Alex grew up in the south east of England and wanted to do medicine from about 16 years old. He chose Newcastle University as it had a good reputation for the medicine course and had heard it was a really friendly city. He says: I loved my time at university, enjoying the course and finding the people and the North East a brilliant place to be. I made many friends there too which was another pull to keep me in the North East. In third year of university I had a great teaching day with a haematologist and it got me interested in haematology. I then took an intercalated year after fourth year to get a Masters of Research in haematology/immunobiology. I qualified in 2012 and worked in the North East in different hospitals going through my training from foundation to core medical training and then gained my haematology training number and am currently an ST5.
I had been at university here and really loved the area and many friends from university had stayed, which was a trend that is seen a lot more in the North East than other areas from my experience. The hospitals are all very friendly and all commutable from Newcastle on the haematology rotation, making the rotation system easier than other regions. The haematology training programme has consistently had the best GMC ranking for training which was another appeal, and having worked with the haematologists in my F1/SHO years, I knew that a lot of this came from a really friendly network of haematologists in the region.
I have been able to promote an App that I have produced ‘Buku Haematology’ with promotional and financial support from Health Education England North East (HEENE), allowing it to really take off. I have also had the opportunity to go to Tanzania for a week to take part in a teaching programme which was financially supported by HEENE and allowed as part of study leave. This was an unforgettable experience and as far as I know quite unique to the region.
The people are so kind, both colleagues and patients, making each day different, and it is great to know that there is always support available from approachable colleagues and consultants. My registrar colleagues in haematology are particularly important as they have become great friends as we meet every Friday for regional teaching. Furthermore, many of the consultants in the region are national or international specialists in their field. This allows experience of novel therapies, for example the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle has had recent access to CAR-T – chimeric antigen receptor T-cell – therapy, as one of the first in the country, due to the tireless work of the trials team.
From Newcastle, you can access the Northumberland coast in 25 minutes, the Tyne Valley in 20 minutes and the Lake District is only just under two hours away which is brilliant.
It is a fantastic place to work, and although appears distant from other areas, it’s only three hours by train from London and the region on the whole is really compact, allowing trainees to settle easily. For example, I will be able to live with my family in one home for my whole training. This minimises time away from home and long commutes. It is also academically progressive with many opportunities to be involved in ground-breaking research.
Look for new opportunities as there are many research projects ongoing and clinicians are always keen for trainee involvement.
Use the amazing environment around the North East in your free time to relax and take part in walks, hiking, open-water swimming and climbing to name a few.
Use the approachable senior clinicians as learning opportunities as, particularly in haematology, the consultants are really approachable and even when busy will try to teach or involve you in projects when they can.