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1 September 2016
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Lessons from the third sector

Macmillan Cancer Support is the first third sector organisation to join the National Medical Director’s Clinical Fellow Scheme and I was the first clinical fellow to be placed there. 

In an attempt to summarise my year at Macmillan, it is somewhat timely that the organisation has recently featured in the news regarding a number of stories highlighting longer-term consequences of cancer and its treatment. In many ways, this nicely brings together a number of important lessons and aspects of my journey at Macmillan, which has been a stimulating and enlightening experience.

Early on in the year, I was introduced to a group working specifically on issues related to consequences of treatment. Naïve to the organisation and the role of the ‘third sector’ more widely, I rapidly learnt the challenges faced by charities and the unique role they take in the complex system of healthcare.

The work we’ve done on consequences of treatment brings to life these challenges: how does the third sector highlight important, cross-cutting issues and successfully influence behaviour change? Through engaging with these concepts, I sought to understand how Macmillan works to bring people along with them, make issues relevant and relatable, and engage individuals and groups with problems in such a way that the solutions feel achievable.

Macmillan’s mantra, the concept that small things make a big difference, is one of the most important lessons I have learnt; it equally highlights why Macmillan is a fantastic environment to learn in, both as a clinical fellow but also as a doctor in a healthcare system facing unprecedented challenge.

For me, it has been important to explore and reflect on why the clinical fellow scheme has been such a constructive tool. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the fellowship has allowed me the time and space to think about what I can offer and, from the very beginning, it has provided the medium through which I have been able to think about what I have personally wanted to achieve from the year.

Beyond this, I believe some of my greatest learning and personal development has come from the mistakes I have made along the way and I am grateful for the opportunity to have done this in such a supportive environment. This year I have been forced to throw myself in at the deep end; I have had to be ambitious and take risks. Inevitably, things have gone wrong and I have made mistakes. The real learning for me has come from reflecting on the why, exploring areas of weakness and challenging the way I previously thought, acted and behaved. I have been fortunate in being able to sit down with exceptional supervisors to reflect on how I can improve in the future.

One of the other key ways I have learnt this year is through my colleagues. Throughout the year I have been inspired by their drive, passion and can-do approach. Looking back, many of the things that have helped shape my personal development have been gained through exposure to this cohort and working on projects with colleagues throughout the year. They have driven me to push myself, and the collective knowledge and experience they offer has been remarkable. The fellowship has provided exposure to individuals who have inspired and supported me in thinking about my career path with a sense of optimism and excitement.

A year on, I look back fondly on my experience, the people I have met and the things that I have achieved. As with the simple lessons I have learnt about how Macmillan tackles important issues such as the consequences of cancer treatment, I will take forward the knowledge that effective and sustainable change can be achieved through focusing on the small things that make a big difference. I am certain that I will apply the principles I have learnt during my time with both Macmillan and FMLM to all of my future work.

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About the author

Berkin Hack's picture

Berkin Hack

Berkin was a National Medical Director's Clinical fellow with Macmillan Cancer Support 2015/16.

He trained at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, graduating in 2013. He intercalated at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, completing an MSc in Infectious Diseases. 

In the later part of medical school, he further pursued interests in health system strengthening, completing an internship with a media company focusing on improving health outcomes through behaviour change in developing countries.


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