After a year out doing science and lab work, the thought of starting my final year at the start of the summer was incredibly daunting! This was soon tempered by finding out I’d been successful and been accepted onto the University’s Alumni Leadership Mentor Programme (ALMP). I’d successfully got my chosen mentor, Dr Rowan Hillson MBE. Having being on the ALMP programme for 8 months now, it’s been a great process so far, and the advice and insight I have gained from someone so successful has been far beyond my expectations.
Having first got in touch with Dr Hillson in around October time, the timing couldn’t have been better as I was in the process of job applications for junior doctor training. Over the phone (after introductions and pleasantries!) we discussed our aims and expectations from the process for the following year. It was lovely to talk to someone who has had such an exceptional working life in healthcare, particularly the NHS – oozing with tips, advice and life-experience I found her wonderful to talk to, listen to, and share in her experiences! Dr Hillson, having graduated from Birmingham in 1974, retired last year from an incredibly successful career as Consultant in Diabetes at the Hillingdon Hospital in Greater London. Her clinical experiences were also coupled with her prestigious role as National Clinical Director for diabetes, having been involved in improving care through the National Strategy Framework – which has made profound roads in patient care. It was reassuring and helpful discussing the job application process with someone who is not directly involved in the application process itself – as is often the case with much of the support provided at University; a different and objective eye, especially of someone who has been in the field for so long and seen doctors train under her was refreshing.
Our first discussion, based around what I hoped to achieve with her this year, centred around advice from Dr Hillson on how to maximise the opportunities around me in my final year. She emphasised that as a medical student, the first and most important step was to learn to be an excellent doctor; her own career path, she said, emphasised this, as working in the NHS itself brings numerous opportunities to exceed and excel as one progresses through future training.
After various interactions through email, I had a wonderful opportunity to meet with Dr Hillson over Christmas. A lovely lunch on a cold crisp Saturday afternoon in Harborne was the perfect opportunity to share and talk about experiences, including Dr Hillson’s own career and recent travels. Her advice has been invaluable, as I learnt that experiences present themselves at the opportune moment and success is about recognising these and grabbing them! Her career advice particularly was insightful, including practical advice for building up a good medical CV…and even ending with impromptu interview practice!
Her support has been much valued through the tricky job applications medical students’ face in their final year, and although busy with upcoming exams this term and working towards finals, I hope to work with Dr Hillson more over the next few months. I am certain her advice will help me develop not only the qualities, skills and mindset for working life as a junior doctor (which is approaching very fast!), but personally also.