I always like to reflect upon past events and think about what could have happened if I did something differently. This post is a piece to outline some of the things I wish I did from medical school up to my current stage of training, hopefully serving as a reference for those in an earlier stage of their career so they can consider taking up some of these. Bear in mind this is my personal opinion and may not be applicable for everyone.
To intercalate or not?
Intercalation seemed to be a waste of time for me during my medical school years. Why would someone delay their career progression by a year, when they could start work earlier and climb the ladder more easily? This was the mindset of my younger self. I still feel inclined to steadily progress my career as opposed to staying as a trust grade/full-time locum, but I would also think about ways to develop and improve my skillset. The only reasons I would have thought to intercalate at the time, was for the post-nominals and perhaps to an extent, admiration from friends and family. In hindsight, it was an excellent pathway to get involved in research, something that you would see I regret not engaging with properly throughout this piece. It also lends itself to empower your specialty applications throughout your career. There are such a variety of choices for courses that it would help no matter which specialty you go into.
Did a masters in management? Excellent for any consultancy post.
Did a bachelor in anatomy? Perfect for an aspiring surgeon.
Did an extra degree in medical education? Practically the most versatile degree in my opinion. (Yes, you can get a PGCert later in a year of part-time study, but there are universities that offer single year Master's)
In fact, I was studying in a university offering Master's programme for only an extra year of study, which in hindsight was a no-brainer. I think the main reason I didn't go for it was for my personal circumstances, where I thought I would leave the UK upon completing my medical degree. Turns out I am still here. And even if I wasn't, an additional Master's degree would help me wherever I go. I still imagine how great an MRes in medical imaging would be for my clinical radiology applications. Although, I feel that I am still doing pretty well for my portfolio, so perhaps it doesn't change much. It would still be nice to have the extra knowledge and skillset though.
The Academic Foundation Programme
Back to the topic of research. I really want to get more involved in research. I don't think full time research is for me, but I don't want to fully commit to clinical work only for the rest of my life. In that case, the AFP would have been the obvious choice for me to gain exposure for what it feels to have a mixed clinical-academic career. Again, it was because of my circumstances at the time so I didn't even bother applying. I am considering applying for academic clinical fellowship (ACF) which is the next step from AFP for those wishing to continue down the path of academia, but I will have lost out on 2 years of protected research time and networking opportunities with researchers in the field. From what I gather by speaking to AFP trainees, the programme is well structured and comes with many additional opportunities e.g. funding for PGCert in education, courses in medical statistics etc. I feel like I have shot myself in the foot for this one, and certainly starting behind the starting point if I am applying to ACF the coming cycle.
A sorely-missed presentation
Again continuing on the topic of research, I think most medical schools now do offer opportunities to get involved in it some way shape or form. This is usually done through a several week/month-long period where you carry out a research project, resulting in a report that you are then graded on to determine whether you passed. I was lucky enough to get involved in a project with a motivated supervisor, who really helped cultivate the research-loving part of myself. Although it wasn't as impressive as what some of my high-achieving peers have managed to do, I was ecstatic at the thought that our abstract was accepted for presentation at an international conference. I had already started to plan out my presentation, and my supervisor was keen to help secure funding for my transport and accommodation for the conference. Imagine the dismay when I had to turn down the offer (my supervisor did the presentation in the end) because the undergraduate department refused my request for leave. The reason was that the week of the conference happened to be on a short one-week placement, and that it would be hard to rearrange. Naively, I accepted this as fact and just gave up on the idea of attending. In hindsight, if I pushed it harder, I probably could have arrived at some sort of compromise through something simple like a swap! I was still first-author, but I felt like I lost out on the satisfaction of presenting my ideas to a group of professionals on a multi-national platform. But hey, at least I can write on a website now which I think is just as fun (and in a way, less stressful)!
Clubs and societies
I am an introvert. Clubs and societies are not for me. Or so I thought. Having put myself out in the world now since starting work has made me re-think this statement. I can still enjoy having my alone time, while working well with others in any organisation- they are not mutually exclusive. The leadership and management qualities I could have developed through engaging in club activities would have been useful to have in my current situation; where I am trying to seek approval from the top dogs in the hospital, gather some of the most elite team members I could find, and to ensure they work well while meeting a deadline. Or even on smaller scale, just managing this website. Yes, I could quite feasibly do everything myself, but I think it is nice to instill a bit of variety in terms of personalities when writing blogposts. And whilst it may create more work, I appreciate we could potentially have submissions and guest articles some time in the future, and it would be helpful to have experienced all these struggles in leading any project by engaging with a university society, earlier on in my career. Oh, and making friends, that would be nice too.
Do you relate to any of these? Do you have other things you wish you had taken up, or anything you regret doing in your career? Comment them down below.