorary degree for Hull Hospitals’ professor with a passion for physics and rock music

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A passion for guitar is not the only thing Hull Hospitals’ Professor Andy Beavis has in common with Queen’s Brian May.

The consultant medical physicist and the legendary rocker were both presented with honorary degrees by the University of Hull this month.

A former pupil at Longcroft School in Beverley, Professor Beavis was put forward for the Degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, by the University of Hull’s Dr David Richards.

Dr Richards’ nomination described how Andy has excelled throughout his career after discovering his passion and abilities in both physics and maths at a young age. 

After gaining his degree in radiation physics from Newcastle and periodically serving as a roadie for space rock band, Hawkwind, Andy joined Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust as a clinical scientist in 1992. He progressed through the ranks and eventually took on the role of Head of Radiation Physics at Castle Hill Hospital in 2007.

During this time, he developed the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging in radiotherapy, a significant step forward in radiotherapy treatment planning from the standard x-ray CT technique, and created an algorithm for new treatment techniques called Dynamic Wedges, something which had stumped other industry experts at the time. These techniques were quickly adopted in cancer treatment and Andy started to become noticed on the world stage. 

At the same time, he joined the National Radiotherapy Programme Board, influencing national policy, playing a key role in the future direction of radiotherapy treatment, and helping to establish a £23m Radiotherapy Innovation Fund to modernise radiotherapy throughout the UK.

2007 was also the year when Andy became co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Vertual Ltd, a spin off enterprise with colleagues from the University of Hull which uses virtual reality (VR) to train radiotherapy professionals.

Described as being like a ‘flight simulator for radiotherapy’, every radiographer delivering therapy in the UK after 2007 has been trained using Vertual’s VR simulation system. The system is now in over 160 installations in over 30 countries around the world, helping to shape how care is delivered to millions of people with cancer.

Dr Richards says: “Andy is someone who has always strived to deliver more, whether that’s clinical care for his patients, advances in technology for his colleagues, or shaping the direction of his profession and radiotherapy treatment across the globe.

“He’s been published over a hundred times, he’s received multiple awards, and he’s been listed in the top 100 Leading Practicing Scientists in the UK.  It makes us all really proud when we consider just how far Andy’s work has reached and how many lives it has touched for the better. He very much deserves the honorary degree given to him this month”. 

Now Head of Medical Physics at the Trust, leading a team of nearly 100 scientists, engineers and support staff, Andy is an internationally recognised expert who continues to fly the flag for Hull when it comes to research, innovation and improving patient care.

Andy says he’s thrilled to have received the doctorate from the university: “In academic circles, it’s considered a great honour to receive such an honorary degree and I am truly grateful to the University for the award.

“Across the Medical Physics service in Hull, we have achieved so much in radiotherapy, diagnostic imaging, nuclear medicine and clinical engineering, and I am very proud of the fantastic team that I have the pleasure to lead.

“The work we have done in developing novel training methods with Vertual has been very exciting, especially reflecting a Hull-based company growing from the Trust and University which has changed international practice in clinical training forever.

“I hope that this award might help promote the opportunities that the NHS offers to scientists, engineers and technologists. It would be fantastic if we could interest local people to explore the type of career that I have been fortunate to enjoy so much.”

Andy hasn’t forgotten his rock roots either, having taken another ride on the ‘Starship Hawkwind’ in Tokyo, Japan, in 2015.

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