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How I Transitioned From Clinical Medicine To A Career In Public Health

Maybe you've been thinking about a career in public health?

Are you wondering if it's the right thing for you, or maybe you were just unsure about taking on different training or embarking on a new career outside of full-time clinical medicine?

Maybe your memory of public health from medical school and the things you've learnt there is still feeling like a long time ago or minimal.

Public Health as a career option outside clinical medicine

Are you thinking about working outside clinical medicine, maybe you've enjoyed some aspects of your training, but you are feeling a little bit stuck.

Maybe you're finding that clinical work is draining you and you are no longer able to leave work at work and be present at home and with the relationships that are important to you.

For whatever reason, clinical medicine might not be right for you and public health could be an option.

If you are keen to make a bigger impact as a doctor - are you seeing the same patients over and over again? And maybe it's starting to feel like you are simply putting a plaster on the most pressing issue that you see, but you're not really supporting your patients with their underlying social problems. And you know that these are contributing to their ill health.

Perhaps you're motivated to prevent illness rather than just treat it. And you'd like to make a bigger impact on the health of populations. I will help you to see that public health can shift this perspective for you. And it can be a really fulfilling career to step into, to start making a bigger impact as a doctor and in your medical career.

If you're just a bit curious, maybe you don't know what a public health trainee or a consultant does, and there are not that many of us, so you may not even know anyone who works in public health or public health medicine.

Perhaps you're wondering if you'd enjoy being in a different environment, working behind a desk or focusing on policy and research instead of that hospital or that clinical setting. If you want to know more about the difference between clinical work and public health work, I'm gonna tell you all about this and how I found my own transition out of clinical medicine into public health.

The world of public health from my experience and what it can offer you as a doctor.

Let me help you gain an understanding of what training and working in public health and a public health career look like. And for you to start to think about whether this is something that you want to explore for yourself, you'll start to understand a little bit more about the breadth of roles available in public health and how these might be able to offer you a more flexible working environment and different conditions that might suit your way of working and the life that you want to be living better.

  • I want you to know that public health is a possible career path for you. And if it's of interest, you can step out of a full-time clinical world, that clinical medical model to become a public health doctor.

  • I also want you to know that you can create a more flexible career for yourself, regardless of whether this is public health or not, but you can actually control your hours. You can have more balance and make a bigger impact in whatever you pass you desire in medicine.

  • I truly believe that the joy of medicine is really about variety. And it's really easy to forget that when we're on a training pathway, I believe that we can all be hap happy and healthy doctors.

How I started my Public Health career

I graduated 20 years ago and started my clinical training in adult medicine in the UK. And during my early years of working, I completed a tropical medicine diploma and spent some time working with Save The Children in a very remote setting in Honduras. I returned to the UK and continued to take all my exams and train in medical specialties, always retaining my interest in infectious diseases and global health.

After about seven to eight years of working in a clinical environment, I took a clinical research post in sexual health and HIV. And then I started my public health training in the UK. Again, through that training, I kept my interest in global health and expanded my passion for wellness and holistic approaches. After completing my training as a public health consultant, I did my CCT, which is my end-of-training specialization in the UK I moved to France so I could work with international organizations on really key global health issues, particularly my passion, which is focusing on HIV and TB.

So I now have a flexible career as a public health consultant, and I've built a successful consulting business, working with a variety of different agencies and organizations. And this model that I've adopted allows me to work remotely and flexibly. So over my career, I've worked in five different countries, and worked in three different languages.

How did I become a yoga teacher and a coach?

And at the same time as taking the decision to step away from full-time clinical work, I started to have the energy and the time to focus on prioritizing my own health and wellness. Clinical work was always very full-on for me. It felt very draining and I gave, gave, and gave without having much energy or time for myself or any of the key relationships in my life. I always wanted to expand my understanding and my own practice of mindfulness and yoga, and to become more healthy so that I could live the life I wanted.

So over the last 10 years, as I've changed my own career in medicine, I've also been able to expand my practice of holistic approaches myself. And this has ended up with me pursuing being a yoga and meditation teacher. So I combine these skills in mindset practice to coach other doctors, sharing my experience and expertise to be able to support other health professionals.

How to manifest the life that you want

So 10 years ago, I took a couple of coaching sessions and brainstormed what my dream life would look like and I've made that happen. So I now work very flexibly as a public health consultant, a yoga and mindfulness meditation teacher, and a transformational coach for doctors. My training has allowed me to transition out to clinical medicine, into public health and continue my passion for global health and wellness. I have my business where I work with UN organizations and NGOs and global public health issues. And alongside that, I have my coaching and yoga business, both of which I'm able to run remotely working from the foothills of the French Pyrenees. I feel very fulfilled and happy with the balance my career has given me.

Why I am passionate about Public Health

During my medical student elective I spent several months before my final year of medical school at a rural hospital in South Africa. And at the time the hospital was a pilot site for the use of antiretrovirals for the prevention and mother to child, transmission of HIV. No other antiretrovirals were available in the hospital at that time, despite the really high numbers of patients who were testing for HIV and being diagnosed.

And despite the introduction of testing, there really was no treatment available. Over the several months that I was there, I met many patients who were diagnosed with HIV often very late in their illness had advanced disease, and many of them were dying from TB and other preventable comorbidities. I also saw lots of young children who were living with HIV and no longer had any parents to look after them and had a very uncertain future ahead. I met people who faced a lot of discrimination and stigma for sharing their HIV status, but who continued to be motivated to share their stories, to help the rest of the community, understand this infection and illness. So despite all these incredible challenges and the loss that we observed the community was very positive and really driven to make a change. They wanted to increase the awareness of HIV and to educate about prevention and treatment.

This experience was pivotal for me and planted the seeds of my interest in infectious diseases, but also my motivation to readdress inequality in the world. I saw firsthand what a lack of access to life-saving medicine or prevention and treatment could do to individuals and their communities. And I would really say that this experience stayed with me. As I embarked on my medical training.

I loved so many aspects of my clinical work problem solving, supporting patients and family members, working in a team and seeing the outcomes of my inputs in an immediate manner. But clinical work was also really consuming for me. I was constantly giving more than I could. I had zero time for my own health or wellness, and I had zero time for any important relationships in my life. I was constantly studying for exams, and this also took its toll. And I wasn't really being the best version of myself, I really struggled to identify any role models. I could never find consultants who were also interested in global health or working in different settings. And I couldn't see how I could be a healthy doctor and have a successful medical career if I stayed in hospital medicine.

Why practice medicine differently?

So I knew I wanted to do medicine differently, and this is what I was able to start doing. I decided to leave full-time clinical medicine. It wasn't an easy step, but I knew I wanted to make a bigger impact. This first step took its form in a clinical research role, which was in sexual health and HIV. And then I moved on to public health training in the UK. I did continue clinical work for a few years whilst I started my public health training and then I realized that I wanted to commit more to public health.

Training in public health allowed me to expand my interest in infectious diseases and global health. I was able to take on placements in academic institutions with specific links overseas, and return to South Africa, this time working in epidemiology and outbreak response with the national centre for infections.

Building my skills in public health is hugely important to me and I wanted to start exploring where I could use these. So after my training, I started working with WHO in the HIV department in Geneva, in Switzerland. In 2015 and 2016, I was involved in coordinating the new antiretroviral treatment guidelines to allow everyone to be offered antiretrovirals regardless of their CD4 count.

So 15 years later, after that experience with my t-shirt with PMTCT on it, after my experience in med school, in South Africa, I was able to work at a global level to really implement change and policy to hopefully impact the lives of millions of people around the world living with HIV to access life-saving treatment.

My consulting has also led me to support incredible projects globally. And another one that's really close to my heart is supporting a PMTCT intervention in Nigeria, Malawian Zimbabwe. So this involved me supporting the Ministry of Health to educate medical staff on good practices, to improve retention and care for others, living with HIV.

Creating my own career path outside clinical medicine

So you can see how my career has taken its path and found its own way. And I'm really grateful to be able to experience all these different aspects. I am pleased that I took the steps I did when I knew that I wanted to do more. I was feeling undervalued and, and appreciated in my clinical role. I kept trying to move forward by doing more exams, but I always felt a bit stuck. And I was really fed up with seeing patients again and again. And I knew that prevention played a huge part in what I could offer patients and communities and the public health community in general. I knew from my experiences of working in different settings, that healthcare systems in different countries varied greatly, and I was really driven to make a change. And I wanted a career that would challenge me and take me outside of my comfort zone and also so important, allow me to work the way I wanted to from the place I wanted to be.

3 key lessons

  1. I believe that you can make a bigger impact as a doctor by working in public health.

  2. I believe it's possible to practice medicine differently and transition all the skills you have in your clinical practice into many aspects of public health.

  3. Public health can offer you lots of different opportunities so that you can create the life you one.

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I help doctors create a purposeful, flexible career outside full-time clinical medicine so they can control their time and have more balance in their lives. To find out more book a FREE 60-minute discovery call.

Image by Dee. on Unsplash


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