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12 August 2015
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Being a clinical fellow in the North

Dr Katie Smith shares her experience about being on the National Medical Director's Clinical Fellow Scheme class of 2014-2015.

The GMC does such a breadth of work, giving me a brilliant opportunity to be involved in a range of projects, including:

  • Implementing recommendations from the review of PLAB (the exam for international medical graduates) focusing on the assessment of ethics and professionalism
  • Working on the organisation’s response to the Ebola outbreak and supporting staff who could be interviewing or assessing doctors visiting from affected areas
  • Working on differential attainment and conducting research to explore how doctors in training are supported across the UK
  • Writing blogs and conducting webinars – as a public health doctor who often relies on evidence and statistics, this was an incredibly valuable opportunity to express my opinions on subjects I felt passionate about and be publicly accountable for those views.

There were five fellows this year based in the mysterious land of “The North”, wonderfully supported by Professor Jacky Hayden CBE, Dean of Postgraduate Medical Studies. I’m really passionate about this being a national scheme. I had considered applying previously but I couldn’t commit to working full-time in London, so I was thrilled to see it was now possible to be based nearer home. The GMC offered me projects in both Manchester and London and supported me to attend FMLM events too. I experienced the reality of work at a national level; while I still firmly believe leadership doesn’t only happen in London, I also recognise that wherever you are, it is crucial to move beyond your local area and engage nationally to have the most impact.

Northern fellows do face particular challenges, but we don’t have a monopoly on having to travel or on having to make compromises with home and family; these affect all fellows across the country. I think that for the northern scheme to thrive, it needs fellows committed to being based there, organisations offering equitable opportunities at northern locations and a cohort of fellows who recognise the value of everyone irrespective of where they are based. Happily my experience this year ticked all of these boxes. A highlight was the regional FMLM conference, the room packed with passionate, committed leaders based locally and realising that the opportunities don’t stop when I return to training in the North West.

It struck me how unusual it was starting a job where people expected me to be excellent from the outset. Obviously that is testament to the prestige of the scheme and to my predecessors at the GMC, but it was a novel experience as a junior doctor. Clearly, doctors in training have to prove they are competent and safe rather than it be assumed, but to be treated as capable and have my input valued from the outset was incredibly empowering.

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I found myself volunteering for unfamiliar projects, seeking greater responsibility and asking to be challenged, because others were clear they had faith in my ability to succeed. Going forward, I will be chairing the North West public health registrars group from September. This will be testing, not least because I haven’t attended this year, so I will be leading many people I haven’t met before. The confidence others had in me this year has given me more faith in my ability to take this challenge on and my potential to succeed. I am lucky to return to a very supportive school which sees the value in the National Medical Director’s Clinical Fellow Scheme. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same experience, but hopefully we can all remember the skills and capability we have shown this year and put it into practice in our careers ahead.

All that remains is to say thank you. To the cohort of fellows who made it an incredibly enjoyable year, where I felt utterly included throughout. To the GMC, FMLM and all those involved in what has been a fabulous scheme which has far surpassed my expectations.

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About the author

Katie Smith's picture

Katie Smith

Dr Katie Smith was part of the National Medical Director's Clinical Fellow Scheme - class of 2014-2015 - having worked with the General Medical Council (North).

Dr Smith has had a long standing interest in improving the quality of medical training, having been the F2 representative on the medical education committee during her foundation programme and leading local projects focused on improving the quality of induction for new foundation doctors.


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