Invaluable Counsel and Amazing Advice

Hannah Coakley’s blog – Dr Rowan Hillson

I applied to the Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme to increase my understanding and knowledge of possible future career options. I wished to learn from the experience and wisdom from an accomplished alumnus and gain a greater appreciation of how to succeed after university.

I was fortunate to be paired with Dr Rowan Hillson, a retired consultant physician and former National Clinical Director for Diabetes for the Department of Health. I was particularly interested to learn from her about the realities of combining clinical work with academic research, something which I hope to do in the future. I have considered public health policy as a possible career option and I wanted to learn more from her about this particular area of medicine where there are few accessible role models.

From our first phone call, I have found Dr Hillson to be a very encouraging and helpful mentor. I didn’t know quite what to expect from the mentorship process but I have really appreciated her advice and found her counsel invaluable. During our first chat we got to know one another and I explained what I hoped to get out of the mentorship programme. She explained her experiences and the ways in which she could support me during my final year of medicine, and later during my future career.

We arranged to meet in November for dinner and she was kind enough to review my CV and offer tips and suggestions for improvement. There was also opportunity to discuss in-depth her career and, in particular, the work she has done for the Department of Health. We chatted about my aspirations to work in public health and she offered a fascinating insight into the realities of working with the Department of Health to develop public health policy. During her role as the National Clinical Director for Diabetes Dr Hillson drove improvements in diabetes care nationally. She was able to share her passion for improving patient care and health outcomes, and reminded me that that is the ultimate goal for all medical professionals. I was inspired by her enthusiasm and appreciated her advice as I look to begin my first job as a junior doctor.

Dr Hillson subsequently put me in touch with her colleagues who work in public health. I had a fruitful and interesting conversation with the training programme director for public health in the West Midlands. I was given practical information about how to purse this career path which has given me food for thought and possible avenues to pursue.

Dr Hillson’s support during my final year at university has been invaluable and I am appreciative of her support as I prepare for my medical school finals and beyond in my future career.

Expanding my network (Blog 2)

December – I arranged the second meeting a few days after the first via email. It’s good to have a date in the diary not only because the mentors have busy schedules but also because it gives you a deadline to aim towards (for example, Alan had recommended some organisations to read up on which I made sure I did before we met again).

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A motivational chat (Blog 1)


Having turned up over an hour early to my first meeting with Alan Davey, I found a nearby Costa and sat down with a cup of tea. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but I had come prepared with a notebook in which I had written my personal ambitions for the upcoming year and specific objectives for what I wanted to get out of the Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme (ALMP). I used the time to read over these objectives and re-read Alan’s biography on the Arts Council website as well as familiarising myself with the Arts Council mission statement and recent news.

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Provoking Questions with Mike Coupe (Blog 1)

First Meeting – Mike Coupe

I am a final year mechanical engineering student and my mentor is Mike Coupe, currently acting as commercial director of J Sainsbury’s.

I first had the opportunity to meet Mike here at the university during the second half of autumn term, whilst Mike was visiting to deliver a lecture as part of the distinguished leader’s series. To begin with we spoke about our various backgrounds and discussed our aims for the scheme. It was also interesting to discuss the numerous changes to the university since Mike’s last visit.

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Getting my chosen mentor! (Blog 1)

I am just beginning my journey through the Alumni Leadership Programme and I can already see it is going to be an exciting and challenging time. I am looking forward to building on my skills, learning to take the lead more so that I can develop as a professional.

My mentor is Dr Rowan Hilson; I was very pleased when I was told that she would be my mentor as Dr Hilson was my first choice.  There were many reasons for this but particularly it was her years of experience in diabetes an area that I am interested in working in the future.

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