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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Undergraduate Fellowship in Psychiatry

Dr Emma Brandish is a foundation year two doctor 

Single best decision

Undergraduate Fellowship in Psychiatry

I entered medical school in 2006 as a graduate, having previously read International Business with French at Loughborough University. My first degree included an industrial placement year which I spent working in London at the head office of a high street fashion retailer. Working in fashion was exciting and I planned to return as a graduate, but I changed my mind during my final year and applied for medicine instead; this was the single best decision I have ever made.


As a second year medical student I became increasingly aware of the role of research in clinical practice. I knew absolutely nothing about research but wanted to learn more so I emailed my personal tutor for advice. He was a psychiatrist and he invited me to spend the summer vacation doing research with him. I successfully applied to the Wellcome Trust for a Vacation Scholarship which funded 8 weeks of basic research training and the opportunity to contribute to a number of different studies. During that summer I had my first taste of both clinical and academic psychiatry and I loved it. It was as if a light switched on - I knew what I wanted to do.



Further experience gained during my psychiatry clinical attachments increased its appeal. I enjoyed spending time with patients, talking to them, entering into their world and exploring. I became fascinated by the interaction between mental illness and the unique human experience of individual patients.


In 2010 I was awarded an Undergraduate Fellowship in Psychiatry. The Fellowship scheme is a Southampton initiative where clinical medical students with an expressed interest in psychiatry have the opportunity to compete for a monetary prize (to support educational development in psychiatry) and are assigned a psychiatrist mentor.  They are also encouraged to assume an active role in further development of the local student psychiatry society.


It was the combination of these academic and clinical experiences which prompted me to apply for an Academic Foundation Programme in Psychiatry to further explore my interest in the specialty.


Cement my career choice

Day hospitals for older people with mental illnessPost qualification I have frequently encountered significant psychopathology within the general hospital setting. I often considered how this contributes to the presentation of physical illness and it has served to remind me how important mental well-being is to overall health.  


Despite enjoying aspects of medical and surgical jobs I continue to be drawn to psychiatry and my four months as an academic FY2 in psychiatry has cemented my career choice. I have recently been appointed as an Academic Clinical Fellow in General Adult Psychiatry in the Wessex Deanery. I start in August 2012 and I am very much looking forward to the next stage of fmy psychiatric career.


I cannot deny that I have been lucky and mentorship has been a key factor in my progress to date. In particular, that of Professor David Baldwin and Dr Julia Sinclair who have supported me and guided me whilst introducing me to a world of clinical and academic possibilities. However, despite the convenience of having a receptive and supportive academic psychiatrist as a personal tutor I have met many psychiatrists who are extremely receptive to opportunistic emails from keen medical students and junior doctors looking for further clinical or academic experience. Therefore I would always encourage colleagues who express an interest in psychiatry to take that first step.


Psychiatry is still evolving, there is still so much to discover and learn, so much we don't understand and that is incredibly exciting. I want to be a part of its future. I shamelessly promote the virtues of psychiatry as a specialty wherever I go, both to medical students and to other doctors. I also encourage medical students and other junior doctors to consider academic medicine as I don't feel it is sufficiently well promoted to them yet it presents diverse, stimulating and exciting career opportunities.


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