Alumni profile - Krishan Patel
Dr Krishan Patel qualified in Medicine in 2019 and is currently works as an F2 Doctor. Krishan shared with us his experience working as a Student Explainer during his time at Barts and The London and how that has helped his career now.
(Medicine, MBBS, 2019)
What sparked your interest in medicine and why did you choose to study at Barts and The London?
I really enjoyed science and learning about the human body as a kid so I wanted a job that incorporated that type of knowledge, meeting people and working in the public service sector – and medicine fit the bill!
I knew I wanted to study in London and I liked the way medicine at Barts and The London was promoted. At the time when I was applying they had the spiral curriculum where some study content is repeated each year so students retain the knowledge learned. The School also emphasised student- patient interaction in their first year which appealed to me. I’m from west London so I commuted most of the time as a student but I had some placements at an outhouse firm during which I lived in student halls.
What was an interesting patient interaction you had as a student?
When I did obstetrics and gynaecology there were a lot of births in the middle of the night. So we stayed in halls and would walk around the birthing ward at 3am hoping to catch some live births!
There was another incident where a patient had a cocaine overdose. His heart had an irregular rhythm and I didn’t know what to do so the consultant gave the patient a drug that stopped his heart for a few seconds and restarted it so it was at a normal rhythm. I found it fascinating because I’d never seen anything like that before. At the time I remember freaking out because I saw the monitor flatline but thankfully the patient was completely fine afterwards.
Can you describe what you do now?
I’m an F2 doctor and currently working in an acute medical ward where the speciality is endocrinology and diabetes. I start by doing ward rounds every morning and prep patients’ notes for the consultants. Then we go around with the consultant or registrar and see each patient turn by turn, having a chat with them and identifying what’s wrong. After the ward rounds, we crack on with the work that’s been generated such as booking scans, writing discharge notes or making referrals. That’s my typical 9-5 but if I’m on call I might see patients who have been referred by the A&E team. We don’t always finish at 5 but I like being busy and I do get some quiet days.
How has your work been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and how have you had to adapt?
I worked in the Covid wards from the start of the pandemic. In the beginning, we didn’t know how to manage the virus so there was a lot of trial and error. We treated it like similar viruses with antibiotics and oxygen. It was quite stressful. A lot of staff got redeployed from other specialities or joined the hospital to help manage the crisis. I was glad we were all working together because even when staff members were getting sick, we had a steady stream of medical staff supported one another.
Fast forward to the second peak, we had a better understanding of how to treat the virus but there was a bigger volume of patients. It was tough but I enjoyed it in the sense that I was with my friends, we’re all a big team, we had lots of support from the public and it felt good to help people. We’re still wearing masks, getting vaccinated and encouraging people to stay safe. I think the hardest thing was having to stop patients’ relatives from visiting the wards. When I was in F1 I saw patients’ relatives visiting and bringing food, it was more holistic but now we have to turn visitors away due to the pandemic. It seems very lonely for the patient, so we try and call their family members during the day to provide updates and support.
During your time at university you were a Student Explainer, can you tell me about your experience in that role?
I started working for the Centre of Cell during my first year at Barts and The London up until my final year. I worked there for five years in total and it was the best job I ever had!
The Centre of the Cell is a science communication centre for kids and based in the Blizard Institute, we have kids coming in on school trips, and throughout their half term and summer holidays. They explore the pods which have science and research-based games to play, and microscopes are used to look at real human cells. We taught them the science around cells, explained our research, discussed what it’s like to be a scientist and answered any questions they have to try to give them a fun and educational experience.
I enjoyed it because the role let me teach science to students who also enjoy the subject and would like to study it in the future. All the other Student Explainers were medical or dental students so I was working with my friends which was always good fun. We also ran workshops over the summer period for college students who were looking to apply to study science, medicine or dentistry at university. Some of the activities included running career workshops for students, showing them the helipad at the Royal London Hospital and supporting their UCAS applications. It was a varied role focused on educating young people.
The Medical College of Saint Bartholomew’s Hospital Trust supports the Centre of the Cell in employing Student Explainers. Gifts from our alumni to the Annual Fund has also supported this project in the past. As a recent graduate and alumni, how does it feel knowing that you’ve benefitted from this support?
I’m hugely grateful. I don’t think I’d be the doctor I am today without working at the Centre of the Cell. My general patient manners, communication skills, and confidence in explaining things were boosted heavily by working as a Student Explainer. It feels good knowing that I’ve benefitted from the system and I feel quite strongly that this continues for future medical and dental students who are looking to work in the Centre of the Cell. This experience is still benefitting me in terms of my skills, experience and building a close network.
Looking back, how has your Student Explainer role and study at Queen Mary help prepare you for your career?
I was quite shy when I first started medical school and I wasn’t good at public speaking. The Student Explainer role helped ease me into being more confident in myself and talking to others. You learn this in medical school, but working for the Centre of the Cell was a hands-on role where I could utilise those skills. I wouldn’t be sitting here doing this interview with you today had it not been for my experience at the Centre of the Cell. The role taught me a lot about how to explain things whether that’s medicine, science or things in general, which is a huge part of being a doctor. I had the opportunity to work with a diverse team of medical and dentistry students, office staff, scientists at the Blizard Institute. Having experience working in a team is crucial for a career in medicine because the job involves interacting with healthcare professionals to get the best outcome for patients. Also, I’m really interested in medical education and that wouldn’t have been possible without Centre of the Cell helping me develop my CV and skills for that type of role. I do a lot of teaching in the hospital I’m at currently so my experience as a Student Explainer helped me to be an effective educator.
Barts and The London prepare students to be good doctors and good communicators –this has been beneficial for me now as a doctor. I’ve applied for some clinical fellowship jobs so if I get it I’d take a year out of working in hospitals as a clinical doctor and spend a year working as an educator. My future goals have been influenced by the Barts and The London’s School of Medicine and Dentistry curriculum and my experience working for the Centre of the Cell.
What are your thoughts on the Centre of the Cell now?
I did see the time-lapsed video of the Neuron Pod, I saw it being shipped in, painted and constructed. It’s different and it looked quite strange to begin with but the end product is really cool. I’ve been inside the Neuron Pod and it looks quite fancy with the lights, and the acoustics are very good, I know they’ve had small music concerts in there.
Please tell us about a memorable experience at Queen Mary; this might include your first day, what your course was like, friends you made.
When I was working at the Centre of the Cell I was doing a pod show with one of my friends who I’d known for a year or two at that point. Kids would come in for their school trip, all very excited, and we would do a short speech at the start to introduce ourselves and the program for the day. So my friend started the speech and as she was about to introduce me as the assistant explainer for the pod show she had completely forgotten my name. I remember being outraged and I couldn’t control it so in front of all the kids I had a little go at her. To this day I never let her live it down.
Is there any advice you would give to current students or recent graduates?
I would definitely recommend students to work for the Centre of the Cell. I think it’s not impossible to have a job whilst going to medical school or if you don’t want a job you can still volunteer, join clubs and societies. I think medical schools get a bad rep of being insanely busy and having no free time to have a social life. It is possible!
I was quite a lazy student but I still managed to work for the Centre of the Cell and hang out with my friends outside of studying. So if I can do it then most people can. I would recommend getting involved in as many things as possible that can help you be a good communicator, I can’t stress how important that is going forward no matter what career you go down.