Training in Public Health Medicine

Dr.Jayashree Pathak’s story:

So, three years ago, I decided to move to the UK, oblivious to the life experiences that lay ahead of me. For a person who had never lived outside the comfort of her own home, this journey to a whole new country was a giant leap. Amidst ups and downs, the only constant element was the zeal to never give up, come what may.

Within a couple of months of my move, I decided to get my own car, just to travel around whenever things hit low, as I always liked driving and taking road trips. And thus began my first step towards fending for myself. I also like music/singing and made sure I kept that alive within me.

I should thank my housemates here, in my first accommodation in Wales, who bridged the gap between the two countries (India and the UK) so very well and never made me feel like an outsider. This being said, transitioning into a whole new healthcare system was a different ball game altogether. But life went on and I gradually felt more at ease.

I moved to the UK right after internship and a year of state service as a general duties medical officer in the rural sector. My career in the NHS began from Wales where I was employed as a junior clinical fellow in geriatric medicine.

I then moved to York where I completed my standalone foundation training, rotating between medical and surgical specialties. Towards the end of the programme, I had already developed a calling for public health as I realised that there were so many hospital presentations of health conditions that could have easily been prevented in the first place, through improvement of service delivery and/or bridging the barriers in accessing healthcare.

With that aim in mind, post-foundation training, I started looking for junior doctor roles in public health, but there weren’t any that came to my notice, so I began hunting for jobs in management/administration/quality improvement/clinical leadership, interchanging the job search keywords to land relevant results on the NHS Jobs website.

And lo and behold, after a thorough search, I came across an advert for a fellowship in clinical leadership in the NHS Improvement office in London, sponsored by Health Education England, which specificially mentioned about considering candidates on Tier 2 Visas alongside other applicants. I applied, took the interview and got the job. I would like to say that this experience as a clinical transformation fellow with the London Clinical Networks provided me with a clear idea of the ‘behind the scenes’ work in the NHS, and I got to work in collaboration with Public Health England (Now, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities) on various quality improvement projects at a commissioning level pan-London. Embarking on this role meant a huge transition from clinical medicine to a managerial desk-based job, but I was well-supported throughout and never discriminated upon for being inexperienced in the field.

I gathered novel life lessons all along, which in turn enabled me to evolve as a person. In order to better understand public health as a specialty in the UK, I spoke to registrars, consultants and training programme directors (dropped them emails through the contact details on the deanery websites) and got taster sessions organised.

Although I liked the idea of improving health outcomes for the wider population at once, I was quite apprehensive of choosing public health as a future career as it is one of the most competitive specialties in the UK. I was warned of the fierce competition by people both within the field and outside. However, I decided to not give in to the competition and persevered with all my might.

And thanks to The Almighty and all my well-wishers, here I am, announcing that I am beginning another journey from today, as a specialty trainee/registrar in public health medicine. I am immensely grateful to all of you.

I would like to encourage everyone reading this post to never give up, and to always consider failures as stepping-stones to success. Like they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Even if the journey might not be as planned, or the goal might change, it is always worth it at the end.

Useful points for those interested:

1. The public health specialty training programme is a run-through 5-year programme [with an integrated masters in public health (MPH) fully funded by HEE] which can be reduced to 4 years for trainees who already possess a masters degree in public health, upon discussion with the supervisor/training programme director.

2. Both medical and non-medical graduates can apply. Even a medical graduate can apply through the non-medical route. The requirements for each are detailed in the HEE person specification document.

3. The application process through Oriel comprises of three stages:

Longlisting on the basis of CREST/foundation training completion certificate—>Assessment centre—>Selection centre

Details on the stages can be found on the official website.

4. To learn further about career opportunities in public health:

5. The health careers website also has a careers quiz for people who might still be exploring on what to do next. I found it quite helpful.

6. An introduction to public health created by the Public Health Wessex Training Group:

7. A very helpful session conducted by specialty trainees on the application process, freely available on YouTube:

Please do message me on my inbox should you have any further queries.

Many thanks and good luck to everyone.

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