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David Smith

GP AiT and Academic Clinical Fellow - Leeds.

WHAT DOES YOUR WiseGP CAREER LOOK LIKE?


I never wanted a boring job. As far back as I can remember I always wanted to do something interesting & varied. Even as a medical student, I knew that I had lots to give to the world and I wanted a career that would give me the opportunity to achieve my potential. I’m also a somewhat opinionated Northerner, which means I have a drive to try and make things better when I come across issues in clinical care.


Being a WiseGP means my day job is always exciting and never dull. What hat will I be wearing today? Clinician, Researcher, Tutor, Leader? It means I can craft a career which allows me to explore problems with colleagues who support me in pushing to make a difference. It means I can look forward to coming to work every day, with the promise of contributing towards real change.


I am currently an Academic Clinical Fellow in General Practice. That means my clinical training is extended by a year, so I spend 4 years as a Junior Doctor in Primary Care training. However my last 2 years of training are spread 50:50 across my Primary Care placement and my academic commitments with the Hull York Medical School (HYMS).


Alongside my medical training, I’ve also found time to take a year out of programme to partake in HEE’s Future Leaders Programme, where I will be exploring Health Inequalities and Social Accountability across Yorkshire. This is going to be incredibly exciting in a post-COVID world.


HOW DID YOU GET HERE?


I took my time in getting to medicine. I come from a not particularly affluent area of South Leeds. I was the first member of my family to go to University. I completed a BSc in Genetics before deciding to work in the construction industry for a few years. When I came back to study Medicine at HYMS, I always felt like a bit of an imposter. I would work alongside people who were super driven and who always seemed to get A*s without a second thought. I thought I would be lucky just to finish med school, let alone have an academic career. That changed when I took a year out to intercalate.


Being a HYMS student, I was encouraged to intercalate during my medical degree. I spent a year studying towards an MSc in Forensic Science in Sheffield. I loved being in an academic world. I studied photography, explosives & entomology (study of bugs!). I worked on developing lab protocols for identifying brain material on murder weapons, and I spent hot summer days dressed in forensic suits investigating crime scenes for concealed drugs. During that year, I realised that my work life could be as varied as my imagination. It just required being brave enough to push on the right doors.


When I returned back to med school, I worked through my clinical years but felt those same feelings of inadequacy began to return when our elective placements rolled around. Everyone seemed to have a relative who worked in a hospital in New York or a friend of the family who could sort out a placement in Paris. I simply didn’t move in those circles. I decided to be brave again and have a go at something. I picked up the phone and, with a degree of optimism, called NASA in the US. I contacted their space biosciences department in California to ask if they would mind this medical student (with a Game-of-Thrones-esque accent) coming to providing free labour in their lab for 2 months. I thought it was a one in a million chance but they liked my attitude and they invited me to come out to work with them on exploring the effects of cosmic radiation on irradiated mice.


Before I finished med school, I would also obtain another Masters in Medical Physics, which complimented my work at NASA. I’ve had some amazing opportunies & experiences because I’ve dipped a toe in some uncharted waters. I’m now lucky enough to be working in an Academic Primary Care post which allows me to continue to divide my time between my love of front line patient care and my desire to explore academic problems.


WHY DOES BEING A WiseGP MATTER TO YOU?


This is the part where I should wax lyrical about all the joys of being a clinician & of having that desire to help people. That’s absolutely true for us all. Being a doctor is a dream job for many reasons, not least the satisfaction we take home from helping our patients on any given day. We also need to be realistic, however, about the current state of healthcare. Many of our colleagues are burning out from a relentless workload and that feeling that we’re forever trying to ice skate uphill, without making a difference. We need to be smarter about our work life. Being a WiseGP means that I take the time to build a sustainable, portfolio career. I can allocate sections of my week to explore the issues of the patients in my community. Not simply fire fighting issues, but using joined up thinking to explore how we can improve healthcare in our locality. It means I can take that satisfaction which I receive from helping my daily dose of patients and build on it by giving myself the time to explore healthcare problems in more depth and roll out solutions across my community. 


WHAT TIPS WOULD YOU SHARE WITH OTHERS?


​I could share many small hints and tricks that I've picked up on my academic career to date. One of the joys of being part of the WiseGP community is that there is always someone around to offer that support and those words of wisdom. The biggest piece of advice that I would pass on to anyone interested in WiseGP, is simply to get stuck in. Get involved and start exploring. Find that clinical question that has been bothering you or imagine that portfolio academic career that you've never really been sure how to break into. Take those thoughts and get in touch with the WiseGP team. You'll be surprised at how quickly things can move for you when you take your first few steps on that path. You'll also be inspired by the fantastic doctors who you'll meet, walking along that same road with you.

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