Deputy Academic Lead for Primary Care Undergraduate Teaching
Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences
Tell us a bit about your role
My working week is split between my role as Deputy Academic Lead for Primary Care Undergraduate Teaching at Oxford University and serving an inner-city population as a GP in London. I have been a GP for five years and took up my university post in 2018.
My university role involves leading, developing and delivering a number of courses where students learn about medicine within the setting of General Practice. For example, I run the “Patient & Doctor” course. This gives first and second year medical students important clinical experience, which complements and enhances their scientific studies. Over the past two years, I have re-written and updated course material, designed online teaching and organised GP tutor training. I am currently leading a pilot scheme to extend this course into the third year of the undergraduate degree for the very first time. With my colleagues, I have worked hard during this year’s pandemic to keep medical student training safe and valuable, creating novel and interactive online material.
The Primary Care team has the privilege of being the only clinical department in the university which teaches students from day one of their medical school career until their final exams, six years later. We consequently have enormous scope to inspire, motivate and educate students about clinical medicine. Oxford Medical School is rightly proud of producing excellent clinician-scientists. My role, working with my Primary Care colleagues, is to help equip students with the knowledge, skills and experience to be effective and compassionate doctors of tomorrow.
I studied undergraduate medicine at Oxford. I started to teach when I was a junior doctor, both on the wards and as a tutor on various Oxford University courses. I realised very quickly how much I loved teaching and how much it motivated and inspired me in my clinical work. I formalised my interest by completing a Post-Graduate Certificate in Medical Education at UCL. I continued to develop my tutoring roles at both Oxford and UCL before applying for my current post two years ago.
During my junior doctor years, I also worked as a professional theatre director, both in the West-End and at the Globe Theatre. This has inspired a real excitement and interest to explore cross-disciplinary approaches to teaching students. I am always keen to explore how the humanities can be balanced with medical sciences to promote curiosity and empathy in our future doctors. After all, both theatre and medicine are about what it means to be human.
What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?
Medicine has always been an apprenticeship. The word “doctor” comes from the latin “docere” or “to teach”. I don’t think that there is anything more meaningful than to equip the next generation of doctors with knowledge and skills. What most inspires me most is not simply passing on facts, but getting students to think and reflect in new and exciting ways. There’s nothing better than discussing a problem or case which prompts students to make new connections, or to see medicine in all it’s wonderful, knotty complexity.
Teaching motivates me in my clinical practice and reminds me that doctors are all constantly learning: we never get the point of perfecting our skills or standing still.
Can you tell us about something you've done, contributed to that you're most proud of?
I am most proud of creating and leading a Special Study Module (SSM) in Medicine and Literature for clinical medical students in Oxford. It has run for the past five years, with excellent feedback from students. It is a course which examines important medical themes through the lens of literature, including novels, poetry, drama and film. It includes workshops with actors from the Globe Theatre.
As I’ve said, I’m very keen to explore how the arts/humanities can complement the biomedical sciences in medical education. Literature can provide unparalleled insights into the lives of others and offer opportunities to develop skills in empathy and communication. Students have come back to me years later to tell me how the course has helped them cope with challenging clinical situations.
I hope, in this crazy year of 2020, I’m also able to add how proud I am that my team has worked so hard to keep medical student teaching going throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Alongside my colleagues, I have made adaptations, re-written courses and created a wide range of online material in order to keep “the show on the road” and continue to deliver high quality education.
What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?
There has been a seismic shift in gender equality in the medical sciences over the past hundred years. In the medical education world, one only has to look at the make-up of most university senior committees to see that women have made huge inroads into a previously male-dominated world. However, this transformation does not extend to all branches of medical science. I would like to see an equal gender balance in all areas of clinical and laboratory medicine, so that a project such as this one will simply not be needed in 2121. This will require renewed effort on the part of all UK educators, from infant school teachers to university admissions officers, to promote science as an exciting and accessible career for women.