On Monday I headed to GOSH for a 9:30 start of the summer school. I had been really looking forward to this for a while and I had the added bonus of a free ticket ! I managed to get there and of course you enter the awkward first moment of finding people to talk to. I ended up chatting with a soon to be doctor from Vienna ! People had actually come from afar to attend this event with people coming from Ireland and even New Zealand!
We had our first talk on general paediatrics delivered by Professor Caroline Fertleman. She arrived with her pink hair and talked us through her day to day job as a paediatric consultant. I was in awe and just her passion for the children she had seen and her interactions with the family was lovely to hear and you could tell she loved her job. This was actually a common theme throughout the rest of the summer school. It was clear these doctors would not rather be doing anything else, that is something I want from my future job.
We then had a quick break followed by a talk on the training pathways in paediatrics. The specialty that was originally the only one I wanted to pursue wasn’t actually covered by the paediatric route, instead I would have to specialise through the surgical training pathway. I guess that’s going to be a bit harder to make sure I get the paediatric exposure but I guess it’s worth it in the end!
We then had a talk from a general paediatric surgeon (Mr Simon Blackburn) about his work in paediatrics. We were told about the surgeries he had carried out and how he had undergone his training. He had also undertaken a masters degree in surgical education which is something I didn’t know was on offer. I do want to gain a masters degree one day and perhaps a PhD but I know research is not one of my strengths so I guess we will see where my training goes. This was the first time out of many for the three days where my mind wandered over to a specialty that was not neurosurgery. I’ve been pretty much set on this specialty since day one of med school so to suddenly think about another pathway was a surprise to me! The delicate surgeries used to correct birth defects in the gastrointestinal system was intriguing and it was the method of fixing the defects that captured my imagination.
In the afternoon we had breakout sessions. We had been randomly assigned to groups as I was put in the “design a research study one”. I was dreading it slightly but the group I was with worked really well together. Our facilitator was Prof Paul Winyard and he took us through designing a study and the tings you need to consider when trying to secure funding. This small exercise boosted my confidence approaching research projects now that I know a little more about them. We all came together in the afternoon to present our ideas. Other groups had different projects such as designing an App for Junior Doctors where they can access help when needed (and even without internet connection, a common problem in hospitals). I liked the idea of a coffee button that you press when you need to chat to someone. There were other projects such as tackling health problems in the community, running an outreach day with the appearance of Dr Ranj and how to improve doctor- patient interactions in consultations with paediatric patients. The presentations were part of a competition and my group ended up winning! We won a textbook for our efforts which was published by GOSH.
After we had a Q&A session with GOSH Young Peoples Forum. This was an organisation set up where patients of GOSH and their siblings could put their ideas forward about how the hospital was run. Members of the YPF have also sat on meetings for picking the new chief executive of GOSH. They have also been invited to give their opinions on new GOSH wards and what should be included on them. It was nice to be able to talk to the YPF as this was a opportunity to ask them what they wanted their future doctors to have in terms of qualities. There were two GOSH patients and a sibling of a GOSH patient so we were able to find out what it was like having a sibling at GOSH. I think the one thing that I got from the session was to involve the siblings in the child’s care as much as possible. The sibling mentioned about wanting to be trained so they could administer care to their younger sibling and they were not able to be trained until GOSH had actually offered them the chance. Offering the siblings a chance to get involved in the care of their brother or sister would be a good way to make sure all the family feel listened to and valued. It would also give the sibling more involvement and make them feel included in the treatment as much as the parents and patient.
That came to the end of day one. I was exhausted and it showed as I managed to get on the wrong train home and ended up having to travel a further 40 minutes to get back to where I needed to be.
Managed to make myself late today because the trains were all delayed due to signal cables being stolen further up the line from where I was. At half nine I was sprinting through London to try and get to GOSH as soon as I could. I arrived during a talk but I go there in time to hear the one thing which has changed my entire outlook on my career and myself. Dr Sharma was giving a talk on his career pathway and how he felt he wasn’t the correct personality type to pursue the career he did , until he found paediatrics. He said that you shouldn’t ever change yourself to suit the job you are going for, instead be bold and be the person to be different. I think this was the thing I took away most from this summer school. I had been constantly doubting that I was the correct person for surgery, I am quirky, excitable and loud. Not really something you see in surgeons but this small thought during the middle of a speech made me realise that actually, there’s no reason why I cant still pursue surgery, there’s nothing in the job description about personality wise. I later found out that Dr Sharma is actually the medical director at GOSH.
After Dr Sharma we had a talk from Prof, Paolo De Coppi about regenerative medicine in children. He was part of the team that performed the first Stem Cell Trachea transplant on Ciaran Finn-Lynch in March 2010. (https://www.gosh.nhs.uk/news/latest-press-releases/2012-press-release-archive/first-child-receive-stem-cell-trachea-transplant-doing-well-after-two-years)
This was incredible as in the next decade , Stem Cell transplants will probably replace any transplant we use from living/deceased donors. The trachea was derived from a donor in Italy and stripped of any cells down to the collagen. Ciaran’s Stem Cells were then isolated and applied to the tracheal skeleton. Ciaran is still doing well today and does not require any anti-rejection drugs, he even attended the GOSH award ceremony with the team for their work.
We then had lectures regarding how to strengthen our CV’s . This was useful as being a first/second year medical student as I still have time to work on mine. One common theme that kept recurring was taking an F3 year. This would be a break between becoming a fully qualified doctor and starting specialty training. There was also an added emphasis on taking breaks away from training to pursue other opportunities such as going over to other countries to become exposed to their healthcare systems and different consultants (as well as taking a quick 10 minutes to soak up some sun).
In the afternoon we had a careers fair. This proved to be incredibly useful as I got to chat with some of the specialties that had caught my eye. One of these was PICU / CATS. Paediatric Intensive Care wasn’t anything I had originally thought about, but it has become a specialty that has got me re-thinking my career pathway. Dr Andrew Jones was running that stall and it was interesting to hear about what he does day to day. He also informed us about CATS which is the Children’s Acute Transport Service. This is a service designed to take critically ill children to PICU units at hospitals where they are currently in a hospital without one. It is a specialised ambulance that can cater for critically ill children during transfers from one hospital to another meaning children can receive the best possible care at every stage of their journey. Dr Jones happened to be on a 48 hour on call during the fair so was multi-tasking to say the least! He was very open and honest when we asked why he chose PICU over NICU and I could see how retaining what you want from your career was important when choosing specialties.
I also managed to talk with Dr Bhate about Neurology and how to best get involved in research so show dedication to the field. He seemed receptive to the fact I already have a degree in neuroscience so I am hoping that will stand me in good stead with other clinicians. I also managed to sit down with Prof Paul Winyard about getting involved in research and what clinicans expect of their students. I was worried about the data manipulation side of research as this was something I just never really understood in my undergraduate. I think he sensed that I had little self-confidence and basically told me to get out there and just go for it. I must admit, sitting in a lecture hall knowing I was probably the only one who didn’t get straight A’s or A*’s for their A Levels , it was easily to feel like the underdog but the boost I got from Prof Winyard I think was needed.
We then had a Q&A session with the specialties and I believe the most memorable question was “ Is it as bad as Adam Kay says it is?”. This earned a laugh through the audience but we were told about how paediatrics was tough and that the days were long but , it’s the smiles of the kids and relief on parents faces that gets you though it.
We then had a presentation by GOSH arts which ended up being more of a group singing session. We were all stood up singing through this tune and for a bunch of people who have seen more of the inside of a hospital than the outside for the past couple of years, the harmonies were quite good. Despite feeling a bit embarrassed it was a really enjoyable session and it really hit home the power of non-medical treatment.
In the evening we had a small drinks party on the roof of GOSH with views all around London. It was nice just to talk to everyone from different medical schools exchanging OSCE horror stories and stories from the wards. I was also chatting final year students about their electives. I also found out about working Glastonbury as a medic and I got given the website so I am hoping to gather a group of us up next year ! I also ended up bumping into the guy who runs the media side of PGME GOSH and we were chatting about how despite the thousands of emails that got send out, only 44 people were there. I was saying about how emails can be easily missed but it might be better to have a student ambassador at each school pushing GOSH events, they seemed to like the idea! We ended up leaving at 8:45pm from the event that was meant to finish at 8:30pm but that’s a minor detail !
Final day. I didn’t want the course to end but I think we were all pretty shattered by Wednesday. Our first lecture was about DRIVE at GOSH which is the Digital Research and Informatics Virtual Environment. Apart from the slickest presentation I had ever seen, the tech they are developing at GOSH is incredible. It’s important to understand that as medical students in the 2020’s , we will be seeing an influx of technology into our daily working lives. One particular bit of software that caught my eye was their data collection as you could input the data you needed and then it would tell you what test to use depending on what data you selected. They were also developing programmes that linked with therapy for respiratory patients to games where they had to perform the therapy correctly. I am excited for what technology can bring to healthcare but I am also worried about how this will affect training. If an app can listen to heart sounds and correctly diagnose them, then why bother teaching medical students how to identify them. There’s also the question of data security as we have seen how the NHS is not impenetrable to attacks from hackers in the past however, I think the benefit for patients through this technology will be huge, we just need to know how safe it will be.
We then had a talk on Paediatric Ethics. Ethics is something that has grown on me a lot through this year and I am considering it for my SSC1 module next year. We were told about how GOSH ethics panel makes decisions based on ethical values and how they allow their patients in on the meetings in the children are well enough to attend. Although Charlie Guard and Alfie Evans were mentioned , we talked about how the ethics panel also decide on if it is ok to give an experimental treatment to a child, in the case we talked about the child actually sat in on the panel and was eventually allowed to undergo the experimental treatment.
Our penultimate lecture was looking at global health and how we can incorporate practising and teaching medicine abroad as part of our training. Again, it was highlighted that is it good to take time away from the conveyer belt of training and to do something with your career away from clinical practise. It was amazing to hear about the projects Dr Kingdon had worked on throughout her career in Africa educating nurses and future doctors as well as improving hospital standards in paediatrics.
Our final speaker was Anthony Bennett who was a former GOSH patient who had gone on to speak at national events about his journey and has now developed his own motivational speaking business. He took us along the treatment he had received as a patient at GOSH having survived 12 cardiac arrests from multiple infections after becoming ill on a school trip. We had a few laughs through the presentation as he spoke about his morphine hallucinations which actually turned out to be real visions ! Anthony spoke about listening to the dreamer voice rather than the “puller back voice” and I think we all left just that little more optimistic about the careers we have ahead of us. I managed to chat with Anthony at the end about how he got into his public speaking as it is something I would love to do with the view of educating pupils that just because something does not go right , does not mean you can’t reach your end goal.
And that was it ! Summer School over. It was an incredible experience and I feel like I have gotten so much more out of it than just how to become a paediatric doctor. I am so grateful to GOSH PGME for picking me as the winner of a free ticket ! GOSH seems just that little bit more realistic as a career goal now. I can see my personality reflected in the doctors I met and it was nice to chat to them with the traditional consultant/medical student barrier removed. I can’t wait to start second year now. I want to try and get as much exposure in paediatrics and neurosurgery as possible and possibly experience with anaesthetics as this is also something that has caught my eye as a specialty. There are a couple of GOSH conferences coming up that I would like to help out on to further see how research works within clinical settings and to hopefully talk with clinicians already where I want to be in the future.