OW Spotlight David Shipway

Stanley '99

Consultant Physician

What advice would you give to students/young OWs who would like to join the medical profession?

It's a challenging career for the emotionally fragile or vulnerable. Though in my experience, OWs are usually pretty tough and resourceful, so this is rarely a problem.

Tell us about yourself – just a few sentences to introduce yourself.

I’m a Consultant Physician working in Bristol. I have a slightly unusual subspecialty, and I work as a medical doctor within surgical teams to help look after complicated surgical patients who have lots of other medical problems. These medical issues are typically cardiac, lung, kidney or neurological conditions, and usually present in combination along with older age frailty. Unfortunately, patients with these problems are at higher risk of complications and death after surgery. My job is to help the surgical team make decisions about whether to operate in high-risk situations. When we decide to do so, my job is to make sure it goes well by carefully stage-managing the medical issues before and after surgery, and by aggressively addressing complications as they arise.


What inspired you to work in medicine? 

I hate this question, because the honest truth is that at the age of 17, I wasn’t sure what to do. I was decent at human biology, so decided to do medicine. I’ve absolutely no regrets though. It’s a fabulous career choice- no matter what nonsense you hear in the media from a handful of disgruntled, but noisy individuals. It’s academically and ethically stimulating on a daily basis, with surprising opportunities for managerial and leadership facets to your career once you get through training and into a consultant post. From there you can design and influence local and national policy, and this can be very rewarding.


What is your specialty and how is the present Covid-19 pandemic affecting your normal working routine?

I normally work within colorectal, vascular and major trauma teams; much of the cancer, aneurysm and arterial bypass work has been suspended through the pandemic, and trauma admissions have fallen dramatically. This means that my usual work has been suspended. I’ve therefore been redesignated as a general physician & geriatrician to emergency department triage work, and to the acute medical assessment unit. I’m seeing patients with COVID-19 early in their admission, initiating treatment and determining escalation status. This means deciding who is or isn’t suitable for ventilation or ITU admission.


How did you get to where you are today? 

After leaving College in 1999, I went up to Oxford where I was an undergraduate for 6 years. I then worked in the Oxford Deanery for 2 years before moving to west London, where I trained on the Imperial College circuit for the rest of my training, with the exception of a fellowship year in perioperative medicine at Guy’s & St Thomas’. I was appointed as a Consultant Physician at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington in 2014. I worked there before.  moving to the southwest 3 years later, when my wife decided it was time to get out of London and move to the country with our two young daughters. I now live in a rural village on the edge of the south Cotswolds, where lock-down has been barely noticeable.


What is it like working within health care at the moment?

It’s a landscape of extraordinary opportunity. The impossible has happened and things that would otherwise have taken quite literally years to negotiate, fund and develop have happened over 2 weeks. As specialty lead in my trust, I have been able to bring about wholesale reform and restructure of the way we work long-term. It seems like all red tape has melted away and you can really make things happen. The challenge is how to retain the positives for long term efficiency.


What are your career highlights?

Maybe the reforms and legacy of the pandemic will be it.


Do you have a fond memory from your time at Wellington that you would like to share or perhaps a particular teacher that really stood out?

I have many fond memories, but I doubt you’ll publish the ones that immediately spring to mind…