Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme
MBChB - Medicine and Surgery, 2023
Mentored by Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen
Hi, I'm Tom Thorne. I study Medicine, I'm in my fourth year of studying and I expect to graduate in 2023. I took part in the Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme (ALMP) and I worked with Dr. Andrew Vallance-Owen, who is Chief Medical Officer of Medicover and used to be an orthopaedic surgeon. I discussed my career, progression and opportunities to gain surgical experience, with myself being interested in a surgical career. And, also discussed medical entrepreneurship and technology in medicine. My mentor really helped with the experience of these. We would normally communicate over email with one another, and we would also communicate over text. As I come on to, I think that regular communication with your mentor is really key.
Preconceptions of the mentoring scheme
I think the only preconception that I really had was about the difficulty of Zoom meetings and online meetings. After a couple of years of having meetings like this, I was more looking forward to meeting in person. Thankfully by the end of the year, this was something that we managed to do and have a meeting and discuss what we had spoken about over a lot of the year over lunch. I think on Zoom it’s worth being mindful of how it’s often more difficult to read body language so you kind of really focus on your conversation points on Zoom.
That’s the main preconception that I had, that it would be difficult over Zoom, but it actually really wasn’t and it was really good because it meant we could meet more regularly with my mentor not living in Birmingham. So actually, it turned into a bit of a silver lining.
Top tips for making the most of your mentorship
My top tips for making the most of the mentoring opportunity. Contact, would be my main point. Make sure that you have regular contact with your mentor. Mentor/mentee contact is really crucial in order to make sure that you can both attend the meetings and have a good understanding of what you’re going to be discussing in each meeting. Particularly with Andrew arranging a lot of meetings with either companies that he was part of, or with professionals that he had worked with. It’s really crucial in order for me to understand when these were happening to make the most of the opportunities. And also, for me to build questions that I’d like to ask these professionals or people who worked for these companies.
I think also being positive in terms of what the experience can bring, and as well, being open to those new experiences. Like I did, experiencing a wide range of medical technology and entrepreneurship in medicine.
Advice from mentor
The main point of advice that Andrew gave me was to consider where to gain experience. I am interested in a surgical career, and as such, I’d often try and go into theatres in order to gain that surgical experience. Something which I was finding difficult was either to have those observed bits of experience, or to have experience practically. Andrew really recommended going to the emergency department in order to at least observe fractures being diagnosed and being set, as one of Andrew’s old jobs was working as an orthopaedic surgeon.
So, the main piece of advice that I got from Andrew was considering where to make your opportunities. There’s often a wide range of places to make opportunities, but you have to work these out and not just consider the most visible one.
I’d really recommend the scheme to other students. Particularly for me, as it opened my eyes to different places to gain opportunities and actually, with Andrew really, I considered the best places to get these opportunities. I’d currently been struggling and getting opportunities in the wrong places, and they were harder to come by.
I would also recommend it because it gives you the opportunity to build your CV and gain networking experience. I actually found that it really opened my eyes to different medical technology companies and different areas of entrepreneurship in medicine, which was really rewarding for me. And also, if you’ve got suggestions and ideas and things you want to pursue, it’s great to have a second opinion on these from your mentor.