Lee Christian Jenkins 1975 – 2017
The nuclear medicine community throughout the U.K. and further afield was shocked by the tragic early death of Lee Jenkins at the age of forty-two. Lee had spent his working life in Medical Physics, working either for the NHS or for Hermes Medical Solutions.
Lee grew up in Redditch in Worcestershire and studied Physics at Bristol University. Friends from school and university remember him with great fondness and in particular praise his skills on the football pitch and as a musician. At some point he had to decide whether to become a rock star or aspire to greater things. Lee chose medical physics and in 1998 achieved an MSc in Radiation Physics from Birmingham University and became a technologist in the RRPPS radiation protection service in Birmingham.
After a career break to travel the world, Lee trained as a hospital physicist at Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital before joining Nuclear Medicine at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.
For the next seven years he was an invaluable member of the department at the QE. He was dedicated to his work and was knowledgeable. Importantly he “fitted” – people could approach him for help, they enjoyed his company and he was a good friend when things were going wrong or were tough. He even let his head of department finish slightly above him in their long-running pool challenge.
The QE remember him then as a young man just setting out in life and at times perhaps still finding his feet and looking for a direction. Appearances can be deceptive, and his potential was becoming apparent as hinted at in a reference from the now Professor Stuart Green in 1999:
“On first meeting Lee, he appears to be a fairly relaxed character with apparently little drive and enthusiasm. However, my experience of him is that he is hard working, prepared to work extra hours to complete tasks when necessary, and is very keen to embark on a career in Medical Physics. He does have a relaxed and easy way of dealing with people, which I am sure will help him when working in a clinical environment.”
That positive assessment was to be proved right but didn’t predict just what a valuable and popular member of the medical physics community Lee was to become.
Of course, others recognised these qualities and he was lured away to work for Hermes Medical: The UK Hermes team had worked with Lee throughout his time at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and recognized very early on his abilities as a scientist and his skills with people. He was a delight to work with. After running several successful collaborative projects with him, Hermes first attempted to recruit Lee in 2007, but it was not until late 2012 that he was finally persuaded to join. In his role as clinical applications scientist, Lee assisted customers in the UK and abroad to get the best from the Hermes applications. Lee also provided invaluable input to the company’s ongoing software development and collaborative research projects. Lee was professional, bright, and driven in his ambition to implement working, practical solutions to improve the outcome for patients. He was a highly-talented and well-respected clinical scientist, who would quietly and patiently speak his truth, and who had the courage to speak out when things were not right, even if doing so risked making him unpopular. Many key Hermes products are significantly better and more robust as a direct result of Lee’s knowledge, skills, tenacity and commitment.
The combination of the travelling and long hours working for a commercial company took its toll, and in 2016 Lee decided to return to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. However, he continued to work for Hermes on a part-time basis to assist with the development of its dosimetry and quantitative SPECT applications. His combined position, working in a clinical department and with the development team at Hermes, worked extremely well, as he was uniquely placed to influence the development of systems that hospitals actually need, and which would benefit patients. That was Lee’s goal and what he loved about the job. Having visited many nuclear medicine services around the country in his time at Hermes, Lee was able to compare and contrast the service at the QE with others, a perspective denied to many of the QE staff. He was particularly involved in the development of gamma camera-based dosimetry for radionuclide therapy, SPECT-CT lung quantification, SUV SPECT and recently radiolabelled regulatory T-cells. He spent many evenings and weekends in the QE department due to his enthusiasm for research and development. During these long hours, the world was put to rights over many mugs of tea in the Physicists Office. However, he still found time to pursue globe-trotting adventures wild camping, hill-walking and trips in his inflatable canoe.
Lee seemed to have finally found his ideal job mix and work-life balance just when tragedy struck.
It is a measure of Lee, that when colleagues from hospitals all over the country sent their condolences to the QE they all paid tribute not only to his ability but also to his attitude and friendship. Hermes likewise received many kind messages of condolence from customers and staff in the UK and abroad, all of which said more or less the same thing: that Lee was a bright, likeable, genuine, gentle, kind, lovely, wonderful man who was easy to talk to, fun to be with and who had a wicked sense of humour.
Lee will leave a massive gap in the department at the QE but to do that he had to be a big part of it in the first place. On behalf of us all at the QE: “Thanks Lee”, it was a privilege to work with you, a pleasure to know you and we’ll all miss you.
Lee was a deeply respected colleague at Hermes, and a good friend to many of us. He will be greatly missed, both personally and professionally, by his colleagues and by Hermes customers alike.
As a further lasting tribute to Lee, Hermes has agreed with the British Nuclear Medicine Society to sponsor a new, annual prize in Lee’s name. The BNMS Lee Jenkins Memorial Prize will be presented at each annual spring meeting and will be awarded to the most deserving presentation, both oral and poster, on Dosimetry and Quantitative SPECT.
Biography provided by Steve Bloomer, Hermes Medical Solutions and colleagues at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.