I went to Liverpool Medical School and qualified in 1980. We were taught that being a doctor was not just a job, not just a profession, but it was a vocation. It required study, yes, but much more than that. It required hard work, dedication, and integrity. Like most naive young doctors of the day, I was to go out and save lives. But I was not sure which specialty I would choose to save lives, or where I would live and work in the future. Should I be a surgeon, a general physician, another form of hospital consultant, or a general practitioner (GP)? What I did not anticipate is that at one point in my life the most important thing I would do to save lives would be to distribute blankets and plastic sheets to thousands of the most needy under armed guard.
After qualification, I worked as a hospital medical registrar in Jamaica and Australia from 1982-1984, and I then returned to the UK to complete my GP vocational training. Following this I went to work for Save the Children Fund in Somalia from 1986-1989, where I had my blanket and plastic sheet moment.
My experience overseas in Jamaica, and East Africa, highlighted that the health of the population is not simply down to the health service and its staff. So, on my return to the UK, I decided to retrain as a consultant in public health medicine. My biggest dilemma was not seeing patients face to face anymore. I suffered withdrawal symptoms, and finally came to terms with this after six months. The instant rewards of seeing patients were replaced by more long-term work and goals. With my newly acquired public health knowledge and skills, I realised that if I were posted to Somalia again, I would have approached my post very differently.
I worked for the NHS in this new capacity from 1990-2018, in the East Midlands of England, before retiring. During these years, I retained my Somali passion for clinical guidelines. I trained many budding consultants, and I taught both undergraduates and postgraduates the principles of Public Health, including what to expect if they decided to work overseas. I also had the honour of being selected by the NHS to represent them at an NHS 60th Anniversary celebration held by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.