Let's Talk Surgery: The RCSEd Podcast

Let's Talk Surgery Podcast, Surgical Crossroads: Choosing your specialty - the Neurosurgery episode

September 27, 2021 Season 8 Episode 8
Let's Talk Surgery: The RCSEd Podcast
Let's Talk Surgery Podcast, Surgical Crossroads: Choosing your specialty - the Neurosurgery episode
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Welcome back to our Surgical Crossroads series. For this episode we’re at the top of the human body – let's see what neurosurgery is all about. It's is an exciting specialty, with the human brain, for many of us, representing a frontier into the unknown. It involves high stakes surgery with cutting edge technology and fast-paced developments, requiring truly committed individuals who are willing to be flexible in terms of job opportunities.

Our consultant this episode is Mr William Taylor, who was born and brought up in the West of Scotland, attended medical school at the University of Glasgow and qualified in 1984. He was appointed as a consultant neurosurgeon at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow in 1994, with an interest in spinal surgery, but has subsequently developed a subspecialty interest in skull base surgery. He has been the Scottish Neurosurgical Training Programme director, Neurosurgical National Selection lead, JCIE board chairman and is the lead for the JCFSE and JSF international exams in neurosurgery. He describes how he picked up neurosurgery somewhat by accident during his training, and was attracted to the specialty by the ability to make a straightforward diagnosis and the challenge of managing life threatening and life altering pathologies. Bill has seen significant changes in the specialty, the way training is delivered and the day-to-day job of a consultant neurosurgeon over a 35-year period.

Aditaya Kumar is a post-FRCS ST7 neurosurgery trainee in Glasgow. He was born and raised in Yorkshire and attended university in Cambridge then London. His sub-speciality interests are skull base pathologies and their approaches from transcranial and endoscopic corridors. Addy also has a Master’s degree in philosophy and enjoys reading widely, making connections between neurosurgical practice and disparate fields of interest. 

Sanskrithi Sravanam (@SanskrithiS) is an FY1 academic foundation doctor in clinical neurosciences at Cambridge University Hospitals. She became interested in neurosurgery after spending five weeks experiencing the specialty in Malaysia, and during her fifth-year neurology rotation, which gave her a good insight into working in the specialty in the UK. She is passionate about diversity and medical education and is the lead for the RCSEd Cambridge foundation trainee surgical society. 

Neurosurgery is a competitive specialty which tends to attract driven individuals. Our panel share their tips for gaining the edge and getting those all-important points on your CV, including pursuing outside interests which show dexterity such as sports and playing a musical instrument, which have the added benefits to work-life balance and overall wellbeing.  They also point out the importance of choosing a specialty you are passionate about and enjoy if you are going to sustain a career in surgery.

Contact Information
Visit https://www.rcsed.ac.uk/ for further information and details on becoming a member. 

Email: [email protected] for any questions or topic suggestions you may have for future episodes. 

This show is brought to you by the RCSEd. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram. Hosted by Greg Ekatah, Sesi Hotonu and Sadie Khwaja produced and directed by Heather Pownall of Heather's Media Hub Ltd

Introducing the topic and guests for this episode.
[Sadie Khwaja – William Taylor] So should we start with you, William, just tell us about who you are, and where you're based at the moment and what it's like being a consultant in neurosurgery.
[SK – WT] What kind of skill set would you need to be a neurosurgeon?
[SK – WT] Give us an example of a week in your work life.
[SK – WT] Have you read Henry Marsh's book, ‘Do No Harm’? Do you think it was representative of neurosurgery? What's your take?
[SK – WT] As you say, it's very high stakes surgery, isn't it? You know, one little slip can have consequences for life. How did you switch off? What's your way of coping?
[SK - Sanskrithi Sravanam] You've had a listen to Bill telling us what the outcome of being a consultant neurosurgeon is. Where do you stand? What's your feelings about what you've listened to?
[SK – SS] Have you taken some first steps? What kind of experiences have you gained?
[Sesi Hotonu – Aditaya Kumar] It's no secret that [neurosurgery] is a competitive specialty. If a person were applying today for neurosurgical training, how competitive is it?
[SH – AK] It's similar in paediatric surgery that there's few places, and you basically just go where you're told. What sort of impact does that have on the trainee’s decision to go into neurosurgery and indeed, training in neurosurgery?
[SH – AK] And the training pathway, is it direct from F2? Or is that competitive entry at ST3?
[SH – AK] What did your CV look like at the time and what sorts of things should people be looking to add from medical school years onwards?
[SH – AK] What's your day-to-day life like, or more like week-to-week life?
[ SH – AK] Is this the sort of specialty where as a registrar, even indeed, as a more senior clinician, you can do your on-call from home most of the time, or are you in hospital for about 24 hours?
[ SH – AK] What does work-life balance look like? Do you have one?
[SH – AK] What are the opportunities for flexible working and time-out-of-programme in neurosurgery? Is it quite well supported?
[SH – AK] Is it a requirement in neurosurgery to do research? Is there kind of an unwritten rule that you don't get the consultant post without some extra letters behind your name?
[SH – AK] Is there a lot of diversity within neurosurgery, especially the male : female ratio? What's that like?
[SH – AK] What's it like in terms of numbers of people vying for consultant jobs who are very competitive? And the second thing is, would you have to do a fellowship to develop your sub-specialist interests more before going into consultancy?
[SK – WT] What do you think the future is like in neurosurgery? And how do we help Aditaya, who is near approaching the end [of his training] and wants to have a job in Glasgow?
[SK – WT] So for Sanskrithi, who's still I'm hoping wanting to do neurosurgery and not being put off! What should she be doing? Is there a society that she should join? Or is there a guiding path you could offer?
[SK – WT] And if we just speed up into the future, where's neurosurgery heading? Where would you see neurosurgery in 10 years?
[SH – AK] Now just a bit of fun ... Addy, what is your favourite operation? And why?
[SH – WT] Do you really have people playing instruments or singing or something while you operate?
[SH – SS] What is your favourite part of the brain?