Life After CCT-
The Unconventional Approach
So, you’re fast approaching your CCT, and wondering what step to take next. Most people, quite sensibly, opt for a consultant post in their chosen specialty. I, however, decided on a slightly different course of action, turning away from the traditional substantive post and even turning down my grace period, ready to embark on a Masters in Public Health and eagerly looking forward to any opportunities that may present themselves. Admittedly, this approach is not for everyone, but things have turned out positively so far.
My decision to do a Masters in Public Health was borne out of an interest in Child Public Health which developed during the latter years of my paediatric training, coupled with an extremely positive year working in a Paediatric Public Health post. However, due to the disappointing attitude
of my Deanery not allowing me to work less than full time as a trainee while doing the Masters,
I had to defer this until I obtained CCT. I applied for my Masters early, more than 6 months ahead of my CCT, and channelled all my efforts to make sure I was on track to meet CCT requirements, whilst handling the tumultuous Kaizen e-portfolio system with the utmost care.
Fortunately, I gained CCT without issue and started my Masters programme in Cardiff University in September 2016, simultaneously signing up to a locum agency in anticipation of keeping the finances up to scratch with a few well-placed clinical shifts. Thankfully, the decision to do a Masters after finishing training turned out to be a very good one, and gave me the flexibility to do locum work when I wanted to, rather than being a slave to a rota. I finally felt liberated!
There are several Public Health Masters programmes available around the UK, as it is the mandatory first year of the Public Health training scheme (more information on the Faculty of Public Health website, see link at end of article). You are spoilt for choice between full-time and part-time courses; face-to-face versus distance-learning; and programmes in most major cities.
I chose the Masters programme in Cardiff for several reasons: it was 1-year long full-time (enough to hold my attention, and coincide with my Significant Other’s CCT date); it was a face-to-face course (better for motivation, rather than a distance course with mainly self-directed learning); was in the same city as where I lived (allowing commuting via bicycle- very public health!); and had a good reputation, with the added benefit of a global health module. Unsurprisingly, I have learnt a lot, including topics I had little appreciation for while working clinically, such as how to properly investigate an outbreak (involving very satisfying detective-style work) and the principles of health economics (which I wish I knew as an undergraduate), all which undoubtedly will make me a better clinician.
A small but exciting spanner was thrown in the works in December 2016 when I responded to an email from the RCPCH that dropped in my inbox about a programme to work in Sierra Leone for 6 months delivering training on emergency paediatric and neonatal care. I applied, interviewed, and got offered a place on the programme. Although not strictly public health, there will be opportunities for me to incorporate public health work into the programme. The timing of this trip fortunately coincides with the post-exam and pre-dissertation phase of my Masters, so naturally I planned to kill two birds with one stone by focusing my dissertation project on the work I will be doing in Sierra Leone, which was met with support from both Cardiff University and the RCPCH.
My decision to do the above has been met with very positive and supportive comments from a range of friends, colleagues and mentors. As a result, I occasionally find myself fantasising about having a fruitful and fulfilling career ahead of me as a Paediatric Public Health specialist. However, what this currently looks like is nebulous, as such a post doesn’t really exist in the UK, and the reality is that I will probably need to metamorphose into such a being from a humble general paediatrician.
Personally, I feel there are a lot more options available to us than we think, and we can shape our careers in many different ways as long as we are tenacious enough to think outside of the box. In the meantime, I will do my part out in Sierra Leone, where you will hear from again toward the end of the year!
1) UK Faculty of Public Health training: http://www.fph.org.uk/training
2) Cardiff University Masters in Public Health programme: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/taught/courses/course/public-health-mph
3) ETAT+ programme in Sierra Leone: http://www.rcpch.ac.uk/member-services/get-involved/seeking-clinicians-volunteer-sierra-leone
Dr Darshana Bhattacharjee