I was fortunate enough to attend Imperial College London’s ACCS Specialty Conference a few weekends back, where I presented my first poster on an interest I’m currently researching, close to my heart. With the weekend focusing on the specialties of Critical Care Medicine, Anaesthetics and Pre-Hospital Care, we were laden with a wealth of very interesting talks from some very interesting and inspiring people. Having arrived rather late, I was understandably disappointed to have missed the first half of the opening talk – I had seriously overslept due to a lack of sleep and awful nightmares, two of the many symptoms I still experience as a post-ICU patient. This excuse boded ironically well when it came to explaining my motives behind researching the psychological recovery in post-ICU patients! Of the remaining talk I had managed to eventually attend to, three significant words from Dr. William Harrop-Griffiths and Dr. Helgi Johannsson stayed with me for the rest of the day, which I then treasured tight all the way home – “Serve to Lead”, they had said. The poignant, striking words that shape the motto outside of Sandhurst’s gates.
The beauty of these words comes down to no other than the multiple dimensions you can draw from this one meaning alone. Whilst most evidently, a soldier, our country’s men and women, fight and represent, and ‘Serve to Lead’, doctors, teachers, lawyers…so many fields ‘Serve to Lead’ for the very same purpose – to put others before yourself, by giving a service of leadership, so that our future counterparts can also lead that giving service.
As a medical student, I am learning to do this every day – learning how to make the best decisions for others, my future patients, and how to work within fantastically diverse teams – to lead those in efficient decision-making, but also to be led by the trusting judgment of those around me. And, it’s perhaps in this context that Dr. Harrop-Griffiths and Dr. Johannsson emphasise the ‘Serve to Lead’ motto here. But, take away the medical student component to it, and the hospital environment, and yet we are all still serving to lead in one way or another.
A BMA article on the incidence of harassment and bullying within the NHS cropped up on my Twitter newsfeed this morning and it only felt right to comment and retweet a subject I was so passionately affected by myself. I shan’t delve into the deep cracks of the discrimination I’ve faced as a medical student – it’s old news, particularly for those of you who have been following my other blog posts, I can imagine, for sure. But it does strike up the classic example that if we don’t act upon things now, the entire concept of the bullying culture will only escalate. For my part, I am therefore serving my experiences to lead others away from it – yes it’s happening to many of us right now, but that doesn’t mean it should be happening to every other future employee that enters the doors of our NHS.
For the few supervisors and consultants I have so far put my trusted self into their hands, they have only led, and led in such a fragmented, demoralising and degrading approach that they are in no way serving any benefits to me as a medical student, or human being for that matter. Serving to lead requires empathy – the understanding of your colleagues, friends, family and what they are going through as they are being led – whether that be in the workings of a professional decision, offering a shoulder for them to cry on, or guiding them through the dark backstreet whilst blinded – a gesture I quite often get, quite literally, when I’ve gotten lost in the wrong town for the third time that same evening. My parents, for instance, forever continue to serve to lead – they have brought me up to abide by theirs and other’s good morals, they have put me before themselves in every life and death situation imaginable – and no, it hasn’t taken the traumatic events of this past year to realise this. Social media has bonded me with so many others sharing my same story – so many other disabled doctors out there, continuously proving that all things are possible, if you have the right people to guide you forward – those ‘serve to lead’ idols.
I came across the above photo in my ‘Memories’ box from back in April – another idol of mine who so very much leads and inspires me to that wanted future. Outside for the 4 walls of the workplace, a very inspirational colleague and friend of mine, Julian Jackson, undertook the ‘Big Blind Walk’ from Land’s End to John O’Groats, in a quest to raise awareness of eye health research. A person with sight loss himself, Julian too is serving to lead the rest of the community hit by sight loss and blindness, and I was very lucky and honoured to join him in the first few days of his mammoth journey.
As a deafblind medical student, it is unlikely I will go into an acute specialty of medicine, as much as Critical Care and Pre-Hospital Medicine interests me – well, until our access to technology and resources improve, that is. Yet, although I may not be able to serve to lead in the same way as Dr. Harrop-Griffiths and Dr. Johannsson do in their fast-paced roles within Anaesthetics and Critical Care, I can serve to lead like Julian. I can serve to lead a community very much my own – I will serve to lead the future of NHS employees hit by the monstrosity that is bullying and harassment in their workplace, and by doing that, others will be led to carry on along this chain of service, fighting to form a better NHS future.