GP & Senior Clinical Lecturer.
Lead for Clinical Debrief, Deputy lead CBME, DIMAH board member,
GPwSI Specialist Asylum Seeker Service GMW Mental Health Trust
When I finished my house jobs in 1991, I was so exhausted from 1-in-3 rotas that I felt medicine was not for me. I hadn’t a clue what to do next, but having enjoyed my elective in Sierra Leone and wanting to travel, I saved up and went off on a world trip. Arriving in New Zealand close to the end of my funds, I took up a locum post for 6 months in surgery then psychiatry, which I hadn’t enjoyed as a student.
Thankfully more normal working hours made me reconsider and I came back to the UK to take up a 3month post in GP. Working in an amazing rural practice in Suffolk got me hooked and I moved to the North West for my VTS hospital jobs. Towards the end I felt too young and restless to settle down in practice and opted for the Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (DTM&H) in Liverpool where I was recruited by Medecins Sans Frontier (MSF).
I did 4 field doctor jobs – Thai-Burmese border, Liberia, South Sudan and Afghanistan - which were formative for my future career. On return, I completed my practice training and went to work in inner city London, Germany with British Forces Overseas, and rural West Wales where I was a partner for 4 years before having my twin daughters.
An advert in the BMJ in 2005 was irresistible – a salaried post working with asylum seekers in Salford, Manchester. I moved my young family and started work at the Horizon Centre. Having worked for 12 years with asylum seekers – the latter 4 yrs for a mental health trust – I have enough experience to call myself a GPwSI in asylum seeker mental health, although there are no formal qualifications in this work.
Another thread through my career has been undergraduate education. Having been a less than enthusiastic student myself, I have always been keen to stimulate some interest at medical schools for the wider determinants of health. The challenges and opportunities of a GP career are often hidden from students and I love to open their eyes to what amazing things we help our patients to achieve. I started tutoring problem based learning (PBL) groups and moved on to quality assurance of placements before getting a clinical lecturer job. I have progressed through training-the-trainers to leading on an innovative session for year 3 students, helping their transition to clinical medicine combining affective and cognitive elements of work. Experience was key and although a PGCert is interesting I found accumulating hours of teaching and reflecting on them much more useful.
The future holds challenges for me in advocacy and in learning to write about the situation of my vulnerable patients in an accessible way. The great thing about a medical career is that although it is stable employment, it is forever changing and you really can mold it to your interests as they develop. Who would have thought when I graduated that I’d work in a mental health job?