[00:00:00] Mat: Welcome to Doctors at Work. My name’s Mat Daniel, and this podcast is about doctors’ careers. Today, I’m having a conversation with Syeda Gul Bahar. She’s a general surgery registrar and carried out a short surgical training project and won the poster prize at the Faculty of Surgical Trainers meeting.
In this episode, we discuss the importance of having your eyes open to potential ideas, the need to be passionate and to find collaborators, and to plan your project with the end in mind. I hope it’s useful.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
[00:00:44] Syeda: My name is Syeda Gul Bahar. I’m working at currently at Royal London Free Hospital Trust. I’m an SBR in general surgery and I moved to London almost one and a half year ago.
[00:00:58] Mat: Okay. Thank you very much. I invited you on the podcast because you won the poster prize at the Faculty of Surgical Trainers Conference.
Tell me a little bit about the project that you did.
[00:01:09] Syeda: Yes, it was a really good experience for me being at the conference and everything. So, it started off when I got an email because I’m a member of Royal College of Edinburgh and they said they are doing a conference on surgical education. And the idea was already there in my mind and I just kept thinking about it.
And then I realized it might be a good opportunity for me to present that idea in front of surgical trainers. And, just put a question out that this is what I think, or this is what the problem in my mind is. So that would be really good, a rehearsal kind of thing for me and something new to learn from.
And I did not have any kind of data or anything at my, in, at that point because it was after the conference was after like a couple of months and I knew that we could just collect data if that’s got accepted to present in the conference. So, I then just sat down write down the idea and the idea was basically the surgical education, the difference between.
So, the title is comparison of surgical education between training and non-training doctors. So basically, the doctors are at the same level, but one is in the training program and the other doctor is in a trust grade doctor. And before I was a trust grade doctor. Because I was a trust grade doctor and I was working at the same level and I was feeling that there are some deficiencies that we need to help these doctors within their development in their career to become, to help them become really good.
doctors or if they want to join training program or whatever they want to do. So, what are the problems that we encounter? Where are the deficiencies? This was the basic idea of my poster and that was the title.
[00:02:54] Mat: And what did you find?
[00:02:57] Syeda: So, the finding was that as expected because I discussed with a lot of people, and they said we already know that they there are deficiencies, and I was like yes, we do know but unless we collect some data and you put out questions nobody’s going to because this that’s the scientific process.
So, we found that the training doctors were a lot better in keeping their portfolio up to date in using different kind of engines as ISEP e logs more often than non-training doctors because they weren’t required to do that. They were just doing the service provision kind of thing. And then they were the training doctors more involved, although.
If we see, if we look at the absolute kind of thing, they also reported being less involved, but they were more involved as compared to non-training doctors in research and teachings and academics. And also, they reported more well-being than being as compared to non-training doctors.
General feeling of it. So that was, so basically, I divided into Portfolio academics and being support that they get from the department or the institution that they are in. So, I divide it in like bits and pieces of the way our profession is built in, the way we are expected to perform in terms of theatre exposure, the clinical aspect of it, and then in terms of research, in terms of academics teaching, in terms of maintaining a portfolio.
So, these were the basic points on the base of which we were comparing two kinds of doctors.
[00:04:25] Mat: And what recommendations would you make on the basis of your findings?
[00:04:30] Syeda: So, we, we recommended to basically my aim was to develop, to collect more data across the country from different trusts and see how is the variation because it can be different, but we realize it’s from trust to trust and some just may give, provide more support and some may not, but there’s no organizational structure for these doctors.
No kind of thing that, okay, so this is the requirement, this is how we are going to do. No organizing structure. So, our aim was to collect more data from all other trusts and see how on the, how is the bigger picture and the recommendation was to, and then provide support according to that kind of encouraging more portfolio, developing a system where they are required to do certain kind of things for their developmental needs.
If they need support to enter into training program, then how are we going to do that? How do we. Again, provide those kinds of opportunities to them. So this, our basic aim was to, encourage more portfolio development because we found that’s been the main thing that they’re not doing very well as compared to the trained doctors and develop more data and help other doctors to, complete the survey, get us more information and then probably every chance to try to develop a system how they’re going to deal with their non training doctors in terms of their growth and professional growth and developmental needs.
[00:05:52] Mat: so, I really like that, that non training doctors, they also have growing and developmental needs. And it sounds like the people that are in training, they’ve got something to learn from people that are in non-training grades also, and you talked about well-being and projects.
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If I go back initially then about how you’d carry the project out. So, you had this idea percolating in your mind. And then you specifically tailored it to a conference, that kind of strikes me as an important thing, because I think a lot of time, I think people do projects or certainly maybe I’ve done projects and you think, but this is a great idea, but then you really have no idea what that would go.
Whereas you very clearly linked your idea to an audience very early on.
[00:07:01] Syeda: So, I think this is what I learned because nobody whenever you go to someone and say, oh, how I’m going to do a research project, how should I do that? Because I need to, I think a lot of time you should just keep an eye on coming conferences, learn journals and what’s going on.
And then of course, when you are working, there are always ideas coming into your mind, you identify a problem and then you don’t know how to. deal with it and how to do it. But I think the important thing is just keep reading journals, conferences, and keep an eye on what’s going on in the academia and what’s, what are the main things that they, people are concentrating on.
And there will always be something in your mind and you, that you have to share about. And some of the times we do undermine our own ideas. And Okay. Who’s going to like that? And it’s nothing. And a lot of people did tell me, to be honest, initially, when I discussed with some of my seniors to that this is what I want to do.
And they were like, but what do you want to do? We already know that this is the problem. And it would be very difficult. And how would you get responses? And people don’t respond to service and stuff like that. It wasn’t all positive. And to be honest, at some point, I was thinking, it is accepted as abstract poster, but maybe I shouldn’t do it because it’s not it’s I said that it’s just, to be honest, I said, it’s just a stupid idea.
So, but then I had, thankfully, I had people who said that, no, I think you should properly go when everything was finished, still I was contemplating whether I should present it or not. Though people know you have to do. And there was also this thing, and I am happy that I was thinking in this way. I said, look, this is my idea and what, whether people like it or not, I have to stand by it because this is what I believe in.
And I think I should morally present it and whatever the result is, I would be happy to accept because you always learn from every kind of opinions, whether it’s like negative criticism or positive one.
[00:08:53] Mat: I really, I love that idea that it’s an idea that arose from your personal experience, that concept, you’ve got your eyes open.
What are the problems, you don’t just go into workplace with your eyes closed, you go into the workplace with your eyes and ears open, and you look where the problems are, and where things can be better, and that strikes me as really important. And actually, if I think when I was at the beginning of my career, vast majority of the work that I did was ideas that originated from me, and they were grounded in the everyday experiences.
And it’s a bit strange because, people come to me now and obviously I’m an established consultant. People come to me now and say, have you got a project? And the honest answer is that a lot of the time I don’t, or if I have projects, it’s projects that are relevant to me.
And I think that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. Because sometimes, if it’s something that’s relevant to me, then… Is it going to be interesting? Like you said, you love this project. You stood by it. It was your idea. And that’s really powerful. Whereas, if you’d come to me and I said, oh, let’s look at my tonsillectomy outcomes or whatever, then it’s my project and you’re in my projects.
And then the passion that I’m hearing, I don’t think that would necessarily be there. And, and, in your case, it’s something that arose from your experiences. I think the other problem that I sometimes see is when people go and ask consultants for projects. I think if you, there’s a danger that people will give you grand, massive sort of 10-year projects because, as a consultant, I, as a consultant, I can think in terms of a 10-year project.
Cause you know, because I’ll still be a consultant in 10 years. As I recognize that people beginning of their career, they can’t think of a 10-year project because, to get stuff turned around in six to nine months or thereabouts. So that’s one problem. And the other problem that I see, and I don’t know whether you’ve experienced that, but I certainly did when I was a much younger doctor was that sort of sometimes consultants have vanity projects.
Which is, you do a project that demonstrates what a brilliant surgeon I am, for example, or what a great doctor I am, or how often I get my diagnosis, right? And that’s really the only person that’s interested in that is, is the consultant’s ego. I’m sounding very harsh on the consultants now, but I think what I’m saying is I’m agreeing with you that the best projects arise from somebody who’s in the middle of Who goes into the world with eyes open.
[00:11:12] Syeda: You’re really right. The most important of the projects that you really want to do arise from your personal experience because there’s a kind of personal connection to it and then you relate to it. And then I think it’s a lot of time and standing also because you understand the problem really well.
That’s why you are able to present really well. And that’s why you are able to work on it. You identify how. where, what is the problem? Where are the things that I want to do? And it’s really good because as compared to some other project that you’re doing for someone else, you don’t really have an idea what they want to do.
And you’re not able to I think you can, I’m not saying you wouldn’t, but I’m saying the personal thing or the personal experiences that it originates from you. So, you are able to navigate it properly. You know what you’re going to do. What are your main things that you’re looking at and how you’re going to do it?
Always, I think my tip would be in this sense to keep an eye on the ideas that comes to your daily life. And then I have developed another habit now because I keep, we all forget and I just. Now an idea comes to mind, just write it down in a diary that, okay, we can do this, I can do another project about it, or I can, in the future, maybe I can look into something that I can present or something that I want to do.
This is what I learned from. Over the time writing but I wasn’t really doing it, but now I do it because I frequently think about, oh, there was something that was really striking, but I can’t remember it now. So, I just try to write it down with me whenever I’m on call or I’m in a meeting, in a handover meeting and we’re discussing something, and an idea comes to me.
Okay, so I’ve identified a problem now, so we can do something about it. You might not do anything, but it’s just an. Keep a really good logbook of things that you can some sometimes do. And the next there’s one point you mentioned, and I really liked it because it happened to me too when you are someone really new in your career or new country.
So, people might give you a really long project. And at that time, I didn’t realize because I was a new from other country. I didn’t know the timeframe, how would that be presented as evidence, or would that matter or not? So, you have to be aware that some projects would not help you a lot. in your career in terms of because all of our portfolios and stuff is built around providing evidence and also if I can say it’s more scientific the level of evidence if you are doing as in the first although you are doing have leading the audit or whatever so you have to be careful about this thing that You have a really limited time frame and you want to achieve certain things in that, and you have to then able to select projects according to that.
[00:13:53] Mat: Because that’s the reality, isn’t it? Whether we like it or not, the reality is we are assessed for our portfolios, and you know.
[00:14:02] Syeda: This is where like career guidance come in because nobody tells these things until you realize it, or you experience it in your own in your own life.
So, this is what I felt and that’s why my project was like they need people need guidance. And proper guidance earlier on in their career. But there’s not maybe a lot of communication. And sometimes we don’t even realize as a new doctor that like we need guidance and who to ask for guidance, who would be the proper person to guide and things like that.
[00:14:36] Mat: Okay, so if we If I think of the project journey, so there you are, you go into workplace and you have your eyes opened and you notice what kind of a mindset do you have to be in to notice the projects and the ideas? Cause you know, you’ve noticed, but some people don’t, or maybe they do, but they don’t act on it.
But what kind of a mindset you have to be in to notice potential projects?
[00:14:59] Syeda: So, you are right. A lot of people in my like position realize that there’s been a bit of deficiencies and they do say we don’t necessarily receive kind of guidance and stuff, but they don’t talk about it.
And one of the main things in my project was, to be honest, if I say honestly, some people were taking it as I’m pointing fingers at something and maybe we are saying that we have been treated badly or stuff like that. So, this was really insight to me when I discussed one of my other senior and although he has been really helpful because he looked at my abstract and said, okay, so this, you need to be more brief or so he helped me with the answer in that sense, but when I Went to him with the questionnaire.
He was really critical of it, and he said look and he took it like in a very different way and it made me open my eyes to that aspect of the project also that people might take it as I’m attacking the system or I’m attacking some people or I’m saying, oh, we have not been treated rightly or stuff like that.
No, this is not about that. It just I’m not saying there’s something wrong or there’s something we have not been treated really bad or something. I’m just saying that this, there are some problems and then for because in our practice patient safety is the heart of everything and then if we make it more good and that’s a good thing and if we are giving the same opportunities to the people who are serving our people and involved in the health care.
So basically, what we are doing is we are developing better healthcare. There’s nothing wrong with that. And if we are able to identify problems and then sort it out, that’s a good thing. So, you have to be in, some people might take it in the really wrong way. And then you have to redirect. No, this is what I want to do.
It’s a really positive thing. This is what happened, and it really put me off in the first couple of days and I said, look some people might take it really wrong and then it would be, it’s just another thing that, oh, this, these doctors are like saying this and stuff and all. And so, a lot of negative emotions came into my mind and heart and really put me off from the project.
But this thinking that it’s my project and I should stand by, I should do it, whether people like it or not, and we will see after that. And that’s why I’m really happy that I went to the conference, I presented it, and it went really well.
[00:17:32] Mat: So, I really like this this notion. You’ve identified the problem, you’re going to work, you pay attention, you notice, you’ve identified a problem, but what needs to happen is you need to convert that problem into something constructive, something that can potentially change. So, it’s not just about pointing out there’s a problem and having a moan because, people say yes.
So, the key step there is converting a problem into something constructive and a call for change.
[00:18:00] Syeda: So, I think it’s we’re following a scientific process then because you can say, this is what I feel, but not many people would agree to it. So, you have to put in a question and then you have to say, present in a scientific way to people who are like more scientific.
The doctors are really scientific people. So, if you want to say, oh, I think this is the problem, then a lot of people will say, yes, we know this is a problem, but. What are you trying to get out of it? This is the question that people did ask me actually, and I was saying is it so what are you trying to get out of it?
So, then you have to convert it in some sign in abstract form. Okay, so this is my problem. This is what I did. So, it’s scientific process converted into something that people will say, take seriously. So, that’s how you can identify a problem and then say, okay, I’m going to do this.
And you can also think of it as a junior doctor. Okay. I’m going to benefit in terms of I am presenting. So, it will add to my portfolio. It’s not just a problem. You can say some people might take it as why put an effort and stuff, but you can also think it in a way that, okay, I will get something out of it by presenting by something to my portfolio.
[00:19:08] Mat: I guess that the difference between doing something just for the portfolios, you probably wouldn’t win a prize. Because people might do a project just so that they tick a box, just so that they can get something to portfolio, which is okay. Cause you know that’s what we judged on for better or for worse.
. But what you’ve outlined is, you’ve outlined the passion and you’ve outlined a very real problem and you’ve produced some very real evidence that, that call for change and suggest change. And that’s. That’s why it was an award-winning project at the end of the day because you weren’t just there ticking a box.
Thank you. Okay you said that you had quite a lot of negativities along the way that you know People didn’t believe it or people thought what’s the point? How did you yourself deal with that?
[00:19:54] Syeda: Yes, when first I discussed with the with my colleagues. So, I was on call. I looked at the thing and I the email it was in my mind, and I discussed with my SHO, and she was like really, it’s a really good idea.
We can do that. And we just basically discussed the outline of it. And I just say, okay, so we can do this. This would be a project and stuff like that. But then she went to different hospitals and then I didn’t quite like got on with her. She was quite busy. She didn’t quite was available to help me with it.
But I continued with the idea. And then I discussed with my seniors and then they were quite, so at one point, that’s one person was really negative. But I was really, that day I was really heartbroken in a sense. I was like I think probably, I shouldn’t do it because it’s going to create a lot of commotion maybe and it would be taken as a negative thing because I am like saying that non training doctors are really treated badly or something like that.
But at the end of the day, this… The main thing that I had in my mind, and my mind told me that this is your idea, you came up with it, it’s been accepted in a conference, in a real conference, now you have to do it, because you have to stand by it now. It was a moral thing for me, I said like morally I shouldn’t be, as a researcher, when you say something, you stand by it.
you do, you, you put on a question, you should stand by it then, either prove it wrong or prove it right. So, I should not just leave it in the middle of everything. The people are really critical. And because this is how life is, I told myself, some people would say it’s a really good project. Some people would say it’s not, and that’s okay.
Just do it. So, then I said, okay, I’ll just going to I’m going to do it. Anyway,
[00:21:36] Mat: okay How did you go about collecting all the data that you needed?
[00:21:41] Syeda: So interestingly people that I discussed with quite negative, but they did direct me a certain thing It’s okay. How are you going to collect data and stuff?
And I said, I’m going to send it to all my friends Whoever they are in different hospital because I do have some data from different hospitals like from Millington Colchester and every hospital that I needed. So, this was one of the things and this was most important by bit of the survey because I, these days, they were right that surveys are not, people don’t respond to surveys and don’t respond to questionnaires because they’re so busy and stuff.
So, a lot of time I had to involve my friends and say, look, you have to do it. Make your friends do it. So at least I can get some proper responses and then develop data on. And then I spoke to medical education team in our hospital. And then I told them, look, this is I have a survey and I need to send it out to all the junior doctors.
And they helped me with this and it out all the junior doctors. Of course, the point is people are not. really, it should be more responses than I got, but people were not responding. And then every time I would be on call and stuff, I would be like, did you do the survey or not? Did you, can you do it for me, please?
So just making sure that people are doing it for me, and I am able to get in to get the responses. So, this is how I collect the data basically.
[00:22:56] Mat: So, keep reminding, keep chipping away and keep asking people and involving your network and friends and the people that you know and keep at it.
And not to be disheartened if there isn’t a flood of responses in, within the day two of sending it out. Cause the reality is that there won’t be. People are not going to be interested. You’ve got to work at it. Okay, so let’s move on to the poster itself then.
So how did you decide what was going to go in and the colours and the layout?
[00:23:27] Syeda: That’s really interesting. So important bit of it. I mentioned that we came up with an idea with I came up with an idea and discussed with my other junior that I really liked. But then when I was actually doing the I did the questionnaire, I did everything.
There was another junior with me. He’s, he is a CT trainee. He’s quite good. So most important thing about your project is. To identify people, good people who would help you with your project and would make it possible for you to also be motivated and working on it. So, he was really we get along really well, our own calls and we made a good team, and I discussed ideas with him.
I actually told him that. I’m going to go present an abstract in Edinburgh and I have to make a poster. And he said, I will help with it because it’d be good for his portfolio. So that’s really nice. You can help me with the poster. He helped me with the poster too. He analysed some of the data for me.
Thank you. His name is Rory Hammond. So, he was really helpful. Although I have to chase him because he was really busy and I was saying, oh, did you do this? Did he, it was, to be honest, it was really time bound also because you know what happened. is that the day before that I was presenting, I had to go to Edinburgh.
And the day before that, the final touch of, we were still working on the poster. So, the day we analysed the data, the day before everything, and then we developed this whole series of numbers. And I was like, talking to, I was like, we can’t put all of these numbers and percentages on it. And then I decided, this is these three points, because my questions were like set of, as I mentioned, portfolio, theatre exposure.
So, there was a set of questions that were related to one, two, three, four things. And then there was some kind of things that were outstanding from this data, and I was, were more important. So, this is what I decided, and I told him, look, I want these points to be taken into the poster, these ones, because these are the most important things.
So, one thing that I realized is. all of your data should not go into poster it’s the poster is a reflection of your work it’s not your work so you have to be really good at pointing and summarizing and briefing your all of the work so that your poster should represent your work not Just because all of, I was thinking about why this poster, it was really simple poster, but it was really well constructed.
I think that’s why, because I was thinking, and I do go on or seeing all other posters and it was really good posters. But when I, at the one point that I realized they were really overwhelming, and they put everything in it. So, I thought maybe the idea was to in the poster is to just represent your work.
Take out the main points of your work and then put it in that poster, not all the data that what you have done in the project. So, when we were doing the poster, we analyse data, and I put the basic form of the poster, and I told my colleague. This is the point that I want to end, and this is how I want to poster.
And he actually helped me with the colours and layout. And then he sent it back to me and looked at all of the things and I really liked it. I said, I and there was bits and pieces where I needed some kind of colour changes and stuff. And I said, okay, I think we have to change it to this one.
I made a text a bit more. The big font and the colour contrast so that people can are able to see it and really brief points and clear cuts. So, this was the main point and I think that worked really well. The other thing that I really liked in the poster and that might be one of the factors was to, it was really systematic.
And we did mention what we’re going to do next, what are the deficiencies of my post, my work poster, and how we’re going to do that. And then also contribute to us. So, it was really systematic. Everything was in there. So, this, I did reflect it back because I wasn’t expecting that this post is going to win because I thought it’s a really obscure idea.
There’s not much, it’s not like a big scientific work or something. But I think this was the point that maybe added to the value. And then I also realized that it’s not important. if the project is big or something, it’s important how you present it and how you say, okay, this is what I’ve done and present really well.
That’s most important because there were certainly people who had done more good projects than me. I, and that day and the posters were all really good and ideas were really good. But this is what I feel about it.
[00:27:53] Mat: So, there’s something there, obviously, you’ve got to have an idea that captures people’s imagination that’s interesting and that clearly is linked to the passion that you have, because if you’re passionate about the project, then that’s going to come through in how that’s presented.
And then there’s also That thing that it’s supposed to people will look at it. People won’t read it. People will look at it, and they’re not the same things, so it’s about having a structure, that structured approach, how things move across a poster, the big letters contrasting colour.
And highlights rather than every single thing, and then if somebody goes by and they spend they look at 10 seconds, they look at the poster and they say, okay, I get what it’s about. And then it’s interesting. And as opposed to if it’s a wall of text people think, okay, where do I start with this?
[00:28:43] Syeda: I think this was the one point that I learned from it that a lot of posters that day was really some of them really crowded. I was interested. Some people, if you were interested in things, then you might take your time and read it. That’s okay. But sometimes the poster might be really overwhelming.
And then I, this is what I realized that the poster is actually a representation of your work. It is not your work. So, you have to present it really well.
[00:29:09] Mat: And people are probably not going to read anything. I’d say people would read the abstracts, and usually that’s somewhere in the conference program, isn’t it? People might look through what posters there are and they’re going to look at the abstracts and then that’s the bit they’re going to read so I think when it comes to posters people will look at them and get an impression and then they might stop or not.
Okay, so maybe coming to the end then I’m interested. What would be your top tips for a doctor who’s considering starting a project.
[00:29:47] Syeda: As you mentioned, People might go to consultants and stuff, but I think you have to if you are someone really new like me and you don’t know well about the department and, or the system, anything, then you have to get to know people and get to know the environment, trying to know the systems and when you identify a problem, you can talk to your colleagues.
But I think you have to You have to first, the first thing is to realize some, that potential project for you and that would be easy for you to do and that would not take a lot of time and it would be quick. So that’s the first bit to realize that you have to do this kind of, and it doesn’t come straight away.
You have to work around, you have to know the system and people don’t normally guide you and stuff like that, but I think you have to be really directed in your mind that what do you want to do if you need something for your portfolio or it is something you’re passionate about, but the objective should be really clear.
That’s what I’m trying to say. The objective of that thing would be, should be really. Clear, otherwise you’re not going to achieve it. So, this is what I realized over time. So, identify problem and then work on it. How you’re going to do it and discuss with people. And you should know people who might help you in a positive way.
This is really important because you can’t work alone. And you normally, it gets a lot of time. You don’t have a lot of time. You’re working also. So, you need to involve people who would actually help you. And would actually in a good way, not like hinder you or not. I’m saying like you have to identify people who would help you with your thinking, with your project.
This is really good. I think I’m thinking this is really good talent. Some people have it, they identify people who would help with them, work with them really good. So, you have to identify people that will be able to work with you and then get an idea, framework, when you’re going to do it. And in my case, I had time frame.
I had a conference to present with. So, I knew that I’m going to do it in this time frame. So, you have to have a time frame, otherwise you’re going to be stuck in there. And I think these deadlines are really good because it keeps you, on time. So, if you are doing, going to do something, you have to keep an eye on conferences, coming conferences, and then you can just present your work in it.
It will give you a time frame, work on that time frame, develop some network of people who would help you. And In terms of poster, as I said, it’s a representation of your work, so be very brief, and main ideas should be there, main, it should be systematic, organized, so it’s, so the person that are looking at project don’t know your project, you know your project, sometimes that’s why we mess up, we just know our things, so we just It’s assumed that every else, every other person would know that thing.
So just assume that they know, they don’t know your project. So, you have to present in a way that it should be really easy to them to understand what you’re doing. So, it’s just like representation points and just main essence of the, of your work.
[00:32:43] Mat: Wonderful. Congratulations again and thank you very much.
[00:32:46] Syeda: Thank you so much. I’m really happy.