I was always better than languages than I was at sciences, finding it much easier to ask for directions to the library than to recall chemical equations. I succeeded in getting straight A’s at A level (including Spanish, which is probably what made me different at interview) and in September 2000, I started at the Royal Free & University College London Medical School.
Having always been extremely sporty I joined the medical School rugby team. I ended up spending so much time drinking and playing rugby that I failed my 1st year exams (albeit by 2%) – I was clearly enjoying myself too much and had got the balance pretty wrong….but it was awesome. I seemed to be better at the communication and practical side of medicine and was pleased to see how my ranking improved in the clinical years. It was rather refreshing to realise that many of the extremely book smart people coming top in the year early on, were often actually pretty average at clinicals/OSCEs.
I was always drawn to theatre and was lucky to have had some fantastic mentors in medical school. One that stood out was a senior SpR at the Whittington. After the trauma meeting he would take us for coffee and a bacon butty and would do some teaching over breakfast. He would take time to show us clinical examinations after the trauma meeting and would explain things well in clinic. He would also join us for a beer in the evening. To see an Orthopaedic Trainee able to burn the candle at both ends was pretty inspiring. That experience in Orthopaedics led to my undertaking an intercalated BSc in Basic Orthopaedic Sciences at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore. It was great fun but incredibly hard work and we were pushed hard with tremendous amounts of work to do every week (compared to my housemate, who did pharmacology, or pharma-holiday as we called it, with his two lectures a week).
Following on from medical school, I was allocated my 1st choice placement in London for Foundation training. An FY1 post in Orthopaedics (a rarity nowadays), continued to cement my desire to continue in the field and during that post I got myself into theatre as often as possible. I was always looking for extra ways to get involved in orthopaedic projects and to ultimately buff my CV, as guided by the ST3 person specification. After an FY2 year, (again with an orthopaedic rotation), I left London for Core Training in the East Midlands, (Leicester and Northampton), where I had an orthopaedic themed programme. It was here that I cut my teeth with the basic orthopaedic operations. Again, I was lucky and had some excellent Registrars willing to take me through the cases, where appropriate.
I was invited to ST3 interview in London, as a core trainee, but just missed out. This was actually a blessing in disguise, as I used my contacts to return to Stanmore, where I worked on the shoulder unit with Ian Bailey and Simon Lambert for a couple of months, to get me back in sync with London training (October-October compared with August-August elsewhere). From there I had another competitive interview to get into a CT3 post. I thankfully ranked top, securing the ideal rotation working as an SHO on the tumour unit with Prof Briggs and Mr Aston, combined with the all-important stepping stone of a SpR-level job (trauma fellow) at the Royal London.
This was the ideal transition and, on being invited back for ST3 interviews in London the following year, I was well drilled and ranked 4/400 enabling me to pick my rotation. I chose the Percivall Pott training Rotation in North East Thames and am delighted with this choice. I have been lucky enough to work with several phenomenal trainers and always look to pass on the same level of training as offered to me and am always keen to train a junior when they have shown determination and a keenness to get to theatre (plus a basic knowledge of anatomy).
My advice is to stay focussed; If you don’t get something first time and it is what you really want then use it as a positive experience and come back better. You must know the ST3 person specification inside out and try to make yourself stand out.
I am always happy to mentor an enthusiastic trainee so if anyone ever wants any advice, or even just a CV looking at then please feel free to get in touch!