In this series of articles, healthcare professionals from across the UK speak about their journey into medicine. Dr Joe is a Consultant ENT Surgeon, specialising in ear and hearing problems for adults and children. He is based at University College London Hospitals in Central London.
When did you first decide you wanted to do medicine?
Growing up in a medical family, I don’t think I ever needed much convincing that I wanted to be a doctor. I was always inspired by the idea from a very young age and doing work experience in a hospital age 16 really cemented that.
How well do you think medical school prepared you for life as a doctor?
Bristol was an excellent medical school that gave us lots of opportunities to learn from great people. Placements at any medical school can be hit and miss though, and I don’t think I really truly grasped the hospital system until I started working as a doctor.
I think taking chances to hear and see doctors’ perspectives & advice outside of the official timetable is hugely valuable and I wish I’d realised that more when I was a student rather than being fixated on passing exams!
Reflect on anonymised patient case or personal experience to show the principles of being a doctor eg compassionate care, collaborative working, evidence-based delivery, open communication, everyday leadership, humility
A big part of my work is performing cochlear implant surgery for children & adults with profound deafness to enable hearing and social integration. Medical school gets you excited about being part of the medical field and being fantastic highly-skilled doctors, but we probably don’t receive enough emphasis and insight into just how much we need to work with allied health professionals who have a wealth of knowledge and experience in areas that we don’t, but patients need. Before a patient receives cochlear implant surgery by me, I seek the input of audiologists, speech and language therapists, teachers of the deaf, psychologists and clinical nurse specialists who are all crucial to the plan.
Was there anything about medicine that surprised you?
You become de-skilled very quickly if you’re not seeing or doing something regularly.
What motivates you now as a doctor?
It’s all about my patients and colleagues. If I can finish in 30-odd years time knowing that I helped changed the course of many people’s lives for the better, I’ll be very happy.
What advice would you give to aspiring medics?
Don’t be discouraged by people who say that something is too competitive. Selection processes for medical school and medical jobs are transparent and fair regardless of your background. If you have the skills and attitude, there’s nothing stopping you being the person selected.
Make the most of all your opportunities at medical school and don’t rate your worth based on your rank. The things that determine your academic ranking at medical school are very different to the qualities that mark you out as a top medical trainee.
Above all, never lose sight of being a kind to your colleagues and other hospital staff, being compassionate to patients, going the extra mile for others and maintaining a service-focussed attitude. I’ve found that these sorts of trainees tend to naturally fall in the way of the best advice and successful projects to enhance their CVs.