The Melanin Medics Blog Series showcasing black Medical Professionals in various Medical Specialties. Sharing their journeys, challenges and life lessons. #RepresentationMatters. This week we're featuring a Gastroenterologist!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your career journey so far
My name is Dr Yaa Danso and I am a Gastroenterology Registrar. I completed my medical training in Bart's and the London and graduated in 2013. I decided for a change in scenery and opted to complete my foundation training in the North West deanery. I moved to Manchester and worked in large DGH. During this time I got involved in teaching and introduced my own teaching programme within the trust. I continued in Manchester for my core medical training and it was these two years that really made my, what I would call, my "Doctor forming moments". It was also during this time that I had begun to focus on my desired speciality. After core medical training I took a year out where I took a few holiday breaks and also worked as a registrar in a few different specialities to get a feel for the next 5 years!
I'm now working as a Gastroenterology ST3 in the North West, coincidentally in the same hospital I began as an FY1. More recently I am particularly proud to be involved in the organisation for Ghanian Doctors and Dentists Association UK @GDDAUK, who won a prestigious GUBA Award in 2018.
Why did you choose this Specialty?
When I first started as an FYI I was quite sure I wanted to do hospital medicine. Initially they all the specialities seemed very similar so I looked towards the Consultants/regs. I looked at if they seemed happy in they're job, were they stressed, are they approachable, did they enjoy their own speciality; this can be very eye opening. For Gastroenterology, I loved the mix of things to do- particularly learning how to do endoscopy (this is the best part of my week) and getting involved with emergencies. The needs for Gastroenterologists, female ones especially, are growing. Out of the 10 Gastroenterology seniors in my hospital (SpRs and Consultants) I am the only woman! Probably the most important for me was the work life balance. I knew working in hospital I would be expected to do out-of-hours work, but at the moment most Gastroenterologists are part of the Gastro Emergency rota and thus forgo all general medical on-calls...this clinched it for me 📷. Gastroenterology is a really great speciality, I love what I'm doing at the moment and I would encourage others to try a taster week at their own hospital or with the BSG (British society of Gastroenterology) to see if it's your fit.
During your time in Medical School, did you enjoy this specialty?
Interestingly, I was initially quite set on training in psychiatry. During medical school I would cater all my self directed modules towards psychiatry and even took my elective in a psychiatry unit in Barbados. But fairly soon after I turned up onto the wards as an FY1, I was pretty certain I wanted to pursue hospital medicine and did just that.
What is your greatest achievement till date?
My greatest achievement came quite recently with me getting my registrar job, but it wasn't as easy as I had imagined.
On my first application/interview I was so worried about the process and how "better qualified" the other candidates were. I second guessed myself all the way through and this reflected in my result. My ranking was in the bottom 10% and wasn't anywhere close to getting a speciality training job within the UK, let alone the location I wanted. I was gutted. I cried. And seriously questioned if I was overstepping myself for thinking I was good enough for this job at all. But I thought I'd give it another go - just to make sure. I worked to get a few more lines on the CV and knowing the process with solid prep, gave me the confidence to let me feel more like myself in the interview. A few weeks later THE email popped up and I couldn't believe the result. With my new score I was now ranked *2nd* in the country! I almost cried then too......and then took a screenshot and sent it to the group chat! Needless to say I was offered my top choice job: the speciality I wanted, in the location I wanted.
I am now Dr Yaa Danso Gastroenterology Specialist Registrar.
Even as I write this, it still makes me smile.
#StartedFromTheBotto....you know the rest. 📷
What has been your biggest challenge working in this specialty so far?
As I have become more senior my responsibilities have naturally increased. Particularly on-call, I'm the go-to for so many questions; medical or otherwise. I find myself often having to make that phone call to the consultant for their opinion or researching up-to-date guidelines. This was something I rarely needed to do as an SHO and would simply ask my registrar if I was really stuck. But now that I AM the registrar It's simply not enough to just fumble along. I expected to be on quite a steep learning curve as a first year registrar but being regularly hit with things I have never encountered is still daunting.
What do you like to do outside of work? I have recently moved and I have really got into interiors and home decor whilst fashioning up my new place. Every now and again I post about something I bought, new decorating ideas and can be regularly found scouring the shelves of Homesense. I also love how Afrobeats is having such a big come back now! I head to an Afrobeat/Bashment dance class a couple times a week in Manchester. And when I'm at home there's nothing better than a Louis Theroux docu-series 📷🏿.
What advice would you give to someone interested in this specialty?
We all have that innate pull that brings us to medicine and some of our reasons is easier to verbalise than others. In general I think it's important to consider the following:
Become a "yes" woman/man. Don't let your anxieties overcome what you want to be. I remember during foundation and also as a core medical trainee, thinking....."How on earth am I ever gonna be a med reg!!?" "Am I good enough?" And when you get there you may not feel ready, but you may just surprise yourself at how quickly you can adapt. Change is always good, it brings out the best in you. Learn to say yes to the things that scare you the most and watch your comfort zone grow. A friend once said to me "If it doesn’t scare you then it’s not worth doing. Close your eyes and jump. Everything you want is on the other side of fear" so say yes!
Keep your goal in sight. Whether that be completing foundation training, finishing exams or having a plan to travel always remember what they are. There are some days I struggle when I'm at work, but it's great having that reminder that this pain is temporary! And in a few years I will get to enjoy my speciality just as I want to.
Take your time. With the exams, on-calls and not to mention all the commotion that goes with requesting annual leave, I found core medical training pretty exhausting. Afterwards I took a year out and loved the change in pace! It gave me the time to really consider what I wanted to specialise in and gave me a renewed energy for when I started my registrar post.