Meet the Pathfinder fellows

Here you can read all about our current Pathfinder fellows, their hopes for the Fellowship and also their advice to prospective applicants! We hope they will inspire you to apply for future Fellowships.

Pathfinder fellows 2018

pf_2018_ellisiv_clarke_200x250Throughout my time at university, I have nursed a passion for both psychiatry and the promotion of good mental health. From our first lectures on the subject in second year, through my third-year clinical rotation and on to my fourth-year student-selected component, my fascination with the subject has nothing but thrived. This led to my decision to pursue my master’s research project in familial substance abuse and its effect on child health outcomes.

In my fourth-year student-selected component, I got my first taste of research. I set out to measure student attitudes to psychiatry in third-year students, and how it changed over the course of a four-week junior rotation.

This early experience piqued my interest in medical education and academic psychiatry. The natural next choice was to apply for the Pathfinder Fellowship. I chaired and led MedFest at Newcastle University in 2017, and one of the speakers was an academic psychiatrist who suggested I apply for the scheme.

Preparation for the Pathfinder Interview was challenging; I was forced to explore the reasons I was applying, the strengths and possible pitfalls of my research proposal and, perhaps the most daunting, trying to remember everything I had done in the field of psychiatry to fill a CV!

Particularly, I wanted my enthusiasm and dedication to psychiatry to be obvious to the interviewers. By reviewing the work I had done in the name of mental health, I reinforced my motivations not only to pursue psychiatry as a career, but also to act as an ambassador to other current and prospective students.

pf_2018_grace_crowley_200x250My interest in psychiatry developed during my first year of medical school, when I joined the Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) PsychSoc. Since then, I have been involved in organising events and welcoming a variety of speakers to the medical school to talk about a range of issues related to psychiatry.

I undertook the MSc Global Mental Health at the LSHTM and the IoPPN in my intercalated year, during which I learnt about the specific challenges and opportunities for researching mental illness and implementing services in countries “where there is no psychiatrist”. For my dissertation, I undertook a secondary data analysis looking at the characteristics and psychiatric morbidity among pregnant women with disordered personality traits.

As a past president of BSMS PsychSoc, I was part of the team that hosted the National Student Psychiatry Conference 2018. This was a fantastic opportunity to experience first-hand what goes on behind the scenes at conferences, and to work with the RCPscyh recruitment team.

I am honoured to be part of the Pathfinder Fellowship, and hope to use the resources to undertake a psychiatry elective and conduct some research into the factors that influence medical students to choose psychiatry. I would highly recommend applying for the fellowship as it a great opportunity to develop your career aspirations. Don’t worry if you have not got a highly established academic CV. My advice would be to use the process to gain valuable proposal writing and interview experience, and let your enthusiasm for psychiatry shine through!

pf_2018_natalie_ellis_200x250Hi, my name is Tilly, and I am currently a final year student at Cardiff University. My interest in mental health goes back to my time studying Psychology at A Level. I remember being fascinated by the way the human mind functions. During my second year of medical school, I was lucky enough to meet an extremely enthusiastic psychiatry trainee who told me about the Pathfinder Fellowship. It sounded like a fantastic opportunity and I was keen to apply when able to. I stayed in contact with her over the following years and began to explore what extracurricular activities were available within psychiatry.

As a result of this, I am one of the student leads involved in developing a student-led psychiatry audit and research collaborative (SPARC), allowing important psychiatry audits to be completed nation-wide by medical students across the UK. I also have a strong interest in both medical education and educating the general population about mental health. As part of a student selected component of my course, I helped to create a short film to educate the public and tackle mental health stigma. 

My advice to anyone thinking of applying for the Fellowship would be to start getting involved in extracurricular psychiatry activities early. Also, try to get in contact with an enthusiastic psychiatrist, or current Fellow, in your area who can guide you through your application and advise you on what questions to prepare for prior to interview. Best of luck!

pf_2018_jonathan_gibb_200x250I studied at both St Andrews and Manchester. My first exposure to psychiatry took place during my pre-clinical years where I completed my dissertation on antidepressant use and health-related quality of life among patients with cancer. After graduating, I was awarded a research fellowship in palliative medicine where I became involved in a RCT looking at the effects of ketamine, vs. placebo, on cancer-induced neuropathic pain. At the time, there was a great deal of interest around ketamine as an antidepressant agent which spurred me to go onto look at the secondary outcomes on participants reported levels of depression and anxiety. This experience of researching mood alongside working in a multidisciplinary team, where clinicians worked compassionately with patients, often with very complex health problems and backgrounds, pushed me to consider working in a holistic speciality such as psychiatry.

Now approaching the end of my degree, my most recent research has been around self-injury among the forensic population and trauma-informed practice. During student-selected components and elective, I undertook attachments in psychosexual medicine, liaison psychiatry, and gender identity. In the future, I’d like to potentially undertake research around the relationship between inflammation and affective disorders.

I’d highly recommend applying for the Pathfinder Fellowship. It’s been one of the highlights of my time at university. The best advice which I could give is arranging to meet with psychiatrists at your local university, trust, or deanery. By doing this, I developed insight into academic psychiatry and gained practical advice on my application. Be well prepared to discuss your CV, read a few interesting journal articles in advance, and, above all, be enthusiastic. Best of luck.

pf_2018_stuart_gooding_200x250I heard about the Pathfinder Fellowship in my first year studying medicine. By my third year, I had gained some experience related to psychiatry. I spent quite a long time on my application, and was excited to get an interview. The panel interview was a chance to have an interesting discussion about areas I was passionate about. I hope that the Fellowship will help me to maintain my enthusiasm for the speciality over the final years of medical school and as a foundation doctor, and help me to develop the early stages of my career, in terms of clinical interests and research aspirations through the opportunities that are offered.

My advice for applying would be if your drawn to it, then give it a go! Think about what you can do to build your knowledge and experience. This might mean reaching out to clinicians in your university about opportunities, speaking to local psychiatrists about events you could help organise and so on.

Psychiatrists are usually friendly and willing to provide advice, even if you’re shy. Often interesting things you have read, seen or done, may spark some conversation with the interviewers who most likely, want to get a sense of you as a whole and what you hope to achieve now and in the next few years.

pf_2018_niall_lally_200x250I am a final year student at the University of Warwick. Before medical school, I completed a PhD, which explored the neural and cognitive mechanisms underpinning novel treatments for depression. While my interest in psychiatry and neuroscience developed during my teenage years, it wasn’t until I worked with patients on a regular basis during my PhD that it became clear that clinical psychiatric work was the most appealing career.

 I am particularly inspired by recent research pioneering community psychiatry psychotherapeutic interventions in low and middle income countries such as Zimbabwe; given the lack of resources available in poorer countries, novel solutions such as training lay health workers in the administration of problem based cognitive behaviour therapy have been shown to be particularly effective. The Pathfinder Fellowship permits opportunities to explore first-hand such projects and participate in research on unique projects outside of the UK during the elective period. Furthermore, the chance to attend psychiatry conferences and meetings and liaise with like-minded meet individuals is extremely motivating for me.

For the interview, my advice is to be as open and honest as possible and show your passion for psychiatry; think about why you want to go into psychiatry, what motivates you about the field, and why your project is important to you.

I’m excited to be a Pathfinder Fellow and I’m looking forward to meeting like-minded and motivated individuals and also undertaking some exciting research on my elective.

pf_2018_mao_fong_lim_200x250My foray into the question of mental health was through an interest in people, as well as the arts, literature and film. Psychiatry as a career never really occurred to me before medical school. It was a combination of PsychSoc events, lectures, inspirational role models and perspective-shifting clinical experiences that made me realise that mental health was a topic that stimulated me – intellectually and emotionally. Above all, the narratives and stories were what really stuck with me.

Over the years I've slowly explored the wonderful world of Psychiatry - getting involved with PsychSoc (continuing the good work that got me into psychiatry in the first place) and taking up SSCs from psychotherapy to technology and mental health.

My vision is to be able to weave these various strands together into my future career as an interdisciplinary, creative psychiatrist. Through the Fellowship, I look forward to doing that through the mentorship I receive as well as being enabled to take up opportunities to build on my experiences and bridge the gaps between those strands.

Applying for the Fellowship was a huge nudge for me to gather what I had done in the past few years and build it into a coherent narrative about myself. Through it all, I got plenty of help from friends and mentors in refining my application and preparing for the interview - in the form of (hard but true) constructive criticism! In short, get involved, speak to people, just put yourself out there and don't be afraid to ask for all the help you need to let your true potential shine!

pf_2018_william_pettersson-yeo_200x250Currently in my 3rd year of the graduate-entry medicine course at the University of Oxford, I am delighted to have been awarded one of the Pathfinder Fellowships for 2018.

Prior to studying medicine, I completed an MRC funded PhD and 2 year post-doctoral fellowship at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London. The focus of my work was investigating the neural underpinnings of mental disorders such as psychosis, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder using magnetic resonance imaging, and exploring how these data could be used for prognostic and diagnostic purposes in combination with machine learning techniques.

Looking forward, my present ambition is to pursue a career in psychiatry combining research with clinical practice. In this regard, the Pathfinder Fellowship offers a comprehensive package of mentorship, conference attendance, and networking opportunities, alongside the chance to meet a number of like-minded peers; four elements that can be invaluable for the budding clinical academic.

In preparation for my own application, I talked to a current Pathfinder Fellow at my university, made sure I could articulate my motivations for pursuing the speciality, and designed a research proposal that was actually achievable. For those considering a career in psychiatry, I would strongly recommend applying for the Pathfinder Fellowship. The process is fair and open, and from my experience, the interview panel go out of their way to make you feel comfortable, and to bring the best out of you.

pf_2018_camilla_selous_200x250Psychiatry, as a specialty, captured my interest during the process of supporting a friend with an eating disorder. The experience impressed upon me the centrality of mental health to human flourishing and the transformative power of holistic psychiatric treatment. I was motivated to pioneer an art exhibition, in collaboration with the National Centre for Mental Health, empowering individuals with eating disorders to creatively share their stories in the forms of art and poetry. I have since developed an online interactive educational module for healthcare students, aimed at tackling the lack of undergraduate teaching on eating disorders. More widely, voluntary work in the Republic of Moldova and Democratic Republic of Congo has given me a broader understanding of the psychological impact of violence and conflict.

I applied for the Pathfinder Fellowship primarily because of the mentorship, which along with the education, networking and funding opportunities make it invaluable in the development of a career in academic psychiatry. I was also keen to meet like-minded students and doctors.

In preparation, I would suggest researching an elective proposal that you are genuinely passionate. My proposal involved collaborating on novel research into the post-trafficking mental health needs of women trafficked as brides from Myanmar to China, combining my interests in fighting modern slavery and women’s mental health. For the interview, you should prepare for questions such as “What are your career aspirations?” and “Why did you apply”. Equally, make sure you are up to speed with recent developments in in the specialty and be prepared to talk about a recent article or research paper you have read. The interview is ultimately a friendly discussion of why you are interested in psychiatry so see it as an opportunity to let your enthusiasm shine!

pf_2018_cameron_watson_200_250Initially my fascination with the human mind was piqued at secondary school during a project on Shakespearean depictions of ‘madness’ and ‘sanity’. Ever since, I have been driven to understand the brain as an organ which is not just inextricably linked with everyday function, but can manifest in some of the most disabling conditions known to humankind.

I first heard about the Pathfinder scheme in my second year of medicine, during a two-week psychiatry teaching case. Following this, I have undertaken several projects at the Medical Research Council’s Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics. My principal research interest concerns the genetic foundations of neuropsychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia and autism.

The Pathfinder Fellowship provides an unparalleled opportunity for students with an interest in psychiatry to meet like-minded individuals who too wish to be advocates for better mental health. The most appealing benefits of the Fellowship to me was the opportunity for personal mentorship from current psychiatrists, along with the invitation to the international congress, to see first-hand how cutting-edge research could be translated into improving patient outcomes.

Although I would be lying if I did not say it was daunting beforehand, the interview was a surprisingly enjoyable. The panel were extremely kind and gave ample opportunity to demonstrate personal passions and drivers for a career in psychiatry. My advice to prospective interviewees would be to try and enjoy the process; interviews at a Royal College do not come about often. Secondly, do not worry about the fact that some candidates may seem to have an alphabet of PhDs and MDs to their name. Although this is highly impressive, the panel want to know what you can offer psychiatry in the future, not the past.

Pob Lwc, Cam!

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