Aled Picton – MClinEd Clinical Education graduate

Current employer: University of Birmingham Medical School

Current job title: Education Fellow, Institute of Clinical Sciences

Current location: Birmingham

“Studying the MClinEd programme provided an excellent grounding in the principles of teaching and learning. I learned how to reflect on and appraise teaching practice. I also learned valuable research and academic writing skills. As I now work at a medical school, I use these skills and knowledge every day – particularly content from the assessment module.”

Tell us what you have been doing since completing your studies.

I am a junior doctor with an interest in education. I studied medicine at Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry from 2008 to 2013 and spent the first two years of my studies in Plymouth.

I then studied the MClinEd programme at Plymouth from 2013 to 2015, whilst I worked as an Academic Foundation Year 1 and 2 Doctor in Exeter. After this I moved to Birmingham to work as a Clinical Teaching Fellow.  

When I left the South West I exited the MClinEd programme after completing the Post Graduate Certificate and Diploma stages. I transferred my module credits to the University of Birmingham and completed my dissertation in 2015-16, which looked at work-life balance in medical students. I now work at the University of Birmingham Medical School as a Central Education Fellow, where I help to deliver and shape the undergraduate curriculum.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

My career aim is to be a clinical academic. I plan to combine an educational and research role at a medical school with a clinical role in Paediatrics. Completing the MClinEd course has provided me with the skills, experience, and contacts to develop along this career pathway. After getting some experience in undergraduate education, my next step will be to start paediatrics training. I hope to be able to start doctoral education research in in the near future.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

Working as a junior doctor can involve a lot of challenges. This might include looking after critically unwell patients, for example in the Emergency Department or on the wards. I think the other major challenges of Foundation Years training are learning to prioritise effectively and being aware of the limitations of your experience.

I also think it can be difficult to balance clinical and academic commitments. I need to be aware that if I do continue as a clinical academic, this may become more challenging in the future. I try to be mindful of my work-life balance to offset this.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

As a medical student I volunteered at the London Olympic Games, where I worked with the Guatemalan team for five weeks. I was lucky enough to attend a lot of events and was on the finish line when one of our athletes won the country’s first ever Olympic medal: it was a silver in the men’s 20km race walk, in case you missed it. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience. After this I went out to Guatemala to do my undergraduate elective in a hospital there, which I really enjoyed.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?

I think I should have made more of an effort to get my research and education work published from an earlier stage in my career. On reflection, some of my MClinEd assignments were potentially publishable if I’d devoted a bit more time and effort to this. This links back to my point about balancing clinical with academic work and finding enough time to achieve what you want to in each area.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

I genuinely think the most important thing is to choose a job that makes you happy. I love teaching and helping to improve the undergraduate experience for our students, so feel really lucky to be in my current role. If you’re a health care professional interested in education, I’d recommend (from my own limited experience) getting experience in different teaching and learning settings and seeking out relevant qualifications such as the MClinEd programme.

Medical education is a fairly small world and at each step in my career journey I’ve been helped and supported by near-peers and mentors. Seeking out like-minded people who can play that role for you is really important.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

Studying the MClinEd programme provided an excellent grounding in the principles of teaching and learning. I learned how to reflect on and appraise teaching practice. I also learned valuable research and academic writing skills. As I now work at a medical school, I use these skills and knowledge every day – particularly content from the assessment module.  

I received detailed feedback on my assignments so that I could always try and improve my work. Most importantly, I was supported by talented and engaging course lecturers who made topics interesting, relevant, and fun. I also really enjoyed the social and multi-disciplinary aspects of the course, as it was a great opportunity to meet other health care professionals from different backgrounds with an interest in teaching.

Do you stay in touch with other Plymouth University alumni or lecturers?

Yes. I keep in touch with two of the lecturers from my MClinEd course who were particularly supportive and inspiring. They have provided lots of career advice, which has been invaluable. As I work in Birmingham now, it’s nice to maintain a connection to Plymouth. Perhaps in the future I might head back to the South West.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?

Yes, definitely. I think Plymouth is a great place to study. I had a brilliant time at medical school as an undergraduate. I also really enjoyed studying on the MClinEd programme as a postgraduate student. It has provided an excellent grounding in medical education which I’m sure I will continue to build on for the rest of my career.