I went to a comprehensive school. My favourite subject was art, however I was good at the sciences and after obtaining really good O-level results in these subjects, decided to pursue them at A-level. Whilst in 6th form I made the decision to pursue medicine. My schoolteachers were not particularly supportive, they felt this was unachievable and did not predict me good grades. However, I applied anyway and got offered 3 places after interview. Unfortunately I then didn’t achieve the exact grade required in Physics and had to go through ‘clearing’ so was extremely relieved to still be offered a place at my first choice medical school.
After completing medical school I chose to work in a district hospital and realised that I enjoyed medicine and disliked surgery, so I applied for a medical rotation. My first post was in Diabetes and Endocrinology. I absolutely loved the combination of providing chronic disease care for people with diabetes as part of a Multidisciplinary team, as well as the intellectual stimulation and satisfaction from treating endocrinology. After passing my postgraduate medical exams, I pursued an SpR training rotation in Diabetes and Endocrinology.
My first taste of clinical research was during intercalation, which I really enjoyed. During my SpR training I took the opportunity to go 'out of programme' to do an MD, and did clinical research looking at the autonomic and vascular effects of hormones and glucose control after eating meals. After completing this I returned to clinical training. I then took a further 'out of programme' clinical educational role at the postgraduate deanery, working on assessment processes for validating junior doctors – the precursor to e-portfolios.
I was appointed Senior Lecturer in Medicine and Consultant in Diabetes and Endocrinology in Leeds in 2003. I’ve since had two children, so took two years maternity leave and tried working part time, but for the past 10 years have worked full time. I spend half my time doing clinical work for the NHS and half my time doing research/teaching for the university. I co-lead the TIME (Temporal Influences on Metabolic Events) research team, supervising PhD, MD and MSc students, investigating how sleep and the circadian clock are involved in glucose control across the 24hour day and how this impacts on cardiometabolic disease.
I lead the Diabetes in Pregnancy multidisciplinary team in Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, where I help women with diabetes to achieve tight glucose control prior to and during pregnancy to prevent adverse pregnancy outcomes. The research we are doing on 24 hour glucose control is particularly relevant to this group of women and we have many clinical studies.
My father supported me to pursue a medical career at a time when my school didn't. Over my training I worked with two very supportive consultant endocrinologists who encouraged me to take time out to do research and postgraduate education. They have been there in the background for me, for more than 20 years, and both support me to this day.
One of my more recent mentors and role models is a colleague researching in the same field at another university. She has just become a Professor, and has been inspirational and hugely supportive, allowing a step change in the way I work.
Definitely pursue it. I have no regrets about choosing medicine whatsoever, it is an amazing job and I still feel privileged to do it. As far as a clinical academic career goes, then I think I would be more cautious in my recommendation. There were no training pathways around when I chose to pursue it, and my academic career has been difficult. There are now clinical academic training tracks available, that offer far more training and support, so I'm hopeful that the future for women in academic medicine is more positive.