OW Spotlight Tom MacKinnon

Lynedoch '12

Junior Doctor

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?

Paul Hucklesby (biology teacher, medical careers advisor and Lynedoch 6th form tutor) - supported and advised many aspiring medical students (and now grateful doctors) over the years!

Tell us about yourself – just a few sentences to introduce yourself.
Since leaving Wellington (Ly 2012), I studied medicine at Imperial College and am currently a junior doctor working in a London hospital. I have a particular interest in surgery, and am due to start my specialty training in trauma and orthopaedic surgery in late 2020.

What inspired you to work in medicine?
Difficult to pinpoint exactly! None of my family have a medical background and I never had a “eureka” moment like some aspiring medics have in finding their vocation… I do remember it was after several chats with my biology teacher and career mentor in my lower 6th year that I realised medicine would be a good fit for me. I was due to start A-levels in the sciences, I knew that I didn’t want a desk job, and I wanted a career that was academic, stimulating and hands on. Even at this early stage in my career so far that’s exactly what it has been, it’s been a highly rewarding experience and I would make the exact same choices if I was to go back and do it again.


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

At the time of the outbreak I was working as a junior doctor on a vascular surgery unit, a specialty which involves operations to re-plumb blood vessels. My role at that time largely involved caring for patients on the ward but also assisting in the operating theatre. I actually was forced to isolate with COVID symptoms in early March right at the beginning of the outbreak but was fortunate in that my symptoms were only mild.

When regional COVID numbers started to climb, most hospitals including mine went into panic stations and had no choice but to cancel most non-emergency surgeries and clinics, while redeploying the vast majority of staff either into ITU or into “COVID mega-teams” on the wards. Along with my surgical colleagues I was assigned a COVID mega-team and for a few unprecedented weeks at the peak of the surge we unfortunately saw a very high numbers of deaths and extremely sick patients in a short space of time. The cases did drop off significantly as lockdown took effect and at time of writing we have been able to resume some aspects of normal service within the NHS.


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

2020 is clearly an unusual year for the NHS, no one can anticipate whether future surges are coming or if we are past the worst. One positive experience from this pandemic has been seeing NHS staff from different specialties working together in unfamiliar environments at a time of high stress, pulling together and simply getting on with it. Some feel that this pandemic may prove to be a watershed moment for healthcare, catalysing widespread implementation of medical technology, telemedicine and restructured hospitals in the NHS – whether this materialises remains to be seen but nevetheless it will be an exciting few years for those joining the profession.


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

Firstly, gain information. Whether it is from online resources, from your Wellington teachers or from OWs, it is important to understand what a career in medicine involves, and what steps you need to take to achieve this (eg work experience, grade requirements, which medical school to apply to). The annual OW medicine COG networking events are a fantastic opportunity for students to meet OW medics and pick their brains.

Secondly, set goals. These need to be targeted and achievable, and can help break down what can feel like a rather abstract ambition of “becoming a medical student/doctor” into digestible, actionable steps along the way.

Finally, make the most of the extracurricular opportunities that Wellington offers. It goes without saying you will need to be disciplined and study hard, but medical school interviews also look for well-rounded individuals with interests, so whether it is sport, art or travel, keep these up!