Dr Jude interview: Part 2 - My career and surviving medical school
AK: We'll get to personal finance later, but I just wanted to rewind it all the way back and know why you chose to study Medicine, and what was your journey like in getting to the position you are in now?
DJ: My decision to choose Medicine was very practical. I wasn't one of these guys who knew loads of doctors, and I didn't really know what a career in Medicine entailed. I chose to go to medical school partly because I was bright, had good grades, and teachers doubted and underestimated me. I kind of wanted to prove to myself that I wasn't going to be a statistic. I also wanted to do something that involved the subjects that I enjoyed: Physics, Chemistry and Maths and wanted something that would give me a career. Even as young as 17, I remember being old enough to know that the world was not fair. Hence I wanted a career that I would excel based on my ability and commitment rather than my complexion. That was why I didn't enter fields like Finance or Law when I was aware of the "glass ceiling", and I didn't want that to be the case with me. I decided to do something where I would not be in an office, and I'd excel based on hard work and passing exams.
My journey after medical school was pretty smooth, but it was due to me taking my career into my own hands. From the beginning, I wanted to train in London and become a surgeon, so I didn't leave anything up to chance. What I would do is try to work backwards 2 years, I'd always ask myself "where do I want to be in 2 years?" I'd get the specification and see the pathways to get unto programmes; I'd look at the essentials and the "desirables", and make sure I've completed both plus more.
For instance, when I was training, there was something called 'Work-Based Assessments', and we needed to do 80 throughout the year. I remember people complained and said "that's too much", but I knew that I didn't have the leisure to complain, if I got 79 at the end of the year, I would get issued. So I used to do 100, I never told anybody, and they never knew, I simply wanted there to be no excuse or any flaw with my portfolio. You know what it's like, people lie, women lie, men lie, numbers don't. The discrimination that black doctors face is savage. You've seen the significant cases in the media like Dr Sellu, Dr Bawa-Garba and hundreds of more cases where doctors are being challenged for misdemeanours. Still, we know that if the same thing was done by perhaps a caucasian doctor, it would just be "one of those things" or brushed under the carpet. We've seen how [some] white doctors get away with literally killing people before it's called out, like the breast surgeon [Ian Paterson] and Harold Shipman. Before going into Medicine, I knew that the numbers are not in my favour, so you just have to work so hard (and people don't even recognise how hard you're working). My career became an objective pathway, so I passed my exams the first time, got recruited first time in every programme (core surgery in London, speciality training in London, fellowship in Toronto, second fellowship in London), and that wasn't by chance - it was by learning the process and what I have to do and going above and beyond.
AK: I think that's amazing and it just goes to show the motivation you had when you were in Medical School and just touching on that, how did you find your experience in Medical school? Being around people who may not have had the same motivation as you but all ultimately wanted to be a doctor.
DJ: If I'm honest, many of my friends call me this positive guy, who's so motivated, and they question "how you always on it" and say you must have more than 24 hours in a day! But I don't, in fact, I was editing a YouTube video till 3 am because that's the only time I had to do it because I had to put the kids to bed! I wouldn't say I was more motivated in school than anyone else, and actually, I wasn't that motivated in medical school! I was young, I liked mainstream stuff, listening to Kanye West, I was in the football team, student union, I was at the party on Friday night, I was in the ACS, was on several committees. Anything other than actually sitting down and grinding was what I was doing, but I think that makes you a well-rounded person and I still managed to pass (thank God). I wasn't excelling academically in med school, I was doing what I had to do, but I was all over the place in terms of my social and extracurricular commitments.
However, there was a turning point for me, and it was my elective. I've spoken about this before, but I went to Yale in my elective for Orthopaedic surgery. At that time, I wanted to do Plastics, and I went into Yale, and it was probably the first time in my life that I have been immersed in excellence. To get into a Yale surgical residency programme, you need to rank in the top 3% of your USMLEs [the United States Medical Licensing Exam]. The residents I was working with were on another level.
On top of that, there were a handful of black residents and many of them I'm actually good friends with now. So, I'm at the med school, chilling with these guys who have done their undergraduate degrees at John Hopkins, Harvard and I saw the commitment with which they worked. I saw their journey, and I was also friends with a lot of them so we used to go to Harlem, New York and I soon realised that I kind of have been cheating a little bit, and I haven't been as committed as I potentially could have been. These guys are spending $60,000 a year on their education. Hence, they are super motivated, so I got that excellence and inspiration and saw the quality of the surgery, hospital and the commitment to the patient care, and I was in awe. I came back and thought that I could definitely be a surgeon. If I work like these guys, I can do anything. I remember Googling "best hospital in London", and Guy's and St Thomas' came up. I remember saying that I'm writing my F1 application and applying there and training in Orthopaedic surgery and boom! You speak it, and it becomes your existence. The first job was at Guy's, and St Thomas' and the rest is history, I've done all of my training there, and it has been an excellent teaching hospital. That's also why I went to Canada as I wanted to know what other forward-thinking units are doing.