Top 10 Podcasts to help you through medical school

Podcasts can be a great way to pass the time as a med student, and we have put together a list of 10 podcasts that will educate, inspire and aid in your years in medical school. There are plenty more podcasts out there and we recommend if you haven’t got into any yet you have a search on spotify and find a genre that sparks your interest! All the podcasts below can be found on spotify.

  1. “The Zero to Finals Medical Revision Podcast” by Thomas Watchman

Finding any topics really difficult to understand whilst revising? This podcast breaks down common medical finals topics to help you improve your knowledge and understanding.

2. “The Anxiety Podcast” by Tim JP Collins

Are you feeling overwhelmed and anxious with exams and deadlines? A great podcast to unpick common anxiety topics

3. “The Doctor’s Kitchen Podcast” by Dr Rupy Aujla

A great podcast that helps you understand the fundamentals of eating well and gives you the skills to advise your future patients holistically!

4. “Just a Medical Student Podcast” by Tinaye Mapako

A fun podcast that goes through topics in a eay-to-understand way!

5.  “Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations” by Oprah

This is a bit of a personal one, I love this podcast as Oprah interviews top leaders in the world to understand how they live their life on a day-to-day basis. A great one to improve your mindset in times of stress.

6. “The College Info Geek Podcast: Study Tips & Advice for Students”

A podcast to help you understand tips on life as a student such as getting out of debt, procrastination and general study tips

7. “Meditation Minis Podcast” by Chel Hamilton

A peaceful way to drift off to sleep after a long day on firms with this meditation podcast series.

8.  “Feel Better, Live More” with Dr Rangan Chatterjee

A doctor that simplifies ways to stay healthy- inspiring and empowering tips for yourself and your patients!

9. “The Happy Doc” by Taylor Brana DO

A podcast that is run by a medical student to understand how to have a happy and fulfilling career in medicine

10. “Ways to Change the World” by Channel 4 News

A discussion on topical news with Channel 4 journalists and guests to explore big ideas influencing how we think, act and live.

Mala Mawkin

The London Fresher

On being a London Fresher – why first year, Sameed Shariq, has fallen in love with life at University

London excites me. It reeks of promise, of memories to be made and experiences to be found. Unlike so many places this city is not satisfied by simply acting as the stage for stories to be written. It moulds them. It seeps into the very fabric of their construction. And how could it not? Its personality is as pervasive as it is varied; it offers such a plethora of set pieces that the characters it houses can’t help but have their destinies charted (at least in part) by them. Having come from a small English village with a population of 3000 I often myself with a wide toothed grin as I’m struck by the richness of life that fills my new surroundings. It isn’t so much that the wonder of London is new to me – I would come for days out on the odd occasion that my friends and I felt our local chicken shop and bungalow-sized cinema didn’t offer adequate entertainment – it was the fact that it was now my home that filled me with glee. Most would clench their teeth at the prospect of having to do a 6 year course but for me the above average length of my intended stay was a matter of pride, helping to legitimise my new citizenship as a Londoner. No longer a haphazard bi-monthly affair, my relationship with London had finally become something real and true. For me, the implications of this cannot be overstated.

We all live in our own bubbles shaped by our personal biases and experiences. This bubble is what determines the way we perceive the world, how much of it we can truly access and how much is left an indistinct mirage outside our existence. The content of this bubble is determined by our exposure to the world surrounding us. Thanks to the internet, the exposure that a teen from a small country village can get is considerable. But this kind of exposure is second-hand, and it is therefore of limited value. We might be able to take a glimpse into another person’s world but it is a fragile arrangement, the price being a constant back of the mind anxiety that makes our eyeballs twitch to the corners of our screens to take note of what is inarguably the most crucial determinant of our mental health today – our battery percentage.  To live in London for me meant to be free of this pitiful existence. Similar to the internet, London is too vast to be known. Multifaceted to the extent that to even know of all the facets would be a near impossible feat. But unlike what can be gained from a wi-fi connection alone, London’s incomprehensibly diverse array of humanity and their creations – paintings, architecture, cuisines, museums, theatre, and God knows what else – are all accessible in a single geographical district and ready for you to interact in ways far more meaningful than a digital platform can offer. It is a melting pot of ideas and attitudes, of cultures and peoples from all sorts of beginnings. Real life ceased to be suffocating for me as I settled into university life. The bubble of my existence grew explosively and continues to daily. And let me tell you, I’m enjoying the extra space. 

Of course, to expand the mind it must be enriched with different experiences. Newfound opportunities are incredible things that offer to do exactly that. They allow us to break free of the routines we have accustomed ourselves to. To halt the passage of the predetermined and throw us into a new arena of possibility. To be a London fresher is to have such opportunities open to you 24/7. In having my own living expenses taken care of and an array of safety nets spread beneath me due to my student status, I am afforded the freedoms and independence of a fully autonomous adult without many of the responsibilities that should come with it. Granted, there will certainly be terms to this temporary idyllic existence that shall make themselves known (with a jolting suddenness, I am assured) but in my current state of blissful inexperience, I refuse to dwell on them for too long.

When discussing the world of opportunities opening up to me, I’d be remiss not to mention my experience of Fresher’s Fayre where opportunities aren’t just open but indeed throwing themselves at you. Joining societies in an environment where everyone is ready and willing to accommodate your curiosity and inexperience is the perfect excuse to engage with the alien. It allows you to meet and engage with personalities fleshed out in places you had no idea existed. To play sports so obscure that at first you doubt their existence only to find a rich history and a passionate fan base awaiting discovery. Cultures, communities, skills, ideologies – all ready for you to explore, fall in love with and use to redefine your understanding of who you are.  It’s a truly magical time and it’s important we recognise it as such. 

It would be easy to revert back to our old ways. To exclusively invest time in clubs or societies that are an equivalent to one from our past, giving the rest no more than a cursory glance or a half-hearted try.  And that’s understandable. Familiarity can breed comfort after all, and this is something we’re desperate for especially in the first few weeks of being thrust into a new environment. I personally made a beeline to the stalls for debating and cricket (my two talking points of choice when it came to my interview) but as it stands two months on, I have yet to attend a single one of their sessions. Not necessarily because my interest in these activities has faded but since it has flourished so greatly in others (most recently dancing where being told I “wasn’t the worst” they’ve seen was enough encouragement for me to sign up for a Bollywood performance at Imperial’s Diwali ball). To find a new passion is to unlock a hidden chapter of your life. Might as well see what there is in store.  

All this said, I do recognise that it is a tumultuous time for people my age. Routines are being upended, people we’ve known our whole life are becoming strangers. It can be scary. But I say we should embrace this state of flux. Use it to inspire us into experimenting with who we want to be and having the courage to exercise our freedom to reinvent ourselves. And to do this we need to be ready to let go of what feels comfortable and expose ourselves to everything London and University life have to offer. Exposure enables complexity, and though this does bring with it confusion – perhaps most pressingly of identity and belonging – it should not be extolled for the comfort of the well known, the tried and tested. That would involve purging our curiosity, our capacity to explore the world and ourselves; the very essence of what gives us our humanity.

Sameed Shariq

A Personal Fiefdom: Benjamin Golding and the establishment of Charing Cross Hospital

by Kevin Brown

 

This year marks the bicentenary of Charing Cross Hospital.  Perhaps more than the other teaching hospitals of London it remained very much the pet project, and under the control, of its founder who continued to dominate the hospital and its medical school from its foundation in 1818 until his retirement in 1862. Today a bust of Benjamin Golding, once outside Outpatients’ and now in the Riverside Board Room, is perhaps the only visible memory of him at the new Charing Cross Hospital in Fulham Palace Road, but without him there would have been no hospital at all.

 

Benjamin Golding, the founder of Charing Cross Hospital, was born, the son of a prosperous tanner,  on 7 September1793 at St Osyth near Clacton. In 1811 he began his study of medicine at the University of Edinburgh and in 1815 enrolled at St Thomas’ to complete his medical training.  He also received his MD from the University of St Andrews on the strength of the testimonials of two physicians.  In 1817 he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and set up in practice in Leicester Place, just of Leicester Square. As a young man, he was noted for being well-built, chiselled, neat in appearance and with the ruddy complexion of a countryman. He was also a compassionate and kind man who very soon he realised the urgent need for medical facilities of the local sick poor. An idealistic young man, he opened up his own house as an outpatient dispensary. He was to consider such an act of altruism as of benefit to young doctors at the start of their careers in giving them a wider practical experience than would otherwise be available as well as helping the sick:

Charing Cross Hospital and Medical School, 1881.

‘I consider that a young medical man, whose time is but partly occupied, cannot be employed more beneficially, either to himself or others, than in adding to his practical knowledge, and in expending, by any means in his power, his opportunities of  seeing diseases in their multifarious forms and complications; and that, to attain this object and, at the same time, to render himself useful to others, he cannot do better than to devote some hours daily, for the first few years of his professional life, to seeing and prescribing for, gratuitously, those sick persons who require his aid but are too pure to remunerate him.’

 

In 1818, he set up the West London Infirmary and Dispensary at 16 Suffolk Street, behind the Haymarket Theatre, working with two fellow doctors William Shearman and John Mitchell. Soon they were joined by Mr Canton as surgeon-dentist and Mr Backleras cupper, drawing blood to the surface of the skin to ease congestion. Golding himself continued to fund the new hospital from his own income and also sought contributions from wealthy friends and neighbours. John Robertson, a civil servant working at Somerset House and a childhood friend of Golding’s,  took on the role of honorary secretary.  Golding himself took on the title of ‘Hereditary Guardian of the Infirmary’ and was referred to as its ‘Director’, a role which many of his colleagues came to resent.

Demand for the services of the new hospital, still as yet only seeing outpatients, continued to grow and in 1821 it moved to 28 Villiers Street, where there was enough space to open a ward for 12  to 15 inpatients. In 1819 he had written a history of St Thomas’s Hospital, showing both his loyalty to his teaching hospital and an interest in the history of medical care. In it he wrote in detail about Thomas Guy, founder of Guy’s Hospital as a breakaway from St Thomas’, medical politics and the education of medical students, themes which may have inspired him in the setting up of his own institution.  A board of governors was established and in 1821, the re-named Royal West London Infirmary and Lying-in Institution was granted the patronage of the Duke of York. In 1822, 2,000 patients were treated. In 1827 it was decided to construct a purpose-built hospital on a new site for what was finally named Charing Cross Hospital. The new buildings, on a triangular site between King William IV Street, Agar Street and Chandos Place, were designed by the architect Decimus Burton. Golding gave a generous personal contribution to the building funds and solicited support from wealthy benefactors including Drummonds the bankers. The foundation stone was laid on 15 September 1831 and by 10 February 1834 the new buildings were ready for the admission of the first 60 patients.

 

Keenly interested in medical education, he promoted the idea of having a medical school attached to the hospital and in 1822, as result of his prompting, medical students began training at the hospital and in 1829 Charing Cross Hospital Medical School was recognised by the University of London. Golding acted as Director of the Medical School and only after his retirement from the Medical School post in 1856 was a Dean appointed. Golding as well as directing the medical school also lectured on midwifery.  In keeping with his charitable impulses, provision was made for waiving the fees of no more than six medical students  a year who were unable to meet the costs of completing their  studies. Among his students were David Livingstone and Thomas Huxley.

Golding was bitterly opposed  to attempts by King’s College to take over Charing Cross as its own medical school in 1832. However, some  of his colleagues continued to negotiate secretly with King’s College. The ring leaders, Thomas Pettigrew  and George Gabriel Sigmond, were opponents of Golding and in 1836 criticised his management of the hospital. The governors of the hospital supported Golding and dismissed his opponents from their honorary appointments. Attempts by Pettigrew and Sigmond to be reinstated resulted in a vote of thanks and confidence in Golding as Director, a post he filled from 1821 until his retirement in 1862, allowing him to retain control of all aspects of the medical and educational administration of the hospital.

 

The strains and stresses of the early years of establishing a new hospital and the conflict with his colleagues in 1836 were described by Golding himself as ‘fatigues’. However, there was a price to be paid and he suffered a stroke, aged only 47, in May 1840 which left him paralysed on one side for the rest of his life and only able to walk with the aid of a stick., Determined to keep control over his hospital, he moved to a house at 29 King William Street nearby and  installed a communicating door so that he was soon able to resume his duties. The Governors thanked him as ‘the Founder and Director of this Hospital’ for his ‘unceasing exertions for its welfare’ and expressed their rather pious hopes that ‘he may soon be restored to his profession, to his family, and to this Institution which, under the Almighty Providence, mainly owes its existence to his indefatigable labours.’  There may have been a valedictory tone to these words, but Golding was to continue in office for another 22 years.

After 1841, Golding’s authority at the hospital remained absolute but was not without criticism from the younger men now joining the honorary staff and from the younger governors. No longer as physically vigorous nor as adventurous  as in his youth, Golding was increasingly seen as  a more conservative figure rather than as the idealistic young reformer of his youth.  Nevertheless, he showed a bold determination in 1850 when he urged the hospital to purchase the freehold of the Agar  Street site for £10,500 despite having insufficient funds. In time, Golding realised that it was necessary to relax his hold. He resigned as Director of the Medical School in 1856 and then in 1860 announced his intention to retire from the hospital. A house committee was set up to take over some of the responsibilities he and his close friend and colleague John Robertson, as honorary secretary, had exercised and Golding himself suggested the formation of a medical committee which would counterbalance lay dominance. Finally in June 1862, both Golding and Robertson retired and were presented with silver salvers. Golding was also appointed as consulting physician. Without the stimulation of a hospital to run, Golding’s retirement was short and he died on 21 June 1863.

 

His family often complained that his work came before his home life. He married  Sarah Pelerin Blew whose family were perfumers in Charing Cross, on 1 August 1822 and had  nine children, but  most of them died in infancy. His son Roy followed him into the medical profession but died at the age of 25, while his clergyman son George only lived to the age of 55. His daughter Blanche lived to the age of 82.  Despite the infirmities resulting from his stroke, Benjamin Golding himself lived to the age of 69 and was buried in a neoclassical family mausoleum in Brompton Cemetery built after his death by his family. His true monument was Charing Cross Hospital.

 

Without Golding’s leadership Charing Cross Hospital and its Medical School would not have survived the strains facing them in the early years. However, this was partly because almost up to his retirement, he treated Charing Cross as his personal fiefdom. When considering the best form of management for the hospital after his retirement, the house committee commented that:

‘While Dr Golding was Resident Director, the unanimous deference of the medical and surgical staff to his works and laws as one of the Founders of Hospital  left in his hands an authority little short of autocracy and … it is not overstating the case to say that Dr Golding exercised practically an absolute sway. The present condition of the Hospital shows how ably and wisely he exercised that power.’

For 44 years Benjamin Golding had been Charing Cross Hospital.

Class of 1968 Reunion

The Class of “68” (50 years from starting at St Mary’s) held a memorable and enjoyable reunion weekend in May in Oxford – the same weekend as the Royal Wedding and the FA Cup Final. Excitement was in the air as we met up at The Trout for lunch on the Friday in brilliant sunshine, and we just didn’t stop hugging and talking. On Saturday morning we had a guided tour of historic Oxford, interrupted by yet more chatter and constant checking of our mobile phones for the latest on Megan’s wedding dress…
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The reunion proper on Saturday evening, saw 40 of our year – approximately two thirds of those still breathing – meet up and share yet more stories and photos from half a century ago. We had flags, we had badges, we had jokes, and we even shared a much appreciated welcome message from the Dean. And those of us still agile went Bird Watching (sic) on Sunday morning before heading home.
This was our 4th reunion, following the last one10 years ago, and there was a general feeling from those of us more physically and mentally challenged that we shouldn’t leave it quite so long next time! Here’s to “50 years from qualifying” in 2023!

St Mary’s Alumni Reunion – Class of 1960

“He is a Mary’s Man” rang out once again as 20 members of the Class of 1960 lunched together at The Little Ship Club, London on 7 September 2018.

Of the 63 students who entered the medical school in 1955/1957 – for 1st, 2nd and 3rd MB qualifying in 1960/61 (11 women and 52 men), 23 became family doctors, 33 consultants (physicians 17, surgeons & anaesthetists 16), one medical director of a pharmaceutical company and one an entrepreneur. Five have been “lost”.

Fourteen have died (11 men and 3 women).

 

Peter Savage

M&B to the Rescue!

by Jill Rose

(adapted from Nursing Churchill: Wartime Life from the Private Letters of  Winston Churchill’s Nurse, by Jill Rose, Foreword by the Hon Emma Soames. Amberley Press: 15 June 2018)

On 7 February 1943, Prime Minister Winston Churchill returned to England after an exhausting four week journey to North Africa and the Middle East. He was feeling poorly and thought he must have caught a chill. A few days later a cold and sore throat obliged him to lie up. On the evening of 16 February his temperature rose alarmingly and his personal doctor, Sir Charles Wilson, Dean of St Mary’s Hospital Medical School,  was called in. He diagnosed pneumonia, which was confirmed by an X-ray the following day.

Sir Charles summoned Dr Geoffrey Marshall of Guy’s Hospital, an expert in respiratory diseases. The two physicians prescribed a period of bed rest, plenty of fluids and treatment with M&B, a widely-used medicine often hailed as a wonder drug. The patient would need skilled nursing care, and Sir Charles turned to St. Mary’s to send their best. My mother Doris Miles, a recent recipient of the Gold Medal for Excellence in Nursing and the daughter of a former Dean, was the obvious first choice. On the evening of 19 February she was told by Matron to go immediately to the Prime Minister’s residence.

‘I went straight away in a taxi’, Doris wrote in 1982 to Churchill’s official biographer Martin Gilbert, ‘and was met by Sir Charles who said, “Glad to see you, nurse. I must warn you, the Prime Minister doesn’t wear pyjamas” – and neither he did. [Only] a silk vest, velvet jacket with a diamond V on the lapel and slippers of velvet with PM embroidered on the front’.

Doris’s first duty was to give her patient a tepid sponge bath to reduce the fever. Churchill was suffering from a pneumococcal infection caused by bacteria called streptococcus pneumoniae, which infected the lungs and caused fever, loss of appetite, chest pain and difficulty breathing, and could damage the heart. The condition,  called haemolytic strep pneumonia, was potentially life-threatening to the elderly and to people who smoked or were heavy drinkers; Dr Marshall knew that the Prime Minister was a high-risk patient. There was an ever-present risk of pleural empyema (a build-up of pus in the pleural cavity) which could lead to serious lung damage. Edward Fitzroy, Speaker of the House of Commons, five years older than Churchill, was suffering from the same ailment; he was in critical condition and died soon afterwards.

A doctor today has an arsenal of antibiotic drugs he can use in a case of the pneumonia from which Churchill was suffering, but in 1943 the use of such drugs to treat bacterial infections was in its infancy. The antibacterial properties of the penicilliummould had been discovered  in the Pathology Department of St Mary’s Hospital in September 1928 by a Scottish doctor named Alexander Fleming. Returning to his lab after being away on holiday, he observed a bloom of mould on a Petri dish which had inhibited the growth of the Staphylococcusbacteria inadvertently left in there. (The story goes that the mould had blown in through an open window from the Fountains pub and brew-house across the street.)  He made a culture of the active ingredient and called it penicillin.

However, Fleming failed to develop his discovery. He was a bacteriologist and lacked the skill of a chemist to isolate the active ingredient in the mould. In addition, he had a diffident personality and was unable to convince others of  the enormous significance of his discovery.

For over a decade his work and success remained unrecognised. It was not until 1939, when other scientists became involved, that the effectiveness of penicillin became apparent. The American pharmaceutical company Merck began commercial production, and in December 1942 survivors of the devastating Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in Boston were the first burn victims to be treated with the new drug.Nonetheless, penicillin remained difficult to manufacture and was in limited supply until early 1944, when, with the backing of the US Government, large-scale production became possible. For the remainder of the war it was used with great effect on wounded Allied soldiers, saving many thousands of lives. A  colleague of my parents’ from St Mary’s, Graham Jones, had been taught by Fleming how to grow penicillin cultures, and in a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany he arranged an informal trial of the drug through the International Red Cross, which he used to treat his fellow prisoners during an epidemic of pneumonia.

In the 1930s, however, the treatment of choice forbacterial infections such as cerebrospinal meningitis, septicaemia and pneumonia were the so-called sulpha drugs. Antibiotics such as penicillin, which are derived from micro-organisms, kill the disease-causing bacteria directly, while sulpha drugs, being chemical compounds, act by inhibiting their growth, thus helping the body’s natural defences to rally and mop them up.

Gerhard Domagk, a German scientist working for the Bayer pharmaceutical giant in the early 1930s, had  found a promising anti-bacterial compound contained in a red dye. In December 1934 Bayer was granted a patent for their new product, which they called Prontosil. French researchers subsequently showed that the active ingredient in the dye-based Prontosil was a group of chemical compounds called sulphonamides. The venerable British chemical and pharmaceutical company May & Baker, founded almost a hundred years earlier,  got into the action in 1936 to find a patentable sulphonamide. They enlisted Dr Lionel Whitby, pathologist at the Middlesex Hospital in London, who isolated a variation called sulphapyridine. It was given the number 693 in the May&Baker series, and was thereafter always known as M&B693.

By March 1938 large-scale clinical trials had proved the effectiveness of the new drug, and the following year a more powerful and less toxic variation, sulphathiazole, was introduced as M&B760. This was the drug which Churchill’s doctors, in consultation with Dr Whitby,  chose to use in 1943.

Doris later wrote to Martin Gilbert that on her first night with the Prime Minister, ‘Geoffrey Marshall put him on a course of M&B760. Chemotherapy had only just started with the sulphonamides, and the results, though good on the whole, were still uncontrolled . .  . WC was fascinated by this and demanded to know exactly how the drug worked so that he could recount it to all his visitors’.

Painful urination was one of the more distressing side effects of the drug, so potassium was given at the same time to prevent crystals of uric acid forming in the kidneys. Doris administered this in the form of potassium citrate (Pot Cit). He complained of head pains, so each night she would rub his head with oil of wintergreen (methyl salicylate), a compound related to aspirin which could help reduce the fever. ‘This became something of a ritual every evening’, Doris wrote, ‘and he would sing an old music-hall song while I was doing it’.

To maximise the effectiveness of the drug, it was important to take it at regular intervals and to maintain a constant level in the blood. Tracking the white count daily is an indication of how well the infection is coming under control, particularly the levels of two specific components, neutrophils (often called polymorphs) and eosinophils. Churchill’s blood count was closely monitored.

Churchill took a keen interest in his illness and always wanted the doctors and nurses to explain what they were doing. He found the composition of his blood particularly intriguing; in late night conversations with Doris, when he was relaxed and chatty, he would talk about the ‘pollywogs’ and ‘eowins’ which were his names for the two types of indicator cells. (Churchill loved to play with words and often made up his own. ‘When I use a word . . . it means just what I choose it to mean’, said Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty; Churchill might well have said the same thing. ‘Pollywog’ is an old-fashioned term for a tadpole; ‘Eowin’ is his own invention.)

Churchill suffered from two more bouts of pneumonia before the end of the war, and each time M&B worked its magic. ‘I personally have never failed to pay my tribute of respect and gratitude to M&B;’ he told the Royal College of Physicians in 1944, ‘although I am not competent to give you an exact description of how it works, it certainly has in my case always been attended by highly beneficial results’.

But already the sulpha drugs were being superseded by the newer, more powerful antibiotics, which had fewer side effects. Fifteen years after his chance discovery of the life-giving mould, Alexander Fleming was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in March 1943. Many awards followed later in recognition of his work: he was knighted in 1944 and was co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1945.

The May & Baker company was absorbed into Bayer and Aventis; today only a Nigerian subsidiary retains the once-illustrious name.

From Aeschylus to Aesculapius: How my father’s bravura performance as Clytemnestra led directly to him becoming a doctor and to my appearance on the world’s stage

by Jill Rose

(adapted from Nursing Churchill: Wartime Life from the Private Letters of Winston Churchill’s Nurse, by Jill Rose, Foreword by the Hon Emma Soames. Amberley Press: 15 June 2018)

The son of a Presbyterian minister,  my father Roger Miles was blessed with an amiable personality, a wry sense of humour and a well-developed notion of fair play. He was an enthusiastic, though not exceptional, sportsman. He had spent his childhood in Felixstowe on the Suffolk coast, where he acquired his lifelong love of sailing and the sea.  As a young man he enjoyed horse-back riding, cricket, and playing tennis and golf with his siblings.

But he wasn’t just a jock.  Roger was a voracious reader with catholic tastes. As a teenager he attended Bradfield College in Berkshire where he was a classical scholar. Then, as now, Bradfield was renowned for its productions of  classic Greek drama, in Greek, which were presented in its own outdoor theatre (complete with tiers of uncomfortable stone seats). In June 1934, Roger was cast as Clytemnestra, the doomed queen of Mycenae, in the Agamemnonof Aeschylus. His bravura portrayal of a woman scorned was evidently convincing; ‘Clytemnestra’s passion’, said one reviewer, was ‘splendidly declaimed by Miss Miles’.

In the audience was Dr Charles Wilson, Dean of St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London. Roger’s dazzling performance led Wilson to declare that Roger would make a fine addition to St Mary’s Medical School, which was known for the quality of its dramatic productions as well as the quality of its doctors. Judging by the enthusiasm with which Clytemnestra wielded her knife, and by the  review in the Bradfield College Chroniclewhich noted, ‘ he [Roger]was much helped by the possession of beautiful and expressive hands’, he was obviously cut out to be a surgeon!

However, Wilson’s offer of a place at the Medical School was not as capricious as it sounds.

Charles Wilson had trained at St Mary’s before the First World War, when my maternal grandfather Harry Clayton Greene had been a surgeon and Dean of the Medical School. Wilsonserved with distinction in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the war, and in 1920 was himself appointed Dean.  He radically overhauled the sclerotic organisation,  and took major steps to improve the hospital’s ailing finances. Zachary Cope, in his 1954 history of St Mary’s, calls him ‘the Great Dean’. ‘Wilson combined in himself several great qualities seldom seen together,’ writes Cope. ‘He saw clearly both the near and the distant view; he was a remarkable though critical judge of character; he had a facility for putting his views into excellent and telling words, and he possessed the power of quick and determined action.’.

One of Charles Wilson’s more controversial innovations was a change in the way students were selected and scholarships awarded, moving from a system based on competitive examinations to one based on his personal choice of men of character. The criteria were akin to those required of a Rhodes Scholar, including a ‘fondness for, and success in manly outdoor sports such as cricket, football and the like’. He was looking for young men of courage and integrity, who behaved like gentlemen and could work in a team.  Since Wilson was a passionate supporter of rugby football, critics suggested that he was using the scholarships to lure rugby players so that St Mary’s would win the Hospitals Cup.  Actually, rugby was not incompatible with professional excellence; several top players whom Wilson had personally recruited also became outstanding doctors.

Charles Wilson was a sought-after lecturer and physician. In 1938 he produced for the Home Office an imaginative plan for the organization of London’s hospitals to receive casualties in the event of hostilities, and was knighted for his services the same year.The mark Sir Charles left on the medical profession in general, and St Mary’s Hospital in particular, was long-lasting. In his biography of Lord Moran, as Sir Charles later became, Richard Lovell writes: ‘By the end of the 1930s [Wilson] was presiding over a student body largely of his own choosing, characterised by great esprit-de-corpsand reflecting remarkably wide interests’. In 1940 Sir Charles was appointed as personal physician to the new Prime Minister Winston Churchill, a position he held until his patient’s death in 1965.

Roger clearly met Wilson’s criteria for admittance to the Medical School, which Cope lists as, ‘high intelligence, outstanding character and considerable skill at games’. It wasn’t just the performance which impressed him. Nine years later, in 1943 Roger’s younger brother Richard wrote to him from Washington where he had just had dinner with President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill at the White House: ‘Your dear old chief Charles Wilson was there . . .  he too sent his kindest regards and recalled the first time he met you at Bradfield and you walked home with him part of the way.’ They had talked at length during that walk, and the Dean recognised the young man’s potential.

Persuaded by Wilson’s enthusiasm, Roger gave up his classical studies. He passed his First MB in July 1934 and was awarded a scholarship. In October he entered St Mary’s Hospital Medical School and during the next five and a half years of his training he specialised in surgery, completing his core studies and becoming a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons( MRCS) and Licentiate, Royal College of Physicians (LRCP) in January 1940. In August 1940 he was appointed Casualty House Surgeon, just before the beginning of the Blitz.

My mother Doris Clayton Greene, daughter of Wilson’s mentor Harry Clayton Greene, had trained as a nurse at St Mary’s. In September 1940 she was the night nurse in charge of the operating theatre as she and her colleagues awaited casualties from the anticipated bombings. She later told us how kidney dishes, swabs, bottles of disinfectant and other equipment had been neatly laid out in readiness. As the first of the wounded were brought in, Doris was horrified to see that brick dust from the disintegrating buildings had been ground into the wounds and the skin of the victims. It quickly became apparent that swabs and disinfectant were woefully inadequate for the task, and the staff ended up sluicing the patients down with buckets of water to clean the wounds before surgery.

Working beside Doris as they calmly and efficiently treated those caught in the nightly air-raids was the handsome young Casualty Officer, Roger Miles.

Roger and Doris fell in love and stayed in love for fifty years.

The Countdown to SJT

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Katie Dallison gives some advice on the mysterious final year exam

 

1st December (or 8th of Jan if you’re one of those lucky people that gets to spend their Christmas studying…) – less than a month away until you sit the test that will make up half of the mark that determines where you end up during your Foundation programme.

How is your preparation going? Having helped students prepare for SJT since it began, here are my top 3 tips to maximise the last few weeks of your prep time:


1.

Stop answering question upon question, take a step back and review. The SJT focuses on 5 professional attributes:

  • Commitment to professionalism
  • Coping with pressure
  • Effective communication
  • Patient focus
  • Working effectively as part of a team

Realistically, there are only so many ways that questions on these 5 topics can be asked so start to review the questions you’ve answered and try to identify the patterns that emerge. Can you come up with a set of general rules to help you? For example, generally it’s viewed as a bad idea to discuss colleagues within a group. Generally, asking for help is pretty high up within a ranking question. These sorts of loose rules can help you in the exam to rank at least some of the answers quickly.


2.

Discuss answers with friends. SJT questions create great debate and discussion and this is a good way to help you understand why others might rank answers differently to you.


3.

Know your Good Medical Practice back to front. And the principles of confidentiality. The GMC have created GMP in action which can help explain aspects of this – http://www.gmc-uk.org/guidance/index.asp


 

Good luck with the test everyone!

Katie Dallison

Katie headshot.jpg

Imperial College Medical Careers Advisor

For more information on how I can support you in your career, please visit the careers section under My Organisations on Blackboard