Pathfinder fellows 2017
Whilst I’ve had a long standing interest in behavioural sciences, it was in my third year psychiatry rotation that my passion for psychiatry was truly realised. What appealed to me the most, was that psychiatry seemed to be the specialty in which having a creative approach to your medical practice was truly celebrated.
With the majority of my undergraduate training in psychiatry now over, the Pathfinder Fellowship stood out as an ideal opportunity to continue to immerse myself in the field and explore where a career in psychiatry could take me. Furthermore, with my interest in academic medicine peaking during the clinical years of medical school, the Fellowship gives me the unique opportunity to learn more about a career in academic psychiatry.
In preparation for the interview I read through the advice given by current Pathfinders on the RCPsych website, reviewed my CV and went over my research proposal with my supervisor who helped me put the proposal together. Additionally, I arranged mock interviews with my class mates and a psychiatrist. In retrospect this was the most important part of my preparation, and I encourage all candidates shortlisted for interview to do the same. You need be able to effectively articulate why you want to be pathfinder fellow and why you want to pursue a career in psychiatry.
With the aid of my mentor, I am sure the fellowship will enable me to refine my interests within psychiatry and explore how I could combine my interests in academic and global into a future career as a psychiatrist.
Hello, I'm Amy, currently an FY1 in Oxfordshire. Throughout medical school, I had an interest in global mental health, culture and belief and the mental health of communities. As a doctor I feel privileged to have the opportunity to learn about people and to try to help them; I feel that psychiatry offers a unique insight into people's lives and our understanding of the world and so it has always been top of my list of possible specialties.
During medical school, I have been fortunate to work abroad during the summers in a public and mental health capacity in Tanzania, Ghana, Greece, France and Copenhagen. Through this I've met a community of enthusiastic medics and psychiatrists who were passionate about their roles and happy to share their experiences. I also met Pathfinders at Psyched events who encouraged me to apply to the scheme and told me about doors it had opened for them. Being a Pathfinder has allowed me to further my research interests, it funded my research in The Jungle in Calais, helped me to present my research internationally and supported work with refugees in Greece during my elective.
Having a mentor in psychiatry allowed me to gain an insight into academic psychiatry and the Fellowship is a great opportunity to be part of a community that sustains my enthusiasm for study and research. I would encourage all students with an interest in psychiatry to apply for the Pathfinder Fellowship.
The Pathfinder Fellowship was recommended to me as an invaluable opportunity for a potential psychiatrist to receive incredible support and guidance as they transition from a medical student to a foundation doctor considering their specialty. The major appeal for me is the support and guidance offered by the Royal College, in particular the assignment of a mentor for the 3 years of the Fellowship. There are a number of other attractive reasons as to why I applied for the Fellowship: the generous funding offered to contribute to research projects and placements; and the access to online training modules and college journals.
I prepared for the interview by reading the numerous profiles of previous and current Pathfinder Fellows available on the RCPsych website. I ensured that I was familiar with my application and could confidently talk about various projects, including the project that I had outlined. I contacted and liaised with a number of academics and clinicians in the Department of Psychiatry at my University and asked for their advice and the availability of specific projects. I keep up to date with current publications and trends and regularly read the news in psychiatry, I continued to do this and expanded my reading to other sources of media.
I hope that the Fellowship allows me the opportunity to pursue my passion for psychiatry by continuing my research career and integrating that with my clinical practice and training. Most importantly I hope that it will help me to identify a longer-term career path that I could further develop as an academic psychiatrist trainee.
Being a Pathfinder is an unrivalled opportunity for those interested in psychiatry. After graduating from UCL with a degree in Biological Sciences in 2014, I began graduate entry medicine with a keen interest in psychiatry from the outset. Mental health has always been on my radar but experiences as part of KCL Psychiatry Society Committee have alerted me to the extent to which psychiatric illness permeates through our society, often going unnoticed and untreated. The opportunity to visit Broadmoor Hospital and observe the complex interface between mental illness and the British judicial system was a particularly memorable experience for me.
I found out about Pathfinders at the National Student Psychiatry Conference, where a group of current Pathfinders were promoting the Fellowship. They were all incredibly enthusiastic about it and I found myself very keen to apply. A personal mentor, subscriptions to journals and online training packages, invitations to College events and funding towards a psychiatry elective was a chance not to be missed.
Attending International Congress is always a highlight for me. Hearing about the hugely broad base of cutting edge psychiatry research being conducted worldwide, including research from other junior doctors and even medical students is so inspiring, and it’s always a really fun few days.
Good luck with your application – I hope to see you at a Pathfinders event soon!
I was drawn to the Pathfinder Fellowship for the generous funding and opportunities, the guidance on establishing a career in psychiatry and the chances to meet other like-minded students, which I think will all be really useful for the future. To prepare for the application, I talked to a current Pathfinder Fellow at my university for advice and read as much as I could find about the Fellowship and its place in the RCPsych Recruitment Strategy. For the interview, I made sure I could give a good explanation of what motivates me about psychiatry, how my experiences have shaped my decision to pursue a career in mental health and what I hope to do with the elective funding. I had already sketched out a research project with academics in Queensland, Australia to learn about integrating statistical genetics with epidemiology in the study of mental disorders. I think it really helped to have a clear idea about what the Fellowship funding would support, even if the details weren’t all worked out, and to be able to show that I’d taken some steps to make sure it would be feasible and valuable. Probably most importantly, I did my best to stay calm and let my enthusiasm come through.
I think it’s an exciting time to go into psychiatry. Scientific advances, shifts in how we conceptualise mental illness and overdue societal recognition of the importance of mental health mean that there will be opportunities to really reshape the field for the better. I want to be part of that change, ideally combining research and clinical practise as an academic psychiatrist. That isn’t the easiest path, but I’m sure the Fellowship will help navigate the important next steps.
I applied for the Pathfinder Fellowship after attending a few psychiatry summer schools and student conferences: it was going to these events and hearing more about psychiatry as a career that made me think about applying. Psychiatry is the element of medicine I am most interested in but as I have yet to do my psychiatry placement I have had to find opportunities around my course to find out more about it. The support that the Fellowship has to offer was something that really appealed to me. Careers support is so important and having such a solid support early on in my journey into medicine was one of the main reasons I applied.
In preparation for the interview I read the biographies of previous applicants and read over my application very carefully making sure I was able to talk about the things I had done. I thought about the obvious questions that might be asked such as ‘Why psychiatry’, but rather than prepare answers I took the time to reflect honestly with myself about why I was considering this path. The questions I was asked made me wish I had prepared a bit more about the research I was proposing and about what I had hoped to get out of the Fellowship.
During my time as a Fellow I hope to develop my interest in psychiatry further but also sure up my knowledge base with the help of the access to CPD modules. I look forward to meeting my mentor and hope to get involved in research. I feel incredibly privileged to have this opportunity and look forward to making the most of it.
As for how I came to be a Pathfinder Fellow, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to do an intercalated BSc in psychology between 3rd and 4th years. During this time I was introduced to the Pathfinder Fellowship by Dr J Harrison, who was instrumental to my success, and I would encourage any hopeful applicant to seek out a psychiatrist to support them in their plight.
As part of my intercalated degree I analysed some fMRI data from bipolar patients and their relatives with a view to validate a theoretical candidate endophenotype. This work is ongoing and sparked my interest in the biological underpinnings of psychiatric disease as well as in the insights we can gain from neuroimaging. I plan continue working with fMRI by contributing to a Randomised-Controlled Trial of repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) in South Africa, as well as through interim projects with my mentor. The latter support structure is one of the absolute strengths of the Pathfinder Fellowship and something that attracted me above the other benefits.
If you are considering applying to the Fellowship I would strongly recommend you do the following. Your elective proposal is of great importance, know it and anticipate being asked in depth about it. If the proposal is good it will sell itself, but you need to be able to talk around the topic too. Also, be up to date with mental health news and ready to talk about some relevant literature you’re interested in, it helps. Overall, enjoy yourself.
I have been interested in Psychiatry as a specialty since the beginning of my medical studies, but it has only been through my involvement with the university society that I have been able to develop this pursuit and realise it as a potential career path. A particular highlight was organising the 2016 National Student Psychiatry Conference. Through this I was able to discover the wealth of fascinating research happening in and around Edinburgh. Of particular interest to me was a talk exploring the functional symptoms Oliver Sacks described in ‘A Leg to Stand On’. This inspired my current SSC research project which aims to assess the level and timing at which functional symptoms are taught in medical schools globally.
Through continued work with the society I am passionate about deconstructing myths surrounding psychiatry and its patients. This year we are working to demonstrate the pervasiveness of mental health conditions within all healthcare sectors and the subsequent necessity for all medical students to be informed and equipped to manage them. Part of this work includes hosting a collaborative lecture series with various other medical societies to demonstrate the interdependent nature of the field.
In applying for the Fellowship I began by reviewing all the things I had been involved with and specifically what drove me to do them. In that way I could set out a clear overview of my interests in the specialty and how I had developed these. For the interview I made sure I had read over my research abstract and the relevant contextual literature and was confident that I could explain the rationale behind the work.
I’m Evie and I am now an FY1 at St Peter’s Hospital, having studied Medicine and a Neuroscience & Mental Health BSc at Imperial College London.
Fascinated by the workings of the mind since school, I developed a specific interest in dementia. Incredible opportunities to explore Alzheimer’s Disease at UCL, KCL and Imperial made it possible to look at many areas from the neurochemical basics in mice, blood biomarkers for early identification in clinical trials, to establishing risk factors accelerating disease progression. I was convinced that I would end up following an academic career after I graduated. However, in my fourth-year BSc, I turned my interests on their head and have found myself intrigued by the manifestations of mental illness in children.
I have enjoyed investigating the many aspects of a career in Psychiatry and this was one of the great appeals of the Pathfinder Fellowship, that I could use it to continue my exploration. The Fellowship has already facilitated my elective in Auckland, New Zealand doing paediatric consult liaison and two research projects in Adolescent Mental Health and Anorexia Nervosa.
A brief note on the interview: know your application well and include things that you are passionate about. Think how you will use the fellowship to encourage others, alongside thinking about what it would mean for you. Even if you have doubts that you might be too inexperienced to apply, just go for it. My route to Psychiatry was long and winding, yet I am glad that I took my time as it means I am now sure this is the path I wish to follow.
I first became interested in psychiatry via my other passion- medical ethics and humanities. My initial interest was sparked during an internship with the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in which I carried out research into psychiatric ethics- for example issues to do with capacity and reproductive decision making. In medical school, I participated in humanities related psychiatry SSCs, MEDFEST, and carried out research into how educational interventions- studying literature and poetry can alter students' perceptions and stigma towards mental illness and psychiatry as a medical specialty. The idea that psychiatry is the specialty most naturally aligned with humanities is not new, but appears obvious given the consequences of mental illness are inextricably linked to many philosophical concepts such as the reality of the conscious experience, compulsions and the free will question, and ethical issues such as consent and capacity.
It was for these reasons that I was excited to learn about the pathfinder fellowship and the excellent opportunities that it offers to budding psychiatrists. I was particularly drawn to applying given my interest in academic psychiatry. Whilst in medical school I have had the opportunity to participate in various internships, researching the under-recognition of anxiety in primary care; fMRI mapping of semantic memory pathways; and PTSD care provision - the subject of my pathfinder proposal.
For my application, I tailored my CV so that it reflected my interest in psychiatry both academically and within medical school. To prepare for the interview, make sure you know about your research/elective/SSC proposal in depth. I dedicated time to reading around the subject of my research proposal enough that I felt confident explaining what we hoped to achieve and possible limitations. Ultimately it is a very friendly and relaxed interview so just focus on demonstrating your genuine enthusiasm and interest in psychiatry!
I first became interested in psychiatry during my BMedSci (Hons) Literature and Medicine intercalation at the University of Edinburgh. My interest in mental health was concerned with mental health and psychosocial support in complex emergencies, violence and conflicts. With a focus on vulnerable populations in the Middle East I hope to be able to contribute to the increasing body of evidence which argues that mental health cannot be ignored in humanitarian crises settings. My work in this area has given me the chance to work in Geneva at the World Health Organisation and in Palestine and Jordan.
I applied for the Fellowship primarily because I knew the funding, education and training, as well as the networks in the academic community, would be invaluable for my personal and career development. In preparation, I suggest making sure you know your CV inside out, so that you will be able to talk about how the key points has helped contribute to your understanding of psychiatry. Equally prepare a recent article or research of interest that you can talk about. Make sure you are clued into recent developments in the specialty including topics such as recruitment. I think it’s an exciting time to be interested in psychiatry and people are realising how unique and how fundamentally important mental health is to our health and wellbeing. The Pathfinder Fellowship is a great way of being part of that change.
I believe psychiatry offers a unique opportunity to understand and appreciate the intricate subtleties of mental health and human nature whilst being able to explore the scientific underpinnings of mental illness. For me, these human, scientific and intellectual dimensions to Psychiatry, combined with the central importance of mental health to patient well-being, makes Psychiatry one of the most challenging yet rewarding specialties.
I first came across the Pathfinder Fellowship on the RCPsych website. I decided to apply for the Fellowship because I felt that it would be invaluable in facilitating my passion towards psychiatry through a variety of opportunities and ultimately deepen my motivation to be a psychiatrist. The psychiatrists I have met so far were instrumental in harnessing my passion and I think the opportunity to have the personalised guidance and support of a mentor through the Fellowship will help me make important decisions about how to best navigate my future career.
I prepared for the interview by re-reading my cover letter, CV and project proposal very thoroughly, and I would recommend having a concrete understanding of the all the aspects that you would like to discuss or are likely to be asked about, for example, any research you may have already done. It is important that you have a good understanding of your proposal, as well as some literature around it, as the interview panel asked me to discuss my research proposal in a lot of detail. And finally, don't feel intimidated by the thought of being interviewed by a panel of senior psychiatrists! They were extremely friendly, and the interview is a great opportunity to let your passion and interest in psychiatry shine!
Coming to medical school where most students and doctors are not interested in psychiatry has been challenging, but getting involved in student societies with like-minded people has given me the opportunity to learn more about Psychiatry. I am now President of my university PsychSoc, which has allowed me to educate my fellow students about different aspects of psychiatry through a wide variety of events and network with local psychiatrists. Through these contacts I have attended local conferences, organised additional placements and conducted audits. I have also taken steps to increase my knowledge of clinical research, conducting a systematic review during a summer research project and critically appraising mental health research for the Mental Elf Blog.
I was lucky to be able to attend the RCPsych Annual Meeting during my first year and attended a networking event for Student Associates where I met current Pathfinder Fellows. Hearing their enthusiasm for psychiatry and the scheme encouraged me to find out more. Networking opportunities at the annual meeting, funding for an elective or research project and the opportunity to be matched with a mentor for the next 3 years until I apply for speciality training was an opportunity I did not want to miss.
For the interview you need to be able to speak about why you are interested in psychiatry and the Fellowship. I was also asked about current issues affecting psychiatry as well as articles and books I had read on psychiatry. While my interests lie in academic psychiatry, Pathfinder Fellows are diverse and aren’t just interested in research, they are interested in reducing stigma and in public education and engagement, a Pathfinder Fellow is ultimately someone who is passionate about psychiatry.
During the fifth-year psychiatry placement, I was struck by the humanity and compassion with which psychiatrists approached their patients. Moreover, the role of open-minded creativity in psychiatric practice, both in order to devise novel, personalized strategies for engaging and empowering individuals was especially motivating.
While quite tangential to the practice of psychiatry, my foray into molecular biology allowed me to foster an interest in genomics and computational analysis. Advances in these techniques, coupled with imaging developments, have arguably rendered the core questions in psychopathology and psychiatric epidemiology truly tractable only within recent years. From the perspective of a student eager to pursue a career in academic medicine, the prospect of being better engaged with this research – as is offered by the Pathfinder Fellowship – is tremendously exciting.
Outside of the medical course, I have strong interest in health equity and grassroots movements to redress their implications, particularly for mental health care provision. Having previously assisted in organising a conference covering the health issues inherent in the current refugee crisis, I am presently involved with an initiative to improve access to primary care for newly-arrived refugee families and young people in Oxford.
I would wholly recommend applying for the Fellowship! The interview in London was a challenging but extremely rewarding experience: it’s a fantastic opportunity to share your interest in the specialty through an in-depth discussion of your project and research plans. It was also tremendously friendly! Before attending, I would advise reflecting on the formative moments of your psychiatry placement – especially those that sparked your initial interest, but also those that challenged your preconceptions of medical and psychiatric practice. Good luck!
Though I decided to follow psychiatry during my time here at medical school, in hindsight, I feel that I have been drawn to the discipline for most of my life.
I have volunteered as a support worker with organisations like the Refugee Therapy Centre and the Maytree Suicide Respite Centre. There, I spent hours talking to patients at high risk of suicide- no topic was off limits, and I learned quickly of the intensity of struggle and the complexity that each of us carries within.
In my academic career, I chose to undertake an iBSc in Physiology and Pharmacology, with a distinct focus on neurophysiology and psychopharmacology. Publishing my dissertation, a post-clinical review of a novel antiepileptic drug with emphasis on psychiatric side-effects, allowed me to become competent at statistical research and to experience the clinical interface between Neurology and Psychiatry, a rapidly developing field.
My advice for those considering applying to the Fellowship is simply to let your enthusiasm for psychiatry shine through your application and interview. In your research/elective proposal, think of what excites you most in the world of psychiatry- this is your opportunity to demonstrate clear aspirations and interests. Be prepared to be quizzed on your proposal during the interview; your choice of topic, the research design, the project’s feasibility, areas requiring funding, etc. Keep your cover letter in mind: read a review or two for each topic you mention. If in any doubt, myself and all Pathfinders will be happy to answer any questions!
I have always had an interest in mental health, through exposure to disorders affecting friends and relatives with disorders to volunteer work. I would say that my serious interest in psychiatry was sparked during my intercalated year. Choosing modules concerning forensic psychiatry, neurogenetics and memory whilst completing a research project in the area of translational neuroscience, specifically pleiotropy of copy number variants and variable mental health outcomes, showed me the breadth of research available in this fascinating field of medicine. Throughout that intercalated year we were told many times that psychiatry is on the verge of quite impressive breakthroughs in the next 10 years, I’d enjoy being part of that breakthrough.
Outside of the neurogenetics and neuropsychiatric field I am particularly interested in PTSD and military psychiatry.
The first push to apply for the fellowship came from a psychiatrist during my intercalated year. I decided to go for it, I was thoroughly enjoying the work I was doing that year and having always had an interest in mental health it seemed like a great idea. The support systems offered, be they online learning and journals or the mentor, are quite unique in terms of bursaries available to medical students.
If you are considering applying for the Pathfinder Fellowship, then make sure your enthusiasm shines through. Many medical students will have CVs that look fairly similar, so include any unique experiences you have had or specific projects that you are involved. Conversely, the Fellowship isn’t just about choosing the most intellectual student, don’t forget to show that you are a rounded person with some developed interests, perhaps mention that painting you did or the piece you wrote on Sylvia Plath. Do not shy away from applying, good luck!
For me psychiatry demonstrated some of the most compassionate and patient centred care I’d encountered at medical school. I enjoyed the privilege of gaining such an insight into people’s lives and also appreciated the reflective and thoughtful nature of working in psychiatry. But it also raised some challenging dilemmas, such as how we can best respect patients’ autonomy whilst they are receiving care.
I’m also interested in bridging the gap between mental and physical health. I have a specific interest in raising awareness of mental health among young people and have been involved in a group that trains medical students to deliver mental health awareness workshops in secondary schools.
You’ll likely have developed your own opinions on a range of topics within psychiatry and the interview is a great opportunity to share these! Take some time to think about some current issues in psychiatry, or even better discuss these with your friends in preparation for the interview. It’s a good idea to have read a couple of articles or books that touch on psychiatry and think about what your own opinion of them is – don’t be afraid of being controversial! Be comfortable talking about your elective or research plans, even if they’re not polished or finalised, just show that you’re enthusiastic and have put some thought into them.
I’m hoping the Fellowship will allow me to continue to explore my interest in psychiatry and support with some of the challenges that working in this field may present. It also provides a great opportunity for financial support for your own research project or elective plans. I’m also looking forward to meeting other students that share my interest in psychiatry!
Intrigued by the theories and current gaps in medical knowledge about the brain and mind, I was drawn to Academic Psychiatry. At a Brain & Behaviour Summer School I gained practical research experience and my clinical interest in the specialty has developed as a medical student at Barts & The London. Undertaking an intercalated MRes in Neuroscience, I conducted a randomised control trial investigating the effects of non-invasive Vagus Nerve Stimulation on electrophysiological measures of cholinergic function and psychological parameters. This highlighted the numerous challenges of conducting research within psychiatry but the task of overcoming these to produce a good evidence-base in order to advance patient care is of paramount importance.
As a Pathfinder Fellow, I hope to further explore and share my interest in Psychiatry. Opportunities arising over the 3 years will be pivotal in aiding the development of key skills needed to tackle the challenges faced in the specialty. Fundamental to this will be a mentor with whom I hope to form a constructive relationship and share the journey with. Other benefits such as attending International Congress, journal subscriptions and access to online education material make it possible to keep up to date and broaden knowledge.
I recommend keeping a record of relevant experiences that could be useful for the application. However, there is no need to despair if you have no record as skills attained from almost any activity can be related to skills valued in psychiatry. In preparation for the interview, I paid particular attention to psychiatry-related news and articles that appeared on social media such as those shared by the RCPsych Student Associates.
My interest in Psychiatry was sparked during a second year Psychopharmacology module. I was fascinated to learn how different pathways in the brain regulate our emotions, thoughts and behaviour; things that are so personal and central to the human condition.
The Fellowship was an excellent opportunity for me to further deepen and broaden my knowledge of Psychiatry, whilst demonstrating my commitment and passion for the speciality. I was initially drawn to the mentorship component of the award; an invaluable resource for local research opportunities and navigating a career pathway.
I spent time reviewing my application and academic work listed on my CV, so that I could confidently and succinctly convey my enthusiasm and knowledge. I researched and developed my elective plan in detail to ensure I could demonstrate how it would allow me to develop new skills whilst aligning closely with my career goals.
I am really looking forward to the opportunities afforded to me by the Fellowship, especially meeting other like-minded students and professionals who work in a range of different environments beyond Northern Ireland. Through involvement in the Royal College of Psychiatrists, locally and nationally, I hope to add my voice to the integrated effort in driving service improvements and combatting the stigma surrounding mental health. Additionally, the financial support offered by the award will allow me to undertake a unique elective abroad and I hope to return with new knowledge and experience that I can use in future practice. I am confident that the Pathfinder Fellowship will allow me to explore new areas of Psychiatry and to develop a wider and more mature understanding as I begin my career.
My name is Tom and I am a fourth-year medical student at the University of Birmingham. My interest in the human mind and the effects of mental illness began when I volunteered to work with children with learning disabilities, before coming to university. Whilst working with such inspirational people, I became curious as to how anatomical and physiological variations in our brains manifest. My current interest lies in the technological advances fuelling a new era of psychiatric research; novel techniques for examining brain activity are enriching our understanding of disease aetiology, advancing treatment development and exploring new ways of augmenting clinical diagnoses
I applied for the pathfinder fellowship because of the unique and exciting opportunities it offers. I look forward to meeting like-minded individuals, receiving guidance from leading psychiatrists, and attending conferences. I hope that as an ambassador for psychiatry I can help to dispel some of the stigma felt by patients and healthcare professionals working in the field, and to generate interest in the subject amongst other medical students.
My advice to future applicants is to ensure that you understand what the fellowship offers, what you wish to get out of it and what you can offer in return. Prepare your CV well and be ready to discuss your views and interests at interview. The panel were interested to hear about my experiences, making for easy conversation. For future applicants to the Fellowship, I hope this information has been useful and wish you the best of luck!