Pastoral Hub Interview with Dr Hughes

On the 2nd of December 2020, the pastoral hub invited Dr Noemi Hughes to give a talk on stress and anxiety during teenage years. Since her talk Dr Hughes has worked with some of our students and has agreed to be the ambassador for eating disorder support and awareness at SWCHS. This article includes an interview with Dr Hughes.

Dr Noemi Hughes BA MB BChir (Cam)

My name is Noemi and I am a trainee in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Southend Hospital. I did not always, however, want to be a doctor and I started out in life training to be a ballerina. This had some devastating effects on my body and I stopped ballet aged 16 to continue with mainstream education. I wanted to give the world something beautiful which was not at the expense of my own health and so I chose to pursue a career in O&G. This marries the science I am deeply interested in, to the care of young women I feel I have a connection with and I hope that I can serve as a resource for you now during what is an unprecedentedly difficult time. 

How did you find giving the talk today?

“Well, it was definitely a privilege to come and speak to so many young people. Obviously, the circumstances were not ideal, because of Covid-19, but it was very well arranged and an honour to talk to these young people. I hope I could touch their lives in at least one way as that would have made it all worthwhile.”

What made you make a big decision to change career path?

“So, there were many factors leading up to it. I took ballet very seriously until I was about 15 but it was costing a huge amount in both time and money. I was training several times a week with competitions at weekends, then there was the money needed for all the costumes and the shoes. The other aspect was the effect it was having on my mental and physical health. It was quite competitive, so I didn’t really have any ballet friends and I didn’t like to do the activities or take part in things that my school friends were doing. So that, and the fact that I was very underweight, cold, and I never got my period meant that my mum took me to see a doctor. It was eventually the kindness and the knowledge of the gynaecologists looking after me that really influenced me. They made me think, actually, I’m going to drop ballet and continue my education because I know I can give the world something beautiful that isn’t at the expense of my health or a short-lived career.”

This school gets a lot of students applying for Medicine, and as someone who has studied Medicine, what tips could you give those who are planning to do the same?

“I think definitely work to get the grades but do things that make your CV interesting. So, I had some clinical experience which I had done abroad; I went to Spain, during my GCSE’s, and worked at a plastic hand surgery clinic. Include any experiences like that or maybe an interesting book that you have read. For example, to my current A2 students that I tutor, I have recommended a book called “The drugs don’t work” by Sally Davies. It’s a very simple text but it discusses a very important issue about antimicrobial resistance today. Try to have something like that up your sleeve that you can talk about. Also, just be incredibly genuine when you’re in an interview or when you write your statement. Write things that are actually true and very personal to you because that is what will make you come off as a good candidate; someone who is actually interested.

Have you always been interested in having a specialised role within the NHS?

“I think so! Having had those personal problems myself and having been to gynaecologists myself, I think I applied to medical school knowing I wanted to do obstetrics and gynaecology. So, that’s had its advantages in that everything I have done subsequently has been tailored towards this field; any papers I did, any electives, any projects or work experience. Which means that now as I apply for specialist training, I have a very dedicated CV. Most people, however, don’t know what they want to go into before they apply and that’s okay too. You can always make up for it! I mean that’s the other thing about medicine; you’ll be in that career for the next 40 years so it’s a marathon, not a race and so you’ve got plenty of time to build up your CV.”

How can we improve our educational system, in terms of wellbeing?

“That is the biggest question of all time! To be honest, I’m sure the care that we provide and the pastoral support that we provide students is actually very good. I think the problem comes with not knowing who actually needs it because a lot of students won’t seek help. I think one of the main messages to take away from my talk today was that I was suffering with anorexia, and I was against going to my GP. I would always bat off people who made comments that I needed help because I was convinced that I didn’t have a problem. So, potentially a way to improve our services is finding ways to seek out those students who do need help, those students who haven’t come forward themselves. A lot of these problems thrive in secrecy and so many of those individuals won’t come forward, they will nurture their personal problems until it gets to the point where they absolutely go off the cliff edge and then need help. But if we can pick out those people early, then potentially that’s a way that we could improve the way that we help them.”

Interview by Sam Spaxman (Year 12)

Sam has been volunteering at the pastoral hub and is planning to study medicine.