It certainly doesn’t feel like fourteen years since I left IMU (ME1/01) to join the university’s partner medical school in Dundee, Scotland. My time at IMU was certainly memorable and I look back to those years with great fondness! I am now a Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon specialising in hip and knee arthroplasty. I knew from a young age that medicine would be my chosen profession. My father was my inspiration and I used to thoroughly enjoy all the stories he’d share of his work as a general practitioner. My mother, though always encouraging, was slightly anxious with this choice, as I was more frequently on the football pitch in my younger years instead of spending hours mugging. However, I have always possessed a knack for working smart, a skill that serves me well to this day. After graduating from University of Dundee in 2005, it soon became apparent to me that being purely academically inclined in no way guaranteed entrance into any specialty medical training programme. To set oneself apart from the increasingly competitive market, one needs to establish a diverse presence in the medical field, through research, audit, teaching, and training. Along with creating a varied portfolio of medical experience, leadership qualities inside and outside medicine are a prerequisite for being a successful surgeon. This means cultivating an ability to communicate effectively, problem-solve efficiently, and be able to deal with complex high-stress situations. Ultimately, I found that much like any career, long-term success is determined by careful and strategic goal-setting, being a supportive and enthusiastic colleague, and never shying away from one’s aspirations, no matter how distant they may seem. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in highly respected and reputable elective arthroplasty departments in Nottingham and Derby during my registrar training in the East Midlands (North) rotation (2010-2016). Apart from developing good surgical skills, my training programme provided a platform that has allowed me to develop an extensive, yet balanced CV. I have currently published over twenty peer-reviewed articles, authored two book chapters, co-founded a surgical journal aimed towards trainees, and delivered over forty international and national presentations. My enthusiasm and efforts for improving clinical care and practice were recognised at an early stage when I was runner-up at the South Tees NHS Trust Clinical Audit Awards in 2007. I have sought to maintain my involvement for clinical audit, service evaluation, and service improvement throughout my training. I have purposefully sought projects designed to improve cost efficiency, delivery of care and patient reported outcomes, or the justification for a particular surgical procedure.
Indeed, one of my projects, a collaborative study with a Level 1 trauma centre in Queensland, Australia, was designed to help improve the management of open tibial fractures. The results of this study has prompted a change in clinical practice and policy at the institution and the findings were presented at the 2015 Australian Orthopaedic Association Annual Meeting in Brisbane, Australia.
I consider myself very fortunate to have been the recipient of several prestigious awards throughout my training. In early 2015, I was awarded the British Orthopaedic Association (BOA) traveling fellowship and used this opportunity to visit the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Australia which is the largest and most active trauma service in Australasia. I was also awarded the Anthony Lyons Travelling Fellowship where I visited the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Centre in Baltimore, USA, regarded as one of the world’s leading trauma centres. In March last year (2016), I visited Prof Wayne Paprosky at Central Dupage Hospital, Chicago, USA, through the Geoff Newton Travelling Fellowship. These experiences have further developed my passion for complex primary and revision arthroplasty surgery. The time spent with Prof Paprosky, in particular, was invaluable given his status as a leading international authority in this specific area of Orthopaedic surgery. Recently I completed the BOA Clinical Leadership Fellowship at South Tees Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Middlesbrough, UK. This fellowship has helped me enhance my skills and understanding on how to effectively influence and institute change in medical practices and policies. I successfully implemented a 23-hour fast track arthroplasty pathway which aims to discharge patients in less than 24 hours after their primary joint replacement surgery. Currently, I am in Australia as a recipient of the Bendigo Hip and Knee Orthopaedic Fellowship. I have no doubt that this experience will give me an appreciation of a different healthcare system and offer a different perspective and techniques in the management of lower limb arthroplasty and arthroscopic knee surgery. I will then return to the UK to complete the prestigious Cavendish Hip Fellowship, in Sheffield, before finally commencing my Consultant post.
It has long been my desire to work in a centre of excellence for arthroplasty surgery. I am confident that all the hard work will contribute to a rewarding career in Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery. If I can achieve all of the above, I have no doubt any opportunistic, determined, and hardworking IMU student can as well!
Written by: Conal Quah MBChB FRCS Tr&Orth.
Conal studied the first 2.5 years of his medical degree at IMU and then transferred to University of Dundee for completion of his degree.