HIGIO – Vittoria Bucknall – “My Luck Was In; The good fortune of fantastic mentors”

Sometimes it can be as simple as a single word of encouragement, a notion of accomplishment, a sense of belonging or just a warm fuzzy feeling that inspires a particular career path. I am not sure if it was because the sun was beating down on the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital (ROH) in Birmingham that summer, but within the first week of placement I was sold.


Until that point, I was unsure what type of doctor I would become.  I knew that I had far too much energy to sit behind a desk all day but why orthopaedics? Why was this placement different?


There is an instinctive migration towards specialities that allow for certain natural skill sets and characteristics to flourish but throughout the delicate years of medical school, this migration can be interrupted, deflected and deterred if these interests are not nurtured. The ROH was the first unit I had attended that did just that.


The education department treated each medical student as their future colleague investing interest and time through structured clinical and academic timetables. No student was left floundering. This level of consideration for the local medical students was self perpetuating, generating greater engagement by the students with the specialty.  However, as is true with most good stories, there is often a star in the show.


To have a great mentor is truly invaluable. I could not have got into orthopaedics without the encouragement of one of the few most inspirational trainers I have ever met. Mr Marcus Green is an orthopaedic consultant at the ROH.


As a medical student, you spend the majority of your time running after a long trail of white coats, being ignored by the thousands passing by on what seem to be very important missions or you spend your days camouflaged into the walls in an effort to stay out of the way.

This fortunately however, was not my experience at the ROH. Mr Marcus Green brought the specialty to life, involving myself and my colleagues in every aspect of orthopaedics. It did not matter that I was just a medical student who had barely ever scrubbed, I was up there as first assistant bashing in total knees, whizzing around with an arthroscope and wholloping out tired prostheses. I was there until the early evenings seeing the clinic patients and being enthusiastically shown what a ‘patella tap’ actually felt like. It is often just that one person who can inspire enough to fuel the long journey ahead.


After becoming hooked on orthopaedics, I organised with the help and support of the ROH a medical elective at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore where my commitment to the specialty was affirmed.


Working hard with the education department at the ROH, I developed my research skills, which was a catalyst for an intercalated BMSc in orthopaedic technology at the University of Dundee.


I returned to Birmingham where I carried out my foundation years which was heavily weighted in surgery. Alongside working, I spent every available opportunity to immerse myself in orthopaedic research back at the ROH. I am certain that it was these opportunities I was so lucky to receive, that enabled me to secure a run-through number in Edinburgh where I am currently training.


I recognise that hard work and persistent motivation is essential to secure your chosen career path in life. However, it is equally important to recognise the value of those special units and mentors that help you realise your potential and provide guidance. Many of them do not even realise the merit they hold and without them, I could have found myself in a life of obstetrics and gynaecology!