Photography by Katie O'Neill
Susannah Penney is a consultant head, neck and thyroid surgeon based at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) and is also the Associate Medical Director at the Greater Manchester Cancer Alliance, with close links to The Christie NHS Foundation Trust.
Born in Wythenshawe in 1974, Susi spent her early years in Sale before moving with her family to Ramsbottom near Bury at the age of two. She attended Bolton School and on leaving, toyed with idea of becoming a physicist before deciding to study medicine at the University of Manchester, qualifying in 1999. Straight out of Medical School Susi practiced as a pre-registration house officer (PRHO) for six months in Barrow-in-Furness followed by six months at Hope Hospital (now Salford Royal Hospital).
Miss Susannah Penney
In the early 2000s Susi underwent two years of basic surgical training at Bolton General Hospital and successfully sat her exams with the Royal College of Surgeons, moving from the title of Doctor to Miss.
I always knew I wanted to be a surgeon… I have a love of taking things apart, seeing how they work and putting them back together again.”
Over the next two years Susi carried out Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) training at Hope Hospital and MRI followed by 18 months of head and neck cancer training at The Christie.
Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI)
The Christie (Photo: Gareth Walker)
Susi covers The Christie on call. “If there is a head and neck or breathing emergency I will get called to The Christie to help them out.” As for Head and Neck cancer patients, her team at MRI works together with oncologists at The Christie – those requiring surgical treatment being seen by Susi and her team. Susi explains how the pandemic has impacted on her work in cancer care: “Essentially for the last two years it’s been a fight for access to treatment for cancer patients. The late presentation of cancer as a result of people staying at home, keeping themselves to themselves can push a time delay into cancer pathways - this can sometimes make it more challenging to treat."
Susi’s outside interests include badminton, cooking and racing fast cars. “I used to have a Lotus and used to go to track days. When I was a Registrar I used to drive around Manchester on call in a bright blue Subaru Impreza with a big wing on the back… I’ve got to say, I’m a proper boy racer.”
Susi has always led with determination and compassion but stood out as an exemplar in the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic, working long hours on the front line whilst also displaying regional leadership to keep cancer patients safe across the whole of Greater Manchester.
Susi is respected by her clinical colleagues, NHS leaders in Greater Manchester and most importantly by the patients she has treated and those she is helping to transform cancer services across Greater Manchester. We’re lucky to have her as a part of our Cancer Alliance team and we’re delighted she’s being recognised for her contributions to our population as part of the Greater Mancunians project.” - Professor Dave Shackley, Director of Greater Manchester Cancer Alliance
Susi outside the MRI, Peter Mount Building - Manchester's Head & Neck Centre
Susi spent the next six years as a specialist registrar at five different hospitals in the North West and at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle where she was awarded a prestigious Specialist Head and Neck Surgical Training Fellowship. After this period of training, Susi returned to Manchester in 2012 to take up her first consultancy role at the MRI.
“By hook or by crook we have managed to carry on our service here at the MRI and across Greater Manchester hospitals, the cancer treatments have been prioritised because people like me will go and sit in front of executive directors saying: ‘You need to do this to keep this service going’. It’s tiring, but it’s my job to champion the cause of cancer to make sure the patients get the best deal possible.”
THE SHOOT: Manchester Royal Infirmary
Manchester Head and Neck Centre - Peter Mount Building
Student reflection: Katie O'Neill
This Greater Mancunians shoot with Susi was a technically challenging but rewarding experience. I photographed Susi at the Manchester Head and Neck Centre at the MRI. Covid testing and mask wearing was essential and I was restricted to photograph in only certain areas of the building.
Susi’s office was our starting point, despite the restricted space, I managed to get some important shots of her in an administrative setting. We then moved to a corridor intersection to capture the hospital environment. Susi was incredibly patient, enthusiastic and more than happy to be directed. Her vivid red tunic really made the images ‘pop’ and with our trusty LED light wand we managed to fill in any dark spaces.
We moved finally to the outside of the Peter Mount Building for the last shots, but struggled with the scaffolding around the building. I did find some usable spaces and signage and managed to take advantage of the good quality natural light.
I believe that my final images represent Susi in her important role as a surgeon, whilst managing to reflect her affable and down-to-earth personality.