Spotlight on our alumni working in the medical profession
Now, perhaps more than any other time in recent memory, the world stands united in its admiration for healthcare professionals who - day-in, day-out - are working on the front line to look after patients in need of treatment.
We have a long and storied history of our boys leaving MGS to pursue extremely successful careers in medicine, and we are immensely proud that so many of our alumni are working in the healthcare profession and have been nationally, and internationally, acclaimed for their work.
In this feature, we asked just a few of our successful Old Mancunians who are working in different areas of medicine to reflect on their memories of MGS, and how their time here helped shaped their future careers.
We know this is just a very small snippet of Old Mancunians who are currently working in the medical profession and everyone at MGS would like to extend their immense gratitude to everyone who is working on the front line to keep us all safe during this difficult and uncertain times.
Dr Aseem Malhotra
NHS-trained Consultant Cardiologist, best-selling author, Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and visiting Professor of Evidence Based Medicine, Bahiana School of Medicine and Public Health, Salvador, Brazil.
I can still remember the moment as if it was yesterday. On the 17 March 1989, I witnessed my parents smile for the first time in six months since the sudden death of my older brother Amit from a virus that affected his heart. The results from the part two entrance exam of the Manchester Grammar School had come in the post, confirming that I had passed. But, beyond the pride my mum and dad exuded, for me it was a very personal dream come true. For the previous two years I had frequently encouraged my parents to drive down Old Hall Lane to take in the magnificent view of the central building at the end of a long drive with playing fields either side. Six months later, I began my MGS journey.
I soon realised that what made the School really stand out is that it wasn’t an exam-passing factory (although the results for GCSEs and A-levels were, and remain, amongst the best in the country). There was something for everyone that gave the opportunity for a pupil’s particular skills and interests beyond the classroom to flourish. From sports, to chess club, acting and even activism through to community action and Amnesty International societies. There was, and still remains, for students to choose as they wish to attend both religious and non-religious assemblies. I would personally mix it up to listen to a variety of perspectives on different themes and subjects.
MGS also taught me about the importance of discipline, focus, and about character. It instilled in me a greater appreciation of learning, reflected and enhanced by the many brilliant, passionate and inspiring teachers. It wasn’t about just learning facts parrot fashion, it was the application of knowledge and encouraging you to think outside the box that I enjoyed the most.
The Biology lessons of Dr Burch were also very memorable. I still remember my fascination of learning that one of the main distinguishing factors between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom was having ‘opposable thumbs’, providing us with a significant advantage by allowing use of our hands to build and manipulate the environment to our survival.
Cricket was my other great passion at MGS - opening the batting or the 1st XI and bowling as a leg spinner. When I had the self-realisation that I wasn’t going to be the next Sachin Tendulkar, despite many others encouraging me to pursue a cricketing career, I decided to devote all my efforts into becoming a doctor, and subsequently specialise in cardiology. Beyond being a clinician, my time is devoted to activism on improving population health through healthier lifestyles, related research on heart disease reversal and improving the doctor/patient relationship.
But revolutionising healthcare takes determination and wisdom, pertinently epitomised through the motto of the Manchester Grammar School – ‘Sapere Aude’.
Before you make a decision about whether to apply to MGS, ask yourself one question. Do you dare to be wise? Because if you do, then then you won’t regret it.
Dr Rangan Chatterjee
GP, star of the hit BBC Series ‘Doctor in the House’, radio presenter and internationally-acclaimed author
I grew up in a family of doctors, so in many ways becoming a doctor was a natural choice for me. But what I certainly developed at MGS was a passion for learning. One of the big strengths of MGS was that it wasn’t just work and exam-focused. That was obviously an important part, but for me, the fondest memory was not the exam grades but that I got such a well-rounded education and for me for that is what sets MGS apart.
It was certainly competitive at MGS and I thrived on that. But I realised the true value of my MGS education when I got to University. In both Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth we did three A-levels and alongside that we had a very varied General Studies programme. For example there were subjects such as Sports Science and Arabic on offer - and Philosophy was compulsory for everyone. With hindsight, I think that was a very good thing. It taught me to be a well-rounded person and to learn different viewpoints.
I remember once the choir was performing Fauré’s Requiem in MGS’s Memorial Hall. It’s a big orchestral piece and I had a solo. I remember clearly standing up with the full orchestra behind me and the packed Memorial Hall in front of me and there I was, singing a solo. To have had those experiences as a young boy stood me in great stead later on in my life. Knowing you’ve sung in front of 400 people gives you confidence to talk to people. I really noticed that when I went to University. I’m really lucky to have had the opportunity to develop that confidence at MGS.
The name Manchester Grammar School means something on your CV. I’ve really noticed that. It has a well-deserved reputation for excellence and it’s always a talking point.
I never had any aspirations to be a TV doctor, but I’ve got an aspiration to change public health. For me, it’s a really good fit because it allows me to engage in my passion, and I hopefully have an opportunity to change a lot of lives.
Foundation Year 2 Junior Doctor
I am currently working as a Foundation Year 2 Junior Doctor. Times have been really tough for everyone, but particularly those working for the NHS during this unpredictable crisis. I personally have been redeployed into the acute medical wards to help provide support in areas of need.
Despite it being such a difficult time, I feel it has been one that has brought everyone together. In the workplace we have all stepped up, and done what we have had to do to help people during these unknown times.
I couldn’t have been in a more rewarding and worthwhile career, where I am helping those in need.
I feel it is a privilege to be a doctor, and I would not be in the position I am today, doing what I love, without the help and guidance given to me by MGS. The various societies I was involved with, the supportive teachers, and the careers advice team, amongst many others; these were all such valuable experiences which have helped provide me with the skills to achieve what I have so far.
As someone who was welcomed through MGS’s Bursary scheme, I am truly grateful for the education, knowledge and professionalism that this school has given me.
Mike Walton BMedSci(Hons), BMBS, MSc(SEM), FRCS(Tr & Orth)
Consultant Shoulder and Trauma Surgeon
I arrived at MGS in 1988. No one in my family had ever been in healthcare and I knew nothing of the medical world. The facilities at MGS allowed scientists to thrive and the teachers sparked our interest with experiments, explosions and organs to dissect. MGS taught me to explore and push my academic limits and, by the Sixth Form, medicine seemed to be the logical next step, more as scientific exercise rather than any vocation.
Medicine is as alien to most of us as Hogwarts is to Muggles. A vast network of careers linked by common fascination of the human body. Medical school is hard work. Whilst all of your contemporaries start earning money in the City, you are maxing your loans and running between hospital rotations, in my case in a battered Peugeot 106. Once this hurdle is cleared however, what opens up is a career for every personality. If you don’t like people; pathology. If living people are OK but talking is not your forte; anaesthesia. If DIY is your thing then you will find a home in orthopaedics. This is where I ultimately found myself. I loved the emergency of trauma, the practicality of surgery and the not-take-it too-seriously colleagues. Patients arrive in the orthopaedic clinic either broken or in pain and they leave fixed and able to move. It combines the reward of really changing lives with the scientific rigour MGS taught me to seek out. Nothing in medicine stays the same for long, we are constantly changing, evolving and learning. It is a team sport of surgeons, physiotherapists, nurses and patients. You will never be bored.
So, I sit here in my office as Clinical Director of Upper Limb Surgery at Wrightington Hospital Centre of Excellence. We are the largest orthopaedic hospital in the country, we have the biggest fellowship programme, I think, in the world. We invented the hip replacement and now perform more shoulder replacements than any other unit. We have an extensive research programme, publish numerous scientific articles and I am currently applying for a multimillion-pound grant. I lecture around the world and am on the international design team for several new implants. I have a private practice and my opinion is valued in the medicolegal sphere.
It is without doubt a difficult career path. There are lots of lows and lots of exams but MGS will teach you to get through these hard times. Doctors will never compete in the Ferrari driving contests but I go to bed each night stimulated, comfortable and usually excited about the next day’s challenges. I really enjoy my job and, as Steve Jobs said, it is loving what you do that enables you to really succeed.
Mr Steve Corbett BSc PhD FRCS (Tr & Orth)
Consultant Orthopaedic Shoulder and Elbow Surgeon, Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London Fortius Clinic, London
I attended MGS from 1976–1983. For much of this period, I was fortunate enough to receive a MGS Bursary, without which it is likely that I would have had to forego my place. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the School and I tried to combine my academic studies with the numerous other opportunities that were offered: I attended Bassenthwaite and Borrowdale camps, went on Scottish Trek, captained the School’s cricket 1st XI, and swimming team for two years and played for the First XV rugby team. Less successfully, I undertook trombone lessons!
When I left the Sixth Form (Biology), I went to St Thomas’ Hospital Medical School, London and qualified as a doctor in 1990. I then undertook surgical training, both in the UK and France, and spent time visiting other countries in Europe to observe their practices. I was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of London, for my work on fracture healing in 2000.
In 2003, I was appointed as Consultant Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospitals, London, specialising in Upper Limb Surgery, where I still practice today. Subsequently, I also became one of the founder members of Fortius Clinic, London, which is a private orthopaedic clinic treating a high number of national and international professional sports people for their injuries, as well as those amateurs with lesser demands.
It can be incredibly professionally rewarding, but also be very stressful (!), knowing that the future career of a ‘household name’ is in your hands. However, I get equal pleasure seeing an amateur athlete or individual successfully return to their chosen activity or simply becoming free of pain.
My job allows me to interact with people of all ages, be it the young rugby player who has dislocated their shoulder and needs an arthroscopic surgery (keyhole with a camera), through to the elderly patient with arthritis, requiring a shoulder replacement.
Apart from my clinical role, I undertake reviews for a number of medical journals and assess scientific papers for their merit before publication. I am also the editor/contributor of several medical textbooks, am on a National Research Committee and have been involved in the development of several national medical guidelines.
The role of a surgical consultant often entails undertaking managerial roles, particularly in the NHS, and I have developed a strong portfolio of experience, principally in relation to managing colleagues, clinical governance and a commitment to ensuring a quality agenda in surgical practice.
It is this wide variety of work, which keeps the job interesting and provides the stimulus to work hard. I have been incredibly lucky to find a career, which I continue to enjoy, and it is beyond doubt that MGS initially gave me this opportunity.
Dr Neil Paul
GP, nationally-acclaimed columnist, Director of Howbeck Healthcare Ltd and Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Liverpool School of Management
Last year I attended my 30-year MGS reunion, having been a pupil from 1982-89. It brought back lots of memories. Coming from a state school I think it is fair to say I found MGS a bit of a culture shock when I first joined, and it’s interesting to hear there is now an attached Junior School. By the third year I was starting to fit in, and from then on enjoyed each year more and more, especially the Sixth Form. In Middle School, I played on the school year teams for rugby, water polo and athletics and tried unsuccessfully to beat the School record for discus and shotput set by one of the PE teachers when he was a pupil.
I enjoyed the Owl’s Nest both as a sprog and later as a form prefect, and enjoyed school camps and especially Classics trips all over Europe. In-school life was fun but out of school perhaps less so, as we were pre-Internet and meeting up out of hours wasn’t easy - even phone use was rationed. Perhaps this was why I joined so many clubs. Academically, I learnt how to learn and how to pass exams which are both useful skills. For me, the non-curricular side of the School was important and in Sixth Form I really enjoyed the broad range of options we did in addition to our main subjects, which included Economics, Philosophy, Film Studies, Neuro-linguistic Programming and Computer Science.
I remember numerous teachers, many of whom had PHDs in their subjects. Most of them gave me a real enjoyment and understanding of their subjects which I remember to this day. I believe one of my ‘crop’ is still at the School and I remember her first day.
I was lucky enough to attend MGS just as the computer revolution was happening and those of us that were fascinated by them had great teachers who pushed our interest and let us play on old mini-computers. One of the boys in the year above had written a MUD, the forerunner of a MMORG and I remember helping editing his code to add new features.
Despite my love of computers, I went into medicine partly as I couldn’t decide on one subject to do. Five years of med school (also in Manchester during its ‘Madchester’ phase) whizzed by, helped by trips to the Hacienda and Affleck’s Palace. I enjoyed each year of med school more than the last. I did an amazing elective in Bermuda ER and, during my final year, I did a project with the Professor of Medical Computing, comparing neural networks to traditional pharmacokinetic modelling. During that project, I had to get ethics committee permission to recruit and experiment on diabetic children which shaped me in the future.
After qualifying, I just about survived my house jobs which were back in the days of 120 hours a week, working for pennies and no sleep for three days. I then did a range of Junior Doctor jobs, working up to Registrar level, and seriously considered cardiology and gastroenterology as a career but couldn’t decide what to specialise in (perhaps a theme develops here) so I became a generalist, a GP, which also gave me the ability to choose where I and my new family lived.
I joined a small practice in Sandbach as a partner in 2000. I very quickly got involved in pushing IT innovations, general practice was, and to some extent still is, ahead of hospitals in computerisation.
Outside of the practice, I got involved in commissioning by becoming part of the PCG then PCT, working my way up to PEC Board member and GP IT lead for Cheshire. Along the way I helped merge my practice with another, forming a proto-super-practice and am currently one of the executive partners and still do five clinical sessions a week.
I helped form the local CCG from the embers of the PCT and perhaps getting a bit fed up of commissioning jumped into provision and helped setup the local GP federation of 29 practices. That went so well I helped setup a company called Howbeck Healthcare to help support GP federations and other NHS providers. We now employ about 16 staff and have contracts across the Midlands and North West. We also provide consultancy to a range of IT companies wanting to understand the primary care market and I know, or have worked with, pretty much every primary care medical IT start-up in the country.
Now I’m on the provider side of things, I was asked to sit on the Board of CCICP - a community services provider that employs all the local DNS and physios and other AHPs. This has led to being a board member on the Cheshire East ICP which is the new thing in NHS reorganisation. I appear to be responsible for cardiovascular health and IT!
I’m a regular speaker at medical conferences, particularly around medical IT, and I have written a monthly online column on IT in primary care for about 15 years and perhaps it’s this I’m best known for nationally. Perhaps my favourite achievement was learning to write apps for the new iPhone and having apps on sale in the app store, though I did win the British Computer Society John Perry Award for helping create a business analytics tool. I’ve also been told my hopefully constructive criticism of existing software has led to some major improvements in software for GPs.
For a while I sat on an ethics committee seeing it from the other side, and when that role ended I set up a clinical trials unit at my surgery that now employs three nurses and does clinical trials for pharma companies and academic institutions. My managerial roles and trying to put on some education courses let to me becoming an honorary senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool School of Management, where I help supervise some PHD students. Continuing the education theme, I run a CPD education events company which hasn’t been doing so well since Covid hit us, but perhaps that is good as I’ve ended up being elected the local Clinical Director for our Primary Care Network, a group of seven practices covering 67,000 patients in South Cheshire, which is taking up a lot of my time.
Getting seven quite different practices to work together during a pandemic is fun, and this week we start our vaccination programme from two sites which leads me to that chestnut - when you want a piece writing for the School journal about some of the thing Old Boys get up to, ask a busy GP in the middle of a pandemic!