More in common than I thought

Dear Blog,

Again, apologies for a delayed blog. However, I felt it necessary to let you view this blog only when there was sufficient substance for you to absorb. I feel that I am at that stage with the mentor relationship now.

I will remind those who deign to read this, that I am currently mentored by Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen, the previous Chief Medical Officer of BUPA. I was fortunate enough to undertake a week shadowing him in February.
The exposure ranged from the Head Office of BUPA to the Department of Health and other government offices. The experience revealed the wide range of careers in policy-making that is available for doctors, and also the process by which policy is brought about. This was an education that is certainly not available at medical school, but certainly very valuable. It helped me understand the ways in which outcome measures are central to the delivery of good healthcare and how policy, which affects all doctors, is seemingly made with the best intention of the health service and the patient.
As part of the programme, I was also invited to the Reception for the opening of the new medical school foyer. I was privileged to meet, and have a small discussion, with the most prominent benefactor of the project, Sir Doug Ellis.  He is a man with very worthy opinions, and notably keen to explore different cultures. This reception was also good for networking with other alumni from the medical school, and, at least helped to improve this vital skill for future careers. Nonetheless, I managed to meet the Dean of the Medical School again!

Further to this experience, I was also asked to sit on the panel for the distribution of the Annual Giving Fund. Having gained incredible analytical skills from my Cardiovascular Science BSc, I was able to criticise the relevant bids that were passed to me. I found the whole experience of debating the most feasible and useful bids very enjoyable, and informative of the process in which funds are distributed throughout the college.

Over the past few months, Andrew and I have met up in our ‘regular’ coffee shop in Covent Garden. It is now worthy to note how the mentor relationship has developed. When I first met Andrew in BUPA House, London, he had the relevant papers for the Alumni programme, my mini autobiography other necessary relevant, but also necessarily unimportant documents. I had set out an agenda, as it were, to follow during the initial meeting. Of course, the conversation did not naturally flow at first as we were getting to know each other. We told each other of our career backgrounds / inspirations and our extra curricular activities. We set out goals about what we wanted to achieve from the relationship, and we organised our subsequent meeting. Over the past year, we shared stories: that I had seen the most beautiful operatic work of the 19th Century, Madama Butterfly by Puccini; that his son had been a very talented singer in his youth; that he had to manage anaphylactic shock on an aeroplane to Australia; that my only exciting experience on an aeroplane was flying first class to destinations including Japan; that he had surgical experience in the UK as well as abroad; that I have entertained the ideals of working or even settling abroad; that he has previously led a career consisting of both successful clinical work and medical policy; that that is exactly the career that I wish to lead in my future. This culminated in our recent meetings taking very different formats to the first. There was the noted absence of official documents and initial apprehension (from my side at least), filled by a witty comparison of the style of our respective hats – one occasion was particularly windy.  We shared our stories on what we had been up to, personally and professionally. It now felt as though, dare I say it, two old friends were meeting over a coffee. I am careful of not creating the image that our relationship is completely casual, but the very virtue of knowing and spending time with each other over the last year has put us both at ease with each other.  This great rapport, in itself, with a leader in the field is rewarding, and makes an invaluable ear to be able to brainstorm ideas and focus passions.

We try to meet once a month, and we exchange emails. Will keep you updated.

Best wishes

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