Mohammad Al-Ubaydli’s blog

Medical diversity

Posted in Articles, Careers, Medicine, My publications, People / organisations by Dr Mohammad Al-Ubaydli on September 1, 2000
I arrived at a room in Imperial College to find the Sky News people comfortably camped inside. Outside, there was the rather amusing sight of doctors trying to avoid being filmed. This was the day after the government announced consultants cannot see private patients till 7 years after appointment, so the news people were looking for doctors to interview. And these doctors seemed ideal. They were here for a career switch – a training day organised by Medical Diversity, helping them to apply and prepare for jobs in the City.
With my finals still to come in December, I was the only student there. The rest were mainly SHO’s, a few registrars, and an astonishingly high-flying consultant. It was an eerie look into the future. These doctors weren’t slackers who couldn’t cope with medicine anymore. They were all dedicated and capable, passing their membership exams first time round, and firmly in the career ladder. But they were all disenchanted. Their message to me was clear – you get treated badly in this game.
Then the training began. It was headed by Peter Harrisson, a City veteran, with blue-chip names in his CV. His lectures were entertaining and educational. He had started at the sales side of investment banking, and could clearly sell ice cream to Eskimos. A few years ago, he had founded DiversityNow, a recruitment company targeting minorities to investment jobs, where they have been traditionally underrepresented. His partners were Claire Crichton, a lawyer, and Daniel Gomez, a civil rights activist.
More recently, Peter met Eddie Chaloner, an SpR in vascular surgery. Peter was astonished by Eddie’s tales; he quickly saw there were some badly treated doctors who can easily work in other jobs where they’re better treated. The four founded Medical Diversity.
Peter’s message was simple. Investment banking / management consulting is easy. Actually it’s not easy, it’s just that if you could get through a membership exam, then you already have the ability to learn difficult things. You just have to go out and learn them now. Peter explained the texts you should read, the practice you should go through, and the attitude you must adopt. He was very keen on the attitude. So we spent a large proportion of the day going through mock interviews, with each of the founders grilling us and giving feedback. A bit like a viva, but with different kind of bluffing. In short, the training day was excellent.
Perhaps you’re wondering why I’d gone. After all, I still haven’t done a house job, so how can I claim doom and gloom? It’s actually because I have a slightly pathological will to keep my options open. I may well follow the full career path in medicine, become a consultant, perhaps even be allowed to see private patients one day. But I want to have done it because I picked medicine, rather than because I’m stuck with it. I think that’s the reason behind so much of the disenchantment in medicine – a feeling that you’ve been so deskilled that you’re incapable of getting a job as anything other than a doctor.
The medical course has a strange habit of doing this. The admissions process is designed to pick out the most academically capable, with the assumption that they are those with the best learning ability. Yet from day one, the message is sent out that the only learning to be done is in the medical field. Other interests, carried over from pre-university days, are to be kept as hobbies. And as you progress further in your training, you will have less and less time for these hobbies. Medical students join in this, with attitudes of shock or pity if you mention considering other careers. By the time you’ve started your house job, the feeling is firmly implanted that there is no way out.
I believe this makes for some bitter doctors. I believe that that is not good for the doctors or the patients.
Eddie is always saying that he didn’t get involved in Medical Diversity to convince doctors to leave. He’s right. He’s just making sure that those who come to him feeling stuck do have an alternative. I believe all doctors should know they have an alternative before they become stuck.
For further information, or to apply to DiversityNow, send an email to
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Published September 2000 in