David J Hamblin Brown
What inspired you to work in medicine?
I always wanted to be a doctor while I was growing up because I had spent a fair amount of time fending-off childhood asthma. My doctors inspired me. However, my housemaster at the Stanley advised me to concentrate instead on Cambridge entrance. It was ten years after my first degree in Engineering and Computer Science that I started my medical degree.
Tell us about yourself – just a few sentences to introduce yourself.
I have just returned from a two-year stint in Beijing as the chief physician at a group of Chinese hospitals. Since the start of the Pandemic, I have been locked-down in East Sussex with my family. I love playing the piano (although I’m not sure my co-habitees enjoy it as much as I do) and I bill myself as a trainee Buddhist.
What is your speciality and how is the present Covid-19 pandemic affecting your normal working routine ?
I’m an emergency (A&E) doctor. Since returning to the UK, I have chosen to isolate because of my age, medical history and gender, all of which put me at risk of more serious disease. Instead, I used my technical background to setup a free telehealth service which helped patients get online help from clinicians who, like me, are stuck at home. We also developed a safety application for hospitals (www.careful.online).
How did you get to where you are today?
I was fortunate to have friends and family who supported my desire to do new things. I’ve therefore spent time in business and technology and travelled widely, as well as pursued a career in medicine. In short, I’ve not listened much to voices of caution.
What advice would you give to students/young OWs who would like to join the medical profession?
Simple rule: don’t go medical school straight from College. Instead, spend a few years doing a different degree and take a gap year (or two, why not?). Medical training can take 10 – 15 years depending on the specialty. To make it enjoyable, you need to be sure of your vocation and have some resilience that comes with maturity.
What is it like working within health care at the moment?
Working directly with patients and healthcare colleagues always has incredible rewards. Any frustrations must be set against the backdrop of a job that is undeniably fulfilling. Sadly, in many countries, healthcare is inefficient and often managed for short-term financial or political gains. In the UK, social services and the Cinderella specialties have for decades been underfunded (public health, anyone?). This has put unnecessary strain on the acute sectors and the staff that work there. From my vantage point, it is frustrating to see so much lost opportunity for health promotion and disease prevention. Shiny hospitals don’t reduce our diabetic burden. The one good thing is that healthcare is slowly becoming better connected.
What are your career highlights?
My most challenging role was my last, in China. The complexity and cultural challenges of a multi-lingual, multi-specialty, multi-site organisation cannot be overstated. Personally, though, receiving my Fellowship of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine 15 years after first starting in the specialty was a moment I truly relished. Sometimes, persistence really does pay the bills.
Do you have a fond memory from your time at Wellington that you would like to share or perhaps a particular teacher that really stood out?
It is hard to underestimate the opportunities afforded by an education at Wellington. At the time, it can also be hard to appreciate. One thing that I really enjoyed was drama and acting. I loved the theatre, both being on stage and helping back of house. Sadly, I was unconscionably bad at both. When I was eventually freed from CCF, the work we did at the elderly people’s homes as the Concert Party allowed me to be bad without anyone appearing to mind.
While all the teachers were inspiring or brilliant in one way or another, Frank Fisher, the master at the time, stands out above all others. His unexpected, gowned appearances and encyclopaedic recognition of every pupil (even at a thousand yards) was totally terrifying.
It is no exaggeration to say that he single-handedly dragged Wellington into the light in which it now stands. Without his vision and leadership, the school and its many pupils would not be where we are today. We all owe him our gratitude.