Updated: Apr 29, 2021
This week we talk to Dr Mariam Adegoke about her career so far in general practice!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your career journey so far?
I graduated from the University of Liverpool almost 7 years ago and have worked in various roles in medicine since then. I did my foundation jobs in North West London and upon finishing them I wasn’t really sure which direction I wanted to go in. Trauma was one of my top choices but I couldn’t decide between trauma medicine (aka emergency medicine) or trauma surgery (orthopaedics).
My CV and previous experience had been geared towards orthopaedics but I wasn’t 100% sure so I moved to Australia and worked in A&E there. I loved it! The lifestyle was great - you work to have a great life doing the things you want, not the other way round as we tend to do here - living just to work. They also really created a safe place for staff to learn. It was everything you’d want from an employer.
Why did you choose this specialty?
After a while running traumas it lost its edge and I started to find it quite repetitive as a lot of it is pattern recognition. The A&E doctors in Australia also cover the Early Treatment Zones - similar to the urgent care centres that we have in the UK. I found that I was increasingly drawn to this less acute side and because of how the health system is set up there, a lot of patients who couldn’t afford to see their GP attended A&E and were seen in the ETZ. I liked the pace and the continuity, but also the feeling of no two days being the same. That’s what drew me to wanting to specialise in general practice.
General Practice is so varied in terms of the presentations you see. One person might come in with a low mood, another for a fit note, and another with mild chest pain that turns out to be a cardiac emergency. I find the variety enjoyable.
During your time in medical school, did you enjoy this specialty?
We had very little exposure to general practice at university. We had 7 weeks in fifth year and I did enjoy that as it was the first time that I felt like a ‘proper doctor’. This is because I was seeing the patients whilst the GP sat in. That placement was a very distant memory by the time it came to applying for general practice and one of my worries was that I would finally do a GP placement, hate it and be back to square one in terms of choosing a specialty.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
I set up my own medical wellness and aesthetics clinic based in Islington. It was not without its challenges but it’s rewarding to have a place of my own and be able to make a dream come true. I am passionate about wellness and think that lifestyle medicine is the future. It’s all about empowering people to make the small changes that will make a huge difference. It is rewarding to be able to be part of that journey with clients.
I often get asked why wellness? Growing up in a Nigerian household, I saw first hand how family members struggled to make lifestyle changes to benefit their health. The standard advice they were given by their GPs was no good. Through this I really saw how the ‘one size fits all’ approach does not work, especially for people from ethnic backgrounds. Rather than one set advice list for everyone, small substitutions (such as changing ingredients to fresh, swapping palm oil to olive) go a long way and allow people from ethnic backgrounds to enjoy the foods that are part of their culture but with healthier changes. It is this use of lifestyle medicine as a part of disease prevention but also managing chronic diseases, that made me want to set up a practice in the wellness industry.
As for aesthetics, I always had an eye for it and was interested in doing it since becoming a doctor. However, it wasn’t until I went through treating stubborn pigmentation of my own, including being treated in clinics that didn’t know how to treat black skin, that I began understanding more about skincare. I wanted to share my expertise with other black women so that they had safe practitioners they could see, without the risk of the lack of clinician knowledge exacerbating their skin problem. I trained to be able to offer a fully comprehensive service and I take pleasure in being able to find solutions to people’s skin/aesthetic concerns.
What has been your biggest challenge working in this specialty so far?
I’ve only worked in general practice in a post-covid world. For many, switching to mainly telephone triage has been a big adjustment but for me it’s how I (re-)met general practice. Even still, I’ve missed the face to face patient interaction and it undoubtedly affects rapport with patients. I look forward to getting that aspect back as we slowly ease out of restrictions.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Hobbies wise - I’m a keen photographer, I love travelling and I’m a gym bunny. If it involves being active and exploring, I’m there. Equally I’m a massive foodie and love brunching (counting down to May 17th!)
What advice would you give to someone interested in this specialty?
General Practice is so varied and can be anything you make it. Gone are the days of full time sessions - most GPs don’t do more than 7/8 sessions full time (3.5-4 days). You can fill your time doing other things - whether that’s working in medical aesthetics like I do, or doing locum work, being a GP with an extended role (e.g. in minor surgery, ENT or dermatology), working in TV medicine or doing something outside of medicine completely. The world is your oyster!