When 2 Medics get talking (Blog 1)

Dear Blog,

Well where to start, my first few months of the Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme have provided me with much to think about, as well as some very memorable moments! (and it would appear it has been so much fun that this blog reaches you a bit late.. but hopefully it means I will have lots to say!). Well, it seems sensible to start at the beginning (I believe someone once said that that was a very good place to start!).

My mentor is Andrew Vallance-Owen, another Birmingham Medic, but one with a rather unusual career path. Having started surgical training and gone some distance down the surgical career path, he found himself making the switch to medical politics with roles at the BMA and eventually became a key medical leader as medical director of the BUPA group. A medical director is the person responsible for patient care within any medical/care setting, a role where clinical knowledge, leadership and good management all come together. Having recently retired from BUPA, Andrew is now involved in a number of government committees, so all in all I had a lot I wanted to find out about in terms of having a medical career that encompasses clinical, political, management and leadership roles.

Our first meeting was on campus, where we had lunch at Staff House (by the way for those of you, like me, who have never been to Staff House, do go, as there are a variety of pretty trendy eateries in there – very handy as I’m not sure Avanti or the Guild would quite have been the best surroundings for a meeting with my mentor on a weekday lunchtime!).  Another handy tip is to make sure you know who you are looking for – it sounds silly but whilst I had seen a picture of him, he didn’t know who he was looking for, so luckily I was able to pick him out of the people passing through Staff House. So whilst you probably won’t want to go to the lengths of “I’ll be the student with a red scarf and purple shoes” be aware that your mentor might not know who they’re looking for!

At our first meeting Andrew and I bonded over discovering that we both use the same action point and action grid method to run committees and best ensure efficiency. Might not sound exciting, but I think it showed I had a similar attitude, albeit at a much smaller scale, towards management. I had the opportunity to find out more about Andrew’s career. This in turn led to me having much to ask about how and when to make the transition from clinical to non-clinical roles within medicine. We also discussed what sort of things I should be doing to give me the “edge” over other aspiring leaders. We also decided on some key points to give structure to our meetings over the year.

We also discussed the lighter side of life and the fact that we are both connected to the Society of Apothecaries (it’s a relatively small group, so you don’t often meet a fellow “apothecary”). In fact Andrew has invited me to attend one of the white tie Livery Dinners at Apothecaries Hall, where I will get to meet a host of people from the world of medicine… in fact this will feature in a future instalment of this blog. Which brings me to the end of this blog, but I still have plenty to tell you in my next post!


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