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Meet alicelomax, doc2doc's Psychiatry champion, who has shared with the community why she chose the specialty, how her best and worst moments in medicine happened within a matter of weeks, as well as bringing our attention to @Medfest in her blog (we'll have to check it out next year!)
What made you want to be a doctor?
I will try and answer this question without saying 'I liked science and wanted to help people.' - which I am struggling with because although it's cheesy it is actually true! I did like science at school, I was fascinated by how humans worked, I enjoyed talking to people and I wanted to do something worthwhile and meaningful with my life. I actually started off wanting to be a clinical psychologist but spoke to a careers advisor at school, and did a bit of research, and felt medicine (with the option of specialty training in psychiatry but also other possibilities) would keep my options a bit more open and carry more of a guarantee of a route into clinical practice. It is a minority of people who do undergraduate psychology degrees who actually get places to do a PhD in clinical psychology so I think it turned out to be good advice. I have also really enjoyed learning about the biological aspects of the mind as well as the psychosocial.
Why did you choose your specialty?
Having started out interested in psychiatry it was more a case of what else tempted me to change my mind! I liked obs and gynae, but realised that the bits I liked were the respect between disciplines and multidisciplinary team working, and the fact I had good supervision from a very enthusiastic consultant, all elements which are very much part of psychiatry too. I also really enjoyed general medicine, which has led me to an interest in liaison psychiatry, which is where medicine and psychiatry cross over. There is psychiatry in every part of medicine and throughout other medical student and Foundation attachments I knew that the bit I enjoyed most was getting to know people, their personalities and about their lives.
What’s the most interesting thing about your speciality/job?
The variety. Most people don't realise how many different sub-specialties of psychiatry there are: forensics (work with serious offenders who are psychiatrically unwell), child psychiatry, intellectual disability, older people, addictions, perinatal (around pregnancy). The list goes on and on. And even in one subspecialty, with one illness, for example depression, presentations vary from person to person because everyone has their own personality, their own life experiences which makes them unique.
What has been your best moment in medicine? And your worst?
Like many doctors I think both of these came in my first weekend oncall as an FY1. It was August bank holiday, I did all 3 days Saturday to Monday and nearly decided to give up being a doctor at least 3 times. I saved someone's life (by giving flumazenil in severe respiratory depression caused by benzodiazepienes, a spectacular, miraculous-feeling thing to do) and I let someone die (by not recognising someone's PE and hesitating before calling for help). However with more experience behind me I don't think either event was as directly attributable to me personally as I thought at the time. Medicine has many ups and downs but I've started to realise that no doctor is superhuman - I won't be able to solve everything, and will sometimes make mistakes.
What advice would you give prospective doctors?
Do lots of research into the medical schools as they can have quite different cultures and ways of teaching. Consider where you would enjoy living and who you want to live close to, both when choosing a medical school and a job - it shouldn't be all about your career, if it is you'll be miserable. At the start of your career consider saying yes to everything as it will get you into things and open up doors you could have never planned - then start learning how to say no (that's the bit I'm struggling with now!).
What’s been your favourite doc2doc discussion of all time?
I always enjoy discussions about psychiatry and film, as I love a good movie! I think films and the media in general form most people's view of psychiatry, and in many cases filmmakers and journalists get it very wrong, but there is a real opportunity to change that.
What do you do when you are not being a doctor?
I grew up overseas and still love travelling. I spend every penny of my disposable income on aeroplane fares and hotels! I'd like to work abroad one day. I'd love to say I was an Olympic athlete or an author or a DJ or a filmmaker or something cool like that. I'm not, but friends of mine in psychiatry do balance doing all these things with work, and I enjoy watching them do it! I have been involved in Medfest, the UK's only national medical film festival for the past 2 years, which is well worth a visit in 2013 - more info is at www.medfest.co.uk or twitter @Medfest