Here you can read all about the 2018 Foundation Fellows, their hopes for the Fellowship and also their advice to prospective applicants! We hope they will inspire you to apply for future Fellowships
I first became interested in psychiatry through volunteering at an inpatient mental health unit in East London. At the time I was working in a completely different field having done an economics degree and my volunteering experience really helped me decide to pursue a career in medicine, where I would have the chance to directly and positively impact peoples’ lives.
After starting medical school, I developed my knowledge of psychiatry through attending events like the RCPsych Summer School and the International Congress. Early involvement in my university’s PsychSoc was a key factor in driving my interest as I was able to learn from working alongside students to organise events, including leading the society during my fourth year and helping to organise the National Student Psychiatry Conference.
I have an interest in the growing and diverse areas of research regarding how the brain and body interact in psychiatric and other disorders. This was developed through research and teaching I did alongside the academic psychiatry department in Brighton and during my elective at a centre for neuroimaging in psychosis in New York City.
I'm honoured to be selected as a Foundation Fellow to develop my career interest in psychiatry, especially as I will be completing a rotation in Liaison Psychiatry during my first year of training. It will be useful to have access to benefits such as mentorship, training resources and access to conference funding during a demanding time in my career. Crucially, the Fellowship will aid me in carrying out a key part of my role as a foundation doctor; being an ambassador for individuals with mental health problems and psychiatry as a speciality.
I was fortunate enough to discover psychiatry in my first year of medical school but I didn't understand how exciting and rewarding it could be until my intercalated year. I was surrounded by people who all had a passion for mental health, and through them I discovered that psychiatric research is reaching a new and exciting era driven by cutting edge technologies and international collaborations.
I applied to the Foundation Fellowship as I saw it as unmissable opportunity to further my passion for psychiatry and most importantly to share said passion with others. With mentorship and support through the Fellowship I will continue tackling the toxic concept that 'psychiatry is not medicine'. Currently I am working with Cardiff University to introduce an undergraduate medical simulation course focusing on managing acute medical problems in psychiatric patients.
I was particularly attracted to the Fellowship because of the mentorship scheme where we will have an assigned mentor from the College faculty of our interest. Having someone who has more knowledge and experience than yourself is crucial, as they can guide you to opportunities you didn't know existed.
After a tough final year of medical school, I took applying for the Foundation Fellowship as a chance to reassess why I chose psychiatry. I passed my CV to as many colleagues and mentors as possible, as well as having all my colleagues ask me: 'why psychiatry?'. My advice is for applying is to take the time to immerse yourself in psychiatry and talk to as many people as possible and especially your colleagues who say they are not interested in psychiatry.
My curiosity about the psyche and the challenges of living are the accompanying pursuits that have vitalised my medical training and drawn me towards a career in psychiatry and psychotherapy.
After attending numerous psychiatric placements and completing a year of training as a psychotherapist, I realised that psychiatry is a holistic discipline that amalgamates my interests in a way that can truly benefit others.
I feel that psychiatry will always make for an interesting career because of its challenging and multifaceted nature and its rapidly expanding research base. I am particularly drawn to the privileges of working closely with patients and colleagues, learning from their unique experiences, and improving my capacities for being a compassionate, empathetic and thoughtful person. I am eager to bring a medical perspective to my psychotherapy training, whilst using what I learn as a therapist to improve my patient-centred approach and to contribute to the psychiatric community.
I believe that what the Fellowship offers may be of great help for maintaining enthusiasm during the challenging period to come. Being in proximity to others that have a similar animation for the subject as I do will be a great pleasure and useful for expanding my horizons.
Moreover, I thought it would be an honour to act as a beacon of enthusiasm and professionalism for psychiatry and uphold its standards of integrity in my pursuits. In the end, I simply hope to make the most of the opportunities that the Fellowship offers to meet others with similar interests, contribute to the speciality, and flourish as an individual and a professional in preparation for a career in psychiatry.
I entered medicine as a graduate after an undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences at Oxford, a Masters by Research (looking at the emotional component of pain in dogs) at Bristol and some time spent as a teacher and in international development.
I applied for the Fellowship as I want to do academic psychiatry, am planning a complicated career path and thought it would help me be a better psychiatrist and help me navigate my career! I hope to do dual specialisation, a PhD and further research, study population health and work overseas in a development context. The Fellowship offers mentorship, which will be highly valuable to me, in addition to its countless opportunities to meet psychiatrists and researchers from across the country and indeed the world, who will be fabulous sources of information and suggestions.
I hope the Fellowship will help me with several things. One is advice from current psychiatrists about the clinical and practical components of the job, about preparing for specialist training and details of what doing the job entails. Once you’ve picked a speciality, the task becomes how to be a good member of that speciality.
Perhaps most important is the chance to meet some of the leading academic psychiatrists. Some of whom will share my interest in population health psychiatry and might become collaborators and partners. The crux of the research I want to do is about what makes a rich and worthwhile life and can it be measured, psychiatrists have a unique insight into that question. Being involved in the College gives you opportunities to meet the researchers whose work you’ve read, via countless events and conferences.
Since I was young, I’ve been interested in how other people think and experience the world. This interest in psychology and the human mind stayed with me through to medical school, where I always enjoyed any teaching we had on mental health, as well as social determinants of health, and psychology in medicine. Despite this, I didn’t really consider psychiatry as a career until I volunteered with Student Minds, an organisation which, amongst other things, runs peer support groups for people with eating disorders.
I want to pursue a career in academic psychiatry and it is for this reason that the Fellowship was so appealing. The wealth of opportunities and resources on offer from networking at conferences, to access to major psychiatric journals, means that I can really make the most out of my research rotation. The mentorship on offer is also something that I am really excited about.
During my time as a Fellow, I want to use it as a platform to be an advocate for psychiatry by taking part in the education of medical students whilst a foundation doctor. The online training and access to meetings and conferences means that I will be able to develop my skills as a teacher, as well as my skills as a clinician and an academic.
I prepared for the interview by reading some journal articles from the parts of psychiatry that I am particularly interested in. One of my main hobbies is reading fiction and it happens that I read Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks recently, which had a big effect on me and how I view psychiatry and our treatment of mental illness.
I developed an interest in psychiatry early during my medical course, while working on a literature review on the role of the gut microbiota in the pathogenesis of mood disorders as part of my intercalated degree.
My interest in psychiatry developed further during my clinical studies when I undertook placements in General Adult Psychiatry and CAMHS outpatients, as well as day placements at inpatient and forensic institutions, which gave me a broad overview of psychiatry as a field. More recently I was fortunate to undertake SSMs at Broadmoor Hospital where I was able to learn more about forensic psychiatry and at the Gender Identity Clinic.
There are many reasons why psychiatry interests me, but I think the time you get to spend with patients, the stories you have the privilege to hear and the profound impact you can have on patient’s lives as a psychiatrist make the speciality so appealing.
I’m looking forward to making the most of the Fellowship and the exciting opportunities on offer. I’m eager to receive mentorship to develop my interest in psychiatry and to receive guidance on professional development, which I hope will support my attendance at psychiatry-related activities and the International Congress.
The interview was challenging but also an opportunity to explore my interests and explain why I had applied for the Fellowship. I prepared by considering how best to articulate my interest in the specialty, thinking about how I could make the most of the opportunities and looking back on what I had learnt from the projects I discussed in my application.
During my undergraduate training at the University of Edinburgh, I found myself increasingly drawn to Psychiatry; this interest was initially sparked during my intercalated degree year when I undertook a BMedSci with honours in Literature and Medicine. My intercalated degree enabled me to reflect on Psychiatry of the past, present and future, and highlighted the important role that creative outlets play in providing platforms for the better understanding of illness narratives and the experiences of patients.
During my clinical years, I continued to nurture my passion for Psychiatry and explore my interests within the specialty. I have been the Vice-President for the past academic year of Edinburgh University Psychiatry Society; attending and organising PsychSoc events has been an invaluable experience, in particular being involved with our Psychiatry in Partnership lecture series in collaboration with other medical societies, that explored the role that Psychiatry plays throughout healthcare.
To prepare for the interview, I reviewed my application and the literature I had recently read. Most importantly, I contemplated on what it is exactly that draws me to Psychiatry and what I hope to get out of my future career, as well as what I felt I could bring to the speciality as a Fellow.
I am passionate about education, and hope to explore education opportunities within Psychiatry through the Fellowship; in particular, the role of medical education in creating a culture of care where patients receive sensitive and appropriate mental healthcare throughout the NHS, and the role of collaborating with third sector organisations to empower patients and tackle the stigma surrounding mental illness.
My passion for psychiatry stems from numerous clinical interactions during my placements in the specialty, particularly in forensic psychiatry. Working with offenders with mental illness demonstrated to me the far-reaching implications that psychiatric morbidity can have upon a person’s functioning, quality of life, relationships and interactions with society.
It is this potentially all-consuming nature of mental illness, and the stigma that unfortunately can be associated with it, which inspires me to advocate for, support and treat persons requiring mental health services. I am also drawn to the holistic nature of psychiatry, reminding me of one of my core motives fuelling my decision to become a doctor – not just to treat illness, but to help patients recover from all experiences associated with it.
I have sought out numerous opportunities to enhance my exposure to forensic psychiatry; these include a student-selected placement at Rampton Hospital, shadowing opportunities at various prisons and an elective with Forensicare in Australia.
I have co-founded Psychstart: a mentoring scheme for medical students interested in psychiatry, which over 50 students paired with mentors across the East Midlands.
I applied for this fellowship to continue navigating my career trajectory into forensic psychiatry, network with like-minded individuals and further my personal/professional development.
I would encourage anybody with an interest in mental health to apply! In preparation for my interview, I thought carefully about how my previous experiences had culminated in my decision to pursue psychiatry and about how I would maximise all award components.
One of my main motivations for applying for the Fellowship was witnessing a few incidents on my acute medical placement - a patient’s mental health needs were either ignored or not deemed to be as important as their physical needs. To prepare for my interview for the Fellowship I reflected on these incidents and during my interview emphasised how distressing I had found this artificial dichotomy of the patient’s mind and body. I am keen to be an ambassador for the Royal College of Psychiatrists and to push for more integration of psychiatry into the education of all specialities because every patient has mental health needs.
One of my great passions is English literature which I was able to indulge during my intercalated degree. This move to an arts course was challenging yet rewarding and that enhanced my knowledge of medical ethics and history as well as literary theory. I am intrigued by the therapeutic possibilities that lie in integrating the humanities with mental health treatment and I would love to carry out similar projects when I am working as a junior doctor in psychiatry.
Outside of my medical practice I love being part of volunteering and activist groups. Through two years of working for the university charity helpline, Nightline, I became even more aware of the burden mental health has on so many young people and how isolating it can be. I’ve volunteered for Help Refugees in Calais and I have worked with a GP and junior doctor to set up a weekly conversation club for migrants who are learning English in the Birmingham area.
I originally came to medicine from a very different background. Having gained a BA in history I subsequently worked as an arts journalist and editor before starting on King’s College London’s Graduate Entry Programme. While converting to medicine as a mature student was challenging, I have ultimately found that psychiatry rewards students and professionals with a broad range of interests.
I’ve been interested in psychiatry for a long time – but I had no thoughts of it as a career until undertaking a Student Selected Component in forensic psychiatry during my third year in undergraduate medicine. I began attending psychiatry conferences, entering essay-writing competitions, and joining KCL’s PsychSoc committee. In my final year, I had two elective placements in psychiatry. Throughout all this, I especially liked that psychiatry demands a detailed understanding of an individual patient, while also making us think about big ideas involving society, culture, and personality.
It was this long-term interest in psychiatry that attracted me towards applying for a Foundation Fellowship. While the foundation years are a time of practical experience – learning the job of being a doctor – with new pressures and responsibilities, I do not want to lose sight of the big ideas and opportunities that first attracted me to psychiatry.
When preparing for my Fellowship application, I focused on these reasons behind my interest in psychiatry and how they had shaped – and been shaped by – my experiences in the speciality until now. Before the interview, I did not prepare for specific questions or rehearse responses; instead I thought more generally about what I would like to achieve in my foundation years and, even more broadly, my future in medicine and psychiatry.
As I progressed through medical school, and the contact with patients increased, I was often irritated by the oddly limited opportunities to talk with patients, their lives, their interests and the real causes of their admissions. As interesting as medicine and surgery are, the clinical buzz often gets in the way of actual medicine, and as Harvey Cushing said "a physician is obligated to consider more than a diseased organ, more even than the whole man - he must view the man in his world. "Psychiatry, more than other specialities accepts and enacts this maxim. Furthermore, like most people, the subject of my university study is not my only interest. The capacity for psychiatry instead to facilitate intersectional interests in philosophy, theology, anthropology and the social sciences is vital.
Chiefly currently concerning the role of built environments' impact toward common mental health disorders, my academic interests, have been fuelled by my politics, and love of nature and my home town. Following my intercalated MSc in Global Mental Health jointly with the IoPPN and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, my elective with the WHO Europe Centre of Environment and Health, and being a research associate with the Centre of Urban Design and Mental Health, I now work primarily looking at the role of green spaces for population mental health benefit.
I looked to becoming a Foundation Fellow because of the networking opportunities it presented. Along with academic support, a career development budget and this open network of like-minded people, the Foundation Fellowship is an opportunity, novel among the royal colleges, to facilitate one's interests, keep up to date, and engage easily with the zeitgeist - I encourage you to apply if you are interested in psychiatry.
I’ve been passionate about psychiatry since the first few lectures at medical school on behavioural psychology (before starting medicine, I didn’t even realise psychiatrists had medical degrees, so I’ve come a long way!). Learning about mental health through medical school developed my passion for psychiatry more and more, and I soon realised that it seemed the perfect career for me, balancing neuroscience and pharmacology with holistic, social and conversational approaches.
I’ve been a member of the Royal College for a while now and having just graduated and left my role on the Leeds psychiatry society, I wanted to stay involved in the College however possible, and so applied for the Fellowship. The opportunities available through the Fellowship are fantastic; the mentoring scheme will be highly useful for those difficult days as a foundation doctor over the next two years.
It’s vital that as doctors we look after our own mental health, to ensure we are providing the best care possible for our patients. Also, attending College events and dinners will give me an opportunity to learn from others and network with psychiatrists from around the country, which I’m really looking forward to.
In terms of preparing for my interview, I found this quite difficult as it fell right in the middle of my finals exams! The College were really understanding of this, and offered me a telephone interview instead. In between revision, I prepared by thinking about what I could offer the College, along with what I was most excited by in terms of the fellowship opportunities.
I was attracted to psychiatry as it is a field that touches every aspect of our lives and asks questions that interest medics and non-medics alike. I loved my psychiatry placement and enjoyed the deep interactions you get to have with patients.
I have co-authored a Cochrane Review on the use of sodium valproate in acute mania and taken the lead on projects to help support fellow medical students in their mental health. I have also try to help spread my fascination with psychiatry to others in my role as the president of Oxford Psychiatric Society.
I applied for the Fellowship as I recognise that the foundation years are a critical period of development where we finally get to start becoming doctors! I had previous experience of mentorship from a senior psychiatrist and I know how helpful it is to have an experienced figure when trying to decide how best to spend your time and troubleshoot any problems you come across.
To prepare for the interview I did research on the Fellowship itself, what it offered and thought about how this suited me and fitted in with my past interests and experiences. I also made sure I was very familiar with the projects I had done as some of them I had completed a few years ago!
I hope that by the Fellowship will support me in gaining a clearer picture of where within psychiatry I see my clinical and academic careers developing. I also hope to have completed some research within the psychiatric field and present this work at a conference, perhaps the International congress itself.
I went straight into studying medicine from A-levels and had no prior experience of psychiatry. I became interested during my psychiatry rotation in the 4th year of medical school. I really enjoyed the specialism from an academic point of view, but it was having such an inspiring supervisor that really confirmed my feelings.
I took a year out from the course after this to explore other interests and earn some money, something which I’m sure most medical students can relate to. I became involved in organising a film festival at the Barbican Centre and working in post-graduate medical education in an administrative role.
When I returned to the degree, I found I could make a contribution using the skills I had learnt while away. I became involved in the university psychiatry society and helped run the local MedFest film festival, mock exams and careers events. I attended summer schools and completed my final year essay on the topic of “Psychiatry on Film”.
I was incredibly glad to hear that the college were introducing Foundation Fellowships and applied immediately. The benefit that most interested me was the chance to have a mentor in psychiatry for the duration of foundation training. Someone who has experience of progressing through the training programme would obviously be able to provide invaluable advice.
My advice for anyone who is considering applying for a fellowship would firstly be… do it. After that, I’d suggest that if you have a keen interest in psychiatry and are already gaining experience and exploring the speciality through whatever means then you will probably be well suited for it!