Brian Jenkins is one of those rare people who seems content.
“I originally qualified from St George’s in London. I came back to Wales to start my anaesthetic career. I started off giving anaesthetics in Bridgend General Hospital. I came to Cardiff in 1985. I was a trainee here for a number of years and eventually got a consultant post in 1992,” he says. “It was an honorary consultant post because my main contract was with Cardiff University as a senior lecturer.”
His soft valleys accent has not been lost and makes his list of achievements sound humble despite the impressive length of things which he has accomplished.
“For many years, I did managerial and leadership roles within the NHS. I was head of department, clinical director, associate clinical director for nearly 15 years. I’ve been interested in teaching acute pain during most of that time and I was appointed lead for clinical skills in the undergraduate curriculum in 2007,” he says. “I was later appointed as academic lead for quality and clinical governance in 2009. I’m now sub-dean for quality, governance and compliance. In 2014, I was appointed as deputy director of anaesthetics here. In 2013, I was appointed as editor for Anaesthesia. My main interests are critical care, acute pain and medical education.”
Jenkins says that he has been very good at balancing things in his career. His current workload is witness to that fact but it’s the pure enjoyment which he has taken from doing his job that is inspiring:
“I like the process of giving anaesthetics. I like critical care. My sideline has pretty much always been teaching and medical education. I do like the academic side and most of my career has been balancing the academic and clinical sides of my job,” he says. “So, throughout my career, I’ve basically done as I liked to rather than what I probably should have done as an academic and produced lots of research papers. But on the upside of that, I’ve enjoyed pretty much all I’ve done rather than being driven by the academic career requirements.”
And it is this ethic which has really defined Jenkins. In what might otherwise have been a career concerned primarily with progression through the ranks by completing research and publishing papers, Jenkins chose the difficult way.
“I’ve had a fairly long career. Over 20 years things have changed for the better or worse in different places. When I first started I was told: ‘Do what you like, but don’t do medical education because it’s not good for your career,’” he laughs having ignored this advice. “From a career point of view, that was probably true. But I did like it better than research. I think what I’m here to do is to make sure that things get done. I manage. I’ve been a successful manager over the years.”
This ability to manage well has seen him take on many external activities and when he elaborates, you cannot help but wince thinking of how busy he must be:
“I’m external fitness to practise adviser at St George’s in London and a few other places too. The quality role on its own is about four half day sessions of my job. Then there’s three sessions of clinical. Then there’s two sessions which are emergency. Then I also have to fit in the different academic parts of my work.”
However, unlike all of us who winced at the thought of such a full diary, Jenkins enjoys the challenge and here is where his contentment lies: he is happy to continue doing what he has always done.
“I’m a child of the 60s. We preferred to do what we enjoyed. Getting a work life balance is more important than the job. At the end of the day, some of the best advice I’ve had is to invest in people rather than institutions. Unlike many people, I haven’t been divorced. I have two grown up children who I still get on with,” he explains. “I see a lot of people whose focus is work and the rest of their life crumbles in the meantime. When they retire, they’ve got nothing to go back to and that’s sad. I see it as a potential trap for an academic member of staff. I haven’t done that. I’ve chosen to invest in family and put them first. That incurs a professional expense though. A lot of universities prioritise medical education but Cardiff’s prioritised the research agenda. That’s because Cardiff’s one of the Russell Group universities and the priority is the research profile.”
It is clear that Jenkins is a person who knows where he is and what he is doing and even looking to the future, he seems remarkably sure of where he wants to go with his career:
“I don’t really mind about becoming a professor or anything. It’s just words. The money would be nice but not at the expense of anything else. My wife just spends it anyway!” he says laughing aloud. “I’d like to continue down multiple roads. I enjoy the mix. I’m happy with what I do and I think for me the real indicator is that I can make a difference. When I started the managerial role, that made a big difference. Medical education, I’ve started to make a difference. Now that I’ve got this deputy director of department role, I will make a difference there. As long as I can see that my footprint on life has been to make a difference, I think that’s a good indicator of success really.”