Staff Profile: Rebecca Di Maio

Rebecca Di Maio, Clinical Research Manager at HeartSine Technologies, Belfast, Northern Ireland.


-What does your job entail?

My job is Clinical Research Manager at HeartSine Technologies, which is the only company to design, develop and manufacture Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in the UK or Ireland.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a devastating condition which kills more people every year in the UK than lung cancer, breast cancer and AIDS combined- about 270 people every day- so research into advancements in cardiac technology is vital.

My role in developing the life saving devices involves lab work, including clinical studies and usability testing, as well as risk management meetings.

I also publish and present key industry findings at international conferences.

-Is it 9-5?

The role is generally 9-5 but, as there is a lot of research into improvements in the technology worldwide, there is additional work and travelling involved.

In fact, in November 2013 I attended a major American Heart Association Conference in Texas where more than 18,000 cardiovascular experts from 105 different countries, were able to come together to discuss the most cutting edge developments in the life saving equipment.

It was a fantastic experience and it was an honour to meet so many different clinicians, scientists and academics in this field from across the globe.

-How did you get into this line of work?

I completed a degree and PhD in biomedical engineering and in my placement year of my undergraduate course, I was employed by HeartSine Technologies Ltd.

During this placement I worked in the quality department and also worked with the Clinical Director.

When I returned to university to complete my final year studies, I collaborated with HeartSine on a defibrillation project which involved clinical research and was subsequently appointed to the clinical department in 2006.

-Outline your career to date?

I was initially appointed Clinical Research Specialist at HeartSine Technologies and was then promoted to Clinical Manager a few years later due to growth in the department and increased product portfolio and sales.

Since then I have been fortunate to collaborate with world leading experts in the field and present at international conferences as well as initiating local and international clinical studies.

-Tell us about your qualifications/training.

I have a BSc (Hons) Degree in Biomedical Engineering and a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from University of Ulster.

I have also completed additional professional training including Statistics and Biostatistics training and Clinical study monitoring training.

-What qualities are required for your job – personal and professional?

You need to be a good listener, motivated, passionate about the industry, and most importantly, ensure you are inclusive.

The medical industry is multidisciplinary and therefore every decision must involve the right experts.

-What are the biggest challenges and rewards of your work?

Part of my role is to study the most effective and advanced treatments of cardiac conditions. Cardiac technology is continually evolving and developing, so it is extremely important we have the most up to date research in order to keep our devices as effective as they can be.

Nonetheless, while this can be challenging, it is also extremely rewarding to know that our defibrillators, which are manufactured in over 20 languages and distributed to over 40 countries, are saving lives across the world every single day.

For example, with Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) alone, survival rates after Sudden Cardiac Arrest are less than 5%, but when you combine CPR with the use of a defibrillator, then survival rates can increase to as much as 70%. It’s an incredible statistic.

Other rewards including being in the position to collaborate with world leaders in resuscitation science.

-What do you like to do in your spare time?

I have many interests including cookery, and keeping fit by regularly walking and running.

-Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

I was recently elected to the International Society for Computerized Electrocardiology (ISCE) Board, which is a prestigious international research board.

I’m the very first female engineer and the youngest person ever on the Board, which was a huge honour for both myself and for HeartSine.

There are only 15 people on the board from across the world and my first ISCE conference will take place next year in Florida.

-Who has inspired you most in your life?

Professor Jennifer Adgey is a key inspiration of mine. She was a cardiologist who worked at the Royal Victoria Hospital for nearly 40 years and was a pioneer in the field of cardiology.

She saved hundreds of lives, wrote two books and published 250 scientific papers. She was a crucial figure in promoting the use of portable defibrillation.

The late Professor John Anderson has also been extremely inspirational. He led the way in developing technology that wouldn’t restrict the use of defibrillators to hospitals. Belfast is the birthplace of the portable defibrillator so they can now be used by any one at any time in any place, and I am extremely honoured to be able to carry on the tradition of working at the forefront of cardiac technology here.

*This profile first appeared in the Belfast Telegraph on 11th March 2014