Membership Q&A

Issue: Fungal diseases

09 February 2016 article

In this issue, we’re pleased to introduce Dorina Timofte.

Where are you currently based?

Since 2009 I have been an academic at the Liverpool School of Veterinary Science and I am based at the Leahurst campus, a green and leafy part of the Wirral peninsula.

What is your area of specialism?

Veterinary clinical microbiology. I lead the Microbiology Diagnostic Laboratory in the Liverpool School of Veterinary Science, which is a very busy, but vibrant environment. The clinical material received frequently leads to research projects and is also used for teaching veterinary students about the all-important relationship between clinics and the laboratory findings. Our activities are very similar to those of a human clinical microbiology laboratory, where, every day, there are clinicians waiting for quick, quality results and a patient that needs the best possible health care.

And more specifically?

The quality of our diagnostic product and our training is key for current and future therapeutic management of animal patients with clinical infections. Furthermore, the rise of antimicrobial resistance, which we find in farm and companion animals, led me to develop an interest in understanding the role that particularly companion animals may play as a reservoir of resistance genes, as well as the bilateral interspecies transfer that can occur between humans and animals. From this point of view, the diagnostic lab is very well placed for surveillance of the trends in antimicrobial resistance. We play a key role in understanding the cloudy picture of antibiotic resistance development, both as a receiver and deliverer of information. As such, we need to capture the waves and trends in resistance seen in clinical isolates, but also we need to make sure that the information that is sent out to clinicians is accurate, tailored to each case and does not encourage further development of resistance. As a microbiologist and a parent, I do worry about the prospect of a world in which penicillin would not be effective anymore for treating a child’s streptococcal infection.

I feel that it is also important that our experience is shared internationally and I found the International Development Fund (IDF) scheme of the Microbiology Society an excellent vehicle to share my experiences and to contribute to the training of other microbiologists in the area. I was awarded an IDF grant in 2012, which supported the organisation of a workshop in Romania, aimed at transferring knowledge and technology to local diagnostic laboratories on laboratory detection of extended spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBL), meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other resistance phenotypes. Both human and veterinary diagnostic microbiologists attended and it was the first time in Romania when human and veterinary microbiologists had met to discuss the problem of antimicrobial resistance. Given the success of this first workshop, I re-applied to the IDF scheme in 2014, this time proposing work with human microbiologists in Romania to tackle the emerging problem of carbapenemase-producing Gram-negative organisms. In this project, the IDF funds have supported a pilot project for the implementation of detection of carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae and non-fermentative bacteria in two Romanian hospitals. The project is ongoing and through its findings, we hope to raise awareness of the danger posed by the spread of carbapenemase-producing organisms in the absence of coordinated surveillance at hospital and national level in Romania.

Tell us about your education to date

I completed my formal school and university education in Romania. I gained a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the Faculty of Veterinary Science at Iași Agricultural University in 1991. The anti-communist revolution happened while I was in my final years at university and this coincided with universities opening their doors to younger staff; therefore, I did not hesitate when a position of teaching assistant was available in the microbiology department of the faculty where I graduated. In 1992 I embarked on a six-year PhD programme, which was available on a part-time basis allowing me to continue my academic career at the same time.

Where did your interest in microbiology come from?

I always enjoyed biology in general but decided to take a degree in the more complex subject of veterinary science. Microbiology was the subject that I most enjoyed studying and I was fortunate to be offered the position of teaching assistant in microbiology at Iași.

What are the professional challenges that present themselves and how do you try to overcome them?

In my day-to-day job, the biggest challenge is getting the right balance between teaching veterinary students, pursuing my research interests, developing new diagnostic assays and getting involved in all the clinical cases that pass through our laboratory. I am also a strong believer that family should always come first, and there are already too many things to balance and I am not sure if I do meet that particular challenge.

What is the best part about ‘doing science’?

There are a lot of things, I enjoy the ever-changing scenes and that two days are never the same. I guess a research project can be a little bit like a piece of art, where it is all in your mind, you just have to give it shape and make it relevant and interesting for other people as well.

Who is your role model?

In life, Audrey Hepburn, especially for the charity work that she did as a UNICEF ambassador. In science, probably my husband, Professor Stuart Carter, whose Yorkshire philosophy to ‘always get things done’, is now embedded in my work ethic. Stuart and I met via an EU teaching exchange programme, and got married soon after that; therefore, we nominate ourselves as the ideal example of a successful European collaboration.

What do you do to relax?

Whenever I get the chance I try to follow my passion for gardening. Working in the garden has the power to take away all my work thoughts and worries. Being between my flowers is therapeutic and de-stressing, but I can’t explain how it works.

What one record and luxury item would you take to a desert island?

The record would be Romanian choral music by the Madrigal Ensemble and the luxury item – my espresso coffee pot; it helps me function in the morning.

Tell us one thing that your work colleagues won’t know about you!

I could say I used to be a painter as I also graduated from arts school, but unfortunately I have not touched any brushes since being in my current job.

If you weren’t a scientist, what would you be?

Either a painter or a landscape gardener. It would be difficult to decide which one of the two.

If you would like to be featured in this section or know someone who may, contact Paul Easton, Head of Membership Services, at [email protected]