I was never born to be an orthopaedic surgeon…at least that’s what they told me…thank god I didn’t listen! The fact of the matter is, you can be whoever and whatever you choose to be. Even when the odds are stacked against you, all you need is the determination and the drive to succeed. So here is my story…
There are no medics in my family. I come from a small town in Co. Tyrone in Northern Ireland, which, in 2007, was one of the most economically deprived towns in the UK, with the highest rate of unemployment. I was a straight A student with a passion for the sciences and so the natural progression was for me to study medicine at Queens University Belfast. No one mentioned that I could be a pilot or an investment banker.
I enjoyed my surgical attachments the most at university and quickly discovered theatre and all its glory. I applied for an elective in general surgery and trauma in South Africa and never looked back.
After graduation, I began my foundation training and that was where the real work started. I wanted to be a surgeon, there was no doubt. Surgeons made a difference. I knew it was going to be tough. I worked every hour that I could; I went to theatre at every opportunity, studied in the evenings and sat the MRCS early. I progressed to core training and sat in the introductory talk, which began with, “the chances of one of you proceeding straight from core to specialist training is non-existent” or “very few in this room will make it”. I left teaching that day and decided that I would be the one to get that number straight out of core training; 2 years later, I did.
My registrar training to date has been fantastic. I have met inspirational trainers that have driven me to succeed. I go to work enthused about the day ahead and come home buzzing about what I have achieved. Hip replacements, knee replacements, complex trauma, the list is endless. There is no two days the same and the beauty of it all is that it makes a difference. Patients get better.
As I now approach the end of my training, I have again entered study mode in preparation for the FRCS. I work every day and study every evening. Social events are rare, but it will be worth it in the end. It is important for juniors coming through to have true insight into the working life that this career entails. Orthopaedic surgery is a fantastic profession that will challenge and reward you, but it is not to be entered into lightly. It requires self-motivation, drive and commitment. I am not yet married (engaged though!) and have no children, but I have never once regretted or doubted my career choice and few in the current climate can say that.
So I leave you with this…I wasn’t born to be an orthopaedic surgeon, but I chose to become one, and I strive every day to be the best orthopaedic surgeon that I can be.