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Louise Tan, a Year 12 student from Ballyclare in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, recently attended the joint NDS and NDORMS Virtual Work Experience. In this guest blog, Louise reflects on her experience.

Person writing on paper with laptop on table © Stock Photo

The NDS and NDORMS Virtual Work Experience was a jam-packed week filled with science, surgery and surprises. Neuropathology, cardiovascular surgery, thought-provoking ethical discussions, science communication - these were only some of the wide array of topics covered. Even though the event was virtual, the relationships I built with fellow students, speakers and mentors were very real. The lab tour in the Botnar Research Centre was so detailed and stimulating that I forgot that I was on Microsoft Teams!

Firstly, we glimpsed into the future of technology when Alastair Lamb provided a robotic surgery talk. We discussed the pros and cons of laparoscopic and robotic surgery and learnt how future Da Vinci robots could make minimal access surgery even less invasive.

Contrasting with the contemporary (and costly!) robots, we then had a global surgery talk. For me, this was the most insightful talk as the statistics relating to global health inequities shocked me. Hearing about Chris Lavy’s experience building hospitals throughout Africa and the prominence of clubfoot, an easily curable congenital condition, in these low-income countries, piqued my interest in global health and further inspired me to become a surgeon to attempt to reduce worldwide disparities in healthcare.

My knowledge of clinical trials has improved due to the Surgical Intervention Trials Unit (SITU) talks. I was previously focused on solely surgery, but learning about the role of the trial manager, pre-phase and clinical trial phases, funding and ongoing trials has encouraged me to venture out and see how I can incorporate clinical trials into a surgical career. The ProMOTE trial, presented by Miriam O'Hanlon, fascinated me the most as we learnt about whole genome sequencing, tissue processing and how FFPE could improve outcomes in radical prostatectomies. 

Furthermore, the career in medicine talks were reassuring as they highlighted numerous career paths and how everyone will find their niche. Steph Dakin did a total 180, going from a horse vet to researching human musculoskeletal problems while Susan Wagland went from the IT industry to a clinical trials manager.

This experience has better prepared me for my future in the scientific/surgical field and I couldn't recommend it enough - Louise Tan

Previously, I wasn’t even aware of health economics, but now I’m questioning if your health state can be given a quantitative value using the health index. Political and health related ethical questions were thrown at us, and we used problem-solving and decision-making skills on top of our personal beliefs to come to a conclusion and communicate it to fellow students. My team working and verbal communication skills improved as I learnt from the thought processes of others and was enlightened by diverse viewpoints.

This experience has better prepared me for my future in the scientific/surgical field and I couldn’t recommend it enough! 

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