Medicine; some people fall into it, some say they’re born to do it and some are forced into it. I’d say I probably fall between the first two categories having always been vaguely interested in biology in general and medicine but not really considering it as a future career. This changed when the time came to decide on which GCSEs to do. It was at this point, because I preferred the sciences, I started to consider it as my potential future. Selecting A levels my choice was limited as many courses required Chemistry and Biology and many showed a preference for a third science, but I did at least break the mould slightly by taking English Literature for AS level rather than Physics.
I attended University College London medical school as the format of the course appealed to me being a traditional 6 year course with the first two years focused on theory with lectures, dissection and lab based practicals. In my third year I also then had the opportunity to undertake an intercalated BSc which I did in Orthopaedic Science and Musculoskeletal Biology. Even in the early stages of my medical school career my main focus was to one day specialise in Orthopaedic Surgery so taking such a relevant BSc was a real bonus. The final three years of medical school were more taxing, the focus switched to clinical knowledge with 12 weekly hospital rotations through various clinical specialities with vigorous written and practical exams at the end of each block. Despite it all there was still plenty of time to play rugby, get involved with charity activities and generally unwind with an amazingly tight group of friends. The stresses and strains were also a good practice for life as a doctor.
I graduated from UCL in 2012 and moved up to Birmingham to undertake an academic foundation training programme, a two year period of four monthly rotations in various specialities which also included a four month period focused on research. These first two years were difficult at times; feeling overwhelmed in a manic A&E department, overnight on calls covering an entire hospital wing with numerous sick patients, breaking bad news to patients and their families and of course dealing with the inevitable deaths of patients. At the same time it was also a period in which I learnt and developed with each day, and during my research time at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital realised that Orthopaedic Oncology was the field I wished to specialise in moving forward.
At the end of my foundation training I did not apply for a training job, after working for exam after exam since my GCSEs and throughout medical school and a year off seemed like a sensible option. I spent 10 weeks in India mixing travel with working at a huge public cancer hospital in Mumbai witnessing some remarkable surgeries, as well as volunteering in the Mumbai slums with a leprosy and TB charity. I also spent 10 weeks in South and Central America which was more focused on rest, relaxation and travelling around.
On my return I obtained a coveted academic clinical fellowship in Orthopaedics in Coventry which I am now in my second year of. The fellowship offers opportunities to undertake research and training up to consultant level. My first year of specialist training was enjoyable, having the opportunity to perform surgery and learn from some very talented surgeons. For the academic part of my training we are allocated blocks of time to work towards applying for a PhD grant in the field of our choice. At this moment in time I am currently based in Sheffield with a cancer research team working to develop my lab skills and focus on a project looking at chondrosarcoma, a relatively rare cancer.
Medicine as a career is one which takes a lot but gives back even more. There are times when it exhausts you with its unrelenting nature, it keeps you awake at night with stresses from the day, it moves you away from friends and family, it makes you miss weddings and birthdays through unsociable rotas, it drains your bank account with fees, exams, courses. Conversely each day is different, you have the opportunity to work within a remarkably cohesive team, you make incredible friends, you learn a huge range of skills, you get to talk to a wide range of (generally) grateful patients and at the end of the day, and most importantly, you can sit down with a cup of tea with a great deal of satisfaction that you’ve made a difference.
Chris Wilding, a Doctor