Alumni Interview Series: Aveen Connolly, MD

For this month’s edition of the Alumni Interview Series, Aveen Connolly, MD, class of 2012, told us about her experiences during and after her life here in Szeged.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Dublin, Ireland. I am 26 years old and I am currently working as a Doctor in the UK. I am the first and only doctor in the family! I ran competitively for Ireland until I left home at 18 years of age and started studying Medicine – it was too difficult to keep it up at such a competitive level, but I did run a lot with a couple of friends around Szeged during my time there.

What made you decide to study Medicine?               

I don’t ever remember wanting to do anything else!

Why did you choose to study in Hungary?

In Ireland we require a certain amount of points for our “Leaving Certificate” examinations, unfortunately I was 10 points short. I was lucky however that a very close friend of mine was about to commence Veterinary studies in Budapest and that’s when I applied for Medicine in Szeged. I read a lot about it, and although at first I was very nervous about the idea, after a couple of months it became my new life!

What is one of your fondest memories from your time in Szeged?

Obviously meeting my boyfriend Max – 1st year 1st semester and 8 years later we are still together and both working in the UK. Szeged brings lots of wonderful memories – as you all know, your friends become your family – these friends are your friends for life!

Which field of Medicine do you work in, and why did you choose it?

I am currently doing Internal Medicine. The system in the UK starts with a Foundation Year Programme 1 & 2 (we are fully registered following graduation therefore are not eligible for FY1 training posts – we apply directly for FY2) After FY2, I applied for core medical training (CMT). This is the route I must take for a career in Dermatology. I think it is important to decide what you want out of your career – if you want to live to work, or work to live. Dermatology is very much an outpatient speciality with some acute medicine. It is very female & family friendly – and yes there are also lots of male Dermatologists too. There are opportunities for minor operations, sub-specialising, research & teaching. I find this speciality is very fulfilling – the results are visible and this is very satisfying for both, you and your patient.

Where do you currently work?

I am currently in a medical training post in the United Kingdom. I am in my first year of core medical training (CMT) in the East of England Deanery – Norwich.

What is the workload like?

During CMT we rotate every 4 months for 2 years. The workload varies during each rotation, and depending on how many doctors are on the team. It can be quite intense some days as I may be the most senior doctor on the ward. I usually am on-call one weekend every month and will have a set of 4 nights every 5-6 weeks.

Compared to other professions, lawyers, teachers, accountants, dentists etc., do you feel you’re paid better/worse/the same?

The pay is good, although you do have a lot of responsibility on the job. There are a lot of extra costs, which come out of your salary; your yearly GMC payment, membership to the Royal College of Physicians (or surgeons, anaesthesiology etc.). You pay for your own exams – MRCP 1 & 2 and PACES all cost approximately £420 each (and you may not pass the first time), income protection, pension, medical indemnity insurance, and not to mention the many, many important courses which you need to attend. There is also time spent on audits, research projects and quality improvement projects. These projects can be time consuming and are done in your own time. These are all imperative to make you competitive for the speciality you wish to pursue. It has to be done!

How easy/difficult was it to start practising in the country you’re working, in once you graduated from Szeged?

I knew the transition would be difficult – therefore I completed my observerships during 6th year back home in Ireland. The system in Ireland/UK is completely different to Hungary so I wanted to immerse myself in this while I had the opportunity. I feel I lacked a lot of practical skills, which in the UK is absolutely key, but you learn quickly and there are many examination videos on YouTube to help you.

How well do you feel your university studies prepare your career?

Quite well, the information is there – but I think you must put the work in! There were lots of exams to keep you disciplined to study – don’t be fooled – speciality exams are hard too!

What skills were you missing or wish you had acquired before starting working?

Practical skills – IV cannulas, arterial blood gas, catheter insertion, NG tube insertion – some medical students in the UK even do Lumbar punctures!!! Most UK hospitals have simulation suites where you can practice on mannequins until you feel comfortable and competent to do this on real patients.

Do you wish you had done something different during your university years?

I wish I had travelled around Eastern Europe more.

What skills were most critical for your success?

Communication skills, team work skills, good foundation of knowledge… and always know your limits!

How do you feel you compare when you are working with people from other medical schools in and out of Hungary?

People usually ask me at which UK medical school did I train? They never expect the reply I give!

Any words of wisdom and advice to students trying to decide where to work and in which field?

You don’t need to choose your specific speciality right away. The UK gives you the opportunity to experience this during your Foundation Year, and you also have the opportunity and are encouraged to do taster days in any speciality you want. Once you decide, whether you want to do, for example, Medicine or Surgery, you have another 2 years to decide which sub-speciality you want!

For now – enjoy the student life in Szeged – you will really miss it when it’s over!

Interview by: Benedek Bozoky and Priya Mehra