‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’… 1
Autumn has arrived, the leaves are turning and there’s a hint of frost in the morning air. And with this the welcome sight of thousands of new students on campus…
…Amongst them are our 220 new medical students here in the Faculty of Medicine, starting their journeys towards the prized BMBS qualification that will open the door to careers in medicine and beyond.
Being a medical student even, or perhaps especially, in that crucial first year, is inherently interesting. There’s the underpinning molecular biology, the detail of exquisitely tuned physiological systems, the fascination of the specimens in the prosectorium (- the realisation that these are real bodies of people who lived, loved and donated their bodies to our medical school so that we could learn), interspersed with mention of ‘professionalism’ in its various guises. The way in which medicine is taught has certainly evolved over the years, but the key aspects of what it means to be a doctor are still emphasised in these early weeks – respect, honesty, fairness, appreciation of team working, the imperative of patient safety.
I wonder what sort of doctors our first years see when they look at those of us in the Faculty ensconced in our daily busyness? Busy we certainly are – organising and delivering the opportunities for teaching and training, engaged in clinical practice or pushing the boundaries of research to develop new, or better targeted, therapies or systems. In amongst this busyness is that affirmation of why we do what we do – to improve patients’ and peoples’ lives.
Medicine changes. The NHS, in which these new students will work in a few short years, is very different to the structure of house jobs and firms into which many of us qualified. There are new challenges with people living longer, living better with chronic disease, and with expectations from the health care system set rightly high. Delivering the most effective care, to the most people, remains key.
Yet in all of this, at the heart of medicine today still sits the interaction of doctor and patient, based on trust, confidence and respect. We’ve given some pointers to the new students this week about what makes a good medical student ( – ‘work hard and play hard’ was mentioned). They now start to hone their ideas of what makes a good doctor. Perhaps in all our busyness of getting through the day’s work each of us should pause and think – what are the things that I do that make me a good doctor?
And maybe take some time outside, savour the Autumn air, and even read the poem …
Professor Karen Morrison, Associate Dean Education and Student Experience
1 From the poem ‘Ode to Autumn’ by John Keats