Dr Catherine Swales
Director of Clinical Studies (DCS)
Oxford Medical School
Tell us a bit about your role
As DCS I have strategic and operational oversight of the clinical medical course. This is a very varifocal role, with close attention to individual students and their welfare, balanced against a broader view of faculty and their support/development, and the Divisional and National view of how medical education should be responding to and planning for both current and future challenges.
I started as a Clinical Lecturer in Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology & Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS) 20 years ago and got more involved in the medical school as time went on, taking on greater responsibility and more strategic roles. I was Associate DCS with a responsibility for student research for about 5 years before being appointed as DCS 2.5 years ago.
I consider my role as inspiring, nurturing and supporting the next generation of doctors and clinical academics; we are an unashamedly academic medical school in a world class Division and I help the medical school to capitalise on the experience, enthusiasm and expertise that surround us.
What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?
Watching the students develop their skills and professional personalities (which happens at very variable rates!). It’s hugely rewarding to see them grow into themselves, and staying in touch with them as they move into postgraduate training – knowing how much they went through to get there.
Can you tell us about something you've done, contributed to that you're most proud of?
I am very proud of my involvement in two academic innovations, one faculty and one for students. On the faculty side we have approval for an MSc in Medical Education, jointly delivered by Medical Sciences Division and Department of Education (Social Sciences Division). This will make a huge positive impact on our teachers (and therefore the students), plus gives us the opportunity to move into educational research in a robust and sustained way in future. For the students I have set up an MB PhD program with Department of Oncology: 4 students each year will be funded by Cancer Research UK to undertake intercalated oncology research, culminating in a DPhil, whilst still being supported by the medical school. I’m also quite proud of our Educational Supervision program which allows medical students to have the same overarching mentor for all 3 years of their clinical training. Sorry that’s three things….!
What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?
I think we’ve made great in-roads in terms of women in ‘prime positions’ but we mustn’t get lazy – and must also broaden diversity in terms of BAME staff in senior and strategic roles. Of course I’d like it if there was a swanky teaching building for the medical school, with a simulation centre and dedicated teaching and assessment space, but I would say that wouldn’t I? Given the rate of change I can’t begin to imagine what our staff, students (and the public) will need or want in 100 years, so it’s hard to say anything else for sure.