Nuclear Medicine Physician Discusses Career Path and Field Growth - Louise Emmett

November 20, 2023

Andrea Miyahira talks with Louise Emmett who shares her unconventional journey into nuclear medicine, sparked by a contrarian spirit and a suggestion against pursuing the field. Initially specializing in nuclear cardiology in Canada, she shifted to theranostics and nuclear medicine, driven by the dynamic growth in these areas. Dr. Emmett discusses the challenges and excitement of running clinical trials in theranostics, leveraging her experience from nuclear cardiology. She reflects on the gender disparities in nuclear medicine, emphasizing the need for societal and institutional support for women, especially in leadership roles. Dr. Emmett encourages women to embrace their abilities and pursue their ambitions in the field. She concludes by discussing the ENZA-p study, enhanced by a PCF Challenge Award, which aims to revolutionize theranostics by integrating extensive imaging and genetics for personalized treatment.

The ENZA-p Trial is an investigator-initiated trial led by ANZUP in partnership with the Prostate Cancer Research Alliance (PCRA).


Louise Emmett, BSc(HONS), MBChB, FRACP, FAANMS, MD, The University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, Australia

Andrea K. Miyahira, PhD, Director of Global Research & Scientific Communications, The Prostate Cancer Foundation

Read the Full Video Transcript

Andrea Miyahira: Joining me today is Dr. Louise Emmett, a nuclear medicine physician at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney. Dr. Emmett, tell us about your role there and thank you for joining us.

Louise Emmett: Well, it's an absolute pleasure. Thank you for asking me. So I run the Department of Theranostics and Nuclear Medicine at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney. I'm a clinical research lead at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, and a professor at the University of New South Wales.

Andrea Miyahira: So how did you come into the field of nuclear medicine? Tell us about your career path, because it's so interesting.

Louise Emmett: Nuc-med is, I guess an unusual career path to choose. And I was a bit of a contrarian, I really wasn't too sure what to do. In fact, someone said to me, "Oh, you should not do nuclear medicine," so it got me really interested actually. So that's exactly what I did do. And for a long time... So I specialized in nuclear cardiology. I went over to Canada and I did postgraduate work in nuclear cardiology and a doctoral thesis in nuclear cardiology. But it's one of those fields that one part of it was shrinking and the other part of it was growing. And I was working in a small hospital in nuclear cardiology, and I was looking across at all this PET happening, and all this therapy happening with no access to it myself. And I was very lucky, I had some management experience and I got a job at St. Vincent's Hospital. And at the time it was really quiet, we weren't doing very much. It's a small hospital, it doesn't have a big catchment, so I had to really think of innovative ways for us to grow what we were doing. And that really was by expanding what we were doing in the prostate space. That was perfect timing, because it was exactly one year before PSMA PET really came onto the field. So yeah, I was lucky, right place, right time.

Andrea Miyahira: And you're running a lot of trials now. That must be very exciting.

Louise Emmett: So trials is something that I really enjoyed when I was in nuclear cardiology, but they were really hard to do. And then suddenly you've got these new peptides, you've got these new therapy agents. It's such an exciting field now, theranostics. You can really put your finger anywhere and there's a question, and there's a trial. So I guess I took the learnings from nuclear cardiology and sort of put them into the theranostics space, and that's worked incredibly well.

Andrea Miyahira: So there is an idea out there that nuclear medicine doesn't have a lot of women in the field yet. What's been your experience about that?

Louise Emmett: I think that it's like all specialties, it's hard for women to specialize. The exam's difficult, primary childcare is predominantly with women still, certainly in Australia. And so, I think you're right, particularly women in leadership. And I think that is something that that needs to be worked on. We're definitely getting there and I hope that we can be role models and mentor a lot more people coming through, but I still think it's harder for women than it is for men.

Andrea Miyahira: Do you think there are certain things the field of nuclear medicine could do specifically to bring more women in?

Louise Emmett: I'm not sure if it's the field of nuclear medicine as individual hospitals. I think individual hospitals need to listen to their women. They need to support them, they need to... And I think society itself needs to spread more childcare. I look back to when my children were small, the expectations were not that we would share care, the paternity leave didn't exist. There's all these minor things, it's a thousand cuts, it makes it harder. Society has a lot of a role to play in that as well, and not just nuclear medicine.

Andrea Miyahira: Are there any barriers that you've faced in your career path?

Louise Emmett: Yeah, absolutely there are barriers that I faced. I'm an opinionated, bright alpha female, that's not what people expect from women. I think most women who have this kind of personality will face barriers and will be judged.

Andrea Miyahira: What would be some tips that you would give to women that want to follow in your footsteps? Nuclear medicine is such an exciting and growing field, so what would you say to these early career women?

Louise Emmett: I would say, "Go for it." I would say, "Stay true to yourself. Don't judge yourself, don't be judged and give it your all," basically. And I think that what a lot of women do, they like to not dumb themselves down, but not take responsibility for the work they've done. I think really be out there, be as innovative as you can, dive into it, enjoy it, and live it.

Andrea Miyahira: That's very inspiring. So you are definitely a leader in nuclear medicine. You've just been awarded a PCF Challenge Award to do more correlative research on your ENZA-p study. Tell us a little bit about that.

Louise Emmett: That's so exciting actually, and you can't believe how that's going to transform ENZA-p. So ENZA-p is a grant we got through Movember. It's a randomized phase two trial. And one of the things that we really don't understand in theranostics at the moment is how we can better personalize treatment, how we should be using PET to guide how to treat, and how the genetics should interact with all the imaging that we should be doing. So in a lot of the therapy trials that have happened up until now, so vision, PSMAfore, PSMAddition, there's a little bit of imaging, but there's just not enough. So what we wanted to do with the ENZA-p trial was shove in as much imaging as possible and then add in all this genetics as well so that we could really try and see how people were responding, who should be on what, when we should change treatments, how we can personalize, and how we can optimize. So having this PCF Challenge is superb. We are just going to get the best information from this using a really great multidisciplinary team.

Andrea Miyahira: Well, congratulations and you're such a leader.

Louise Emmett: Thank you.

Andrea Miyahira: Thank you again, for joining me today.

Louise Emmett: Pleasure.