Category Archives: Keynote Speakers

Is Clinical Academia for You?

Although medical academia seems an interesting field to work in, I’ve always thought it weird for people to spend many years training to be a clinician, just to choose later in life not to work in a predominantly clinical environment. Therefore, I was eager to hear why Dr. Menna Clatworthy chose to be a clinical academic.

Dr. Clatworthy explained how she finds her work incredibly interesting and varied, she also said that there is a possibility of making a discovery that could leave a lasting legacy in the world of medicine. She explained how her academic success at medical school and doing an intercalated year led to her interest in academia.

A very balanced outlook of her career was given and Dr. Clatworthy stated one of the major cons of clinical academia was not only the pressure to get published, but to get published in a ‘good’ journal, that had a great impact.

What are the characteristics of a prospective academic? Well according to Dr. Clatworthy…

“You should quite like thinking about things… if you want immediate gratification, stick to clinical medicine”

“You should be someone who likes to persevere at things”

“You should be someone who is able to juggle many things”

I’m still unsure that medical academia is for me, but Dr. Clatworthy did highlight some interesting points and changed my previous beliefs about that career path.


Joys and Pitfalls of Academic Medicine – Dr Meena Clatworthy

I haven’t seen a lecture theatre packed this much since my first day of medical school.

Dr Meena Clatworthy commands the lecture theatre with an air of confidence, telling the students she will talk to them about the joys, and potential pitfalls, of academic medicine.

Dr Meena Clatworthy

Dr. Clatworthy, a Cardiff graduate, is an honorary consultant nephrologist. She went on to cross the Severn Bridge to follow her academic desires, ending up at Cambridge, becoming an academic in transplantation medicine.

The aim of her talk today is to inspire medical students to take up exciting roles in medical research.

She intently goes on to explain to students, that academic medicine is not for everyone, but those who enjoy a challenge, and the satisfaction of changing things in a big way. If you wish for instant results, then clinical medicine might be more for you. Giving someone some antibiotics and a few days later they’re better. Academic medicine looks at the longer term picture. Understanding the disease itself, and looking at how it works, and possibly going on to make a finding that could change medicine forever. She uses the term ‘legacy’ multiple times, and this really is something that Dr. Clatworthy is creating, and today is instilling the thought into these year 2 students.

They too, could become someone who leaves behind a lasting, world-changing legacy.

If that wasn’t exciting enough there are many chances to travel with academic medicine and Dr. Clatworthy herself has recently returned from Seattle. Dr Clatworthy has also written two textbooks – Nephrology : Clinical Cases Uncovered and Transplantation at a Glance

You can feel the engagement in the room, with the frenzied excitement of young minds racing towards untold possibilities. But we are promised a balanced view and Dr Clatworthy goes on to explain that it’s not all as perfect as we may have initially thought.

An amusing video explains the frustrations of not being published by the journals they wish. After all, as Dr. Clatworthy explains, getting published has varying degrees of impact. And when you’re an academic (particularly at Cambridge), getting into world leading journals is essential. And it can be very frustrating when that doesn’t happen. And of course the long hours, the finances to run research, pressures to publish and fund your lab and staff.

And it turns out that salaries are typically lower as an academic than as a consultant working for the NHS. I notice a few students shaking their heads in despair…

But Dr. Clatworthy picks up the crowd and drives on. There are still many minds who are daring to dream of their possibilities in the world of research. She goes on to explain how to go into a career in research, but importantly gives useful tips on how to start working towards it now:

  1. Say ‘Yes’ to every opportunity.
  2. Build your CV early
  3. Work in a field that interests you.

We come to the end of the talk, with students inspired, and daring to dream.

Marek Parkola and Callum Priest

Y Theori Tu ôl Pob Dim ~ The Theory of Everything (translated below)

Prof Phil Smith

Fel y gynhadledd gyntaf o’i math yma yng Nghaerdydd dwi’n meddwl fod hi’n bwysig bod rhywfaint ohoni’n cael ei darlledu drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg, hyd yn oed os mai dim ond canran bychan iawn fydd yn dallt! Dwi’n siŵr hefyd, fy mod i, a gweddill y flwyddyn, wedi cael gwersi a hannar gan y siaradwr cyntaf, Yr Athro Phil Smith, niwrolegydd o ysbyty’r brifysgol.

Bwriad Phil Smith odd rhoi ychydig o gyngor i ni ar ddechra ein taith o beth i ddisgwyl o’n blaenau ni a hefyd sut i lwyddo yn yr brifysgol. Ei neges o oedd y syniad o “theory of everything” – hynny yw bod meddygaeth a bod yn fyfyriwr meddygol yn gymaint mwy na dysgu allan o lyfr a gobeithio’r gorau. Mae’n fwy na dysgu fel parot afiechyd ar ôl afiechyd ar ôl afiechyd. Mae mor bwysig i ni edrych yn bellach na’r arholiadau a dyna beth ydi pwrpas ein cwrs ni mewn gwirionedd. Ein bod ni yn dod i ddeall Meddygaeth fel gyrfa nid fel pwnc. Mi wnaeth hynny gael effaith fawr arnai heddiw ac yn rywbeth y driai gofio am weddill fy amser yma. Dwi isio medru darllen a deall i fewn i bynciau sydd gennai ddiddordeb ynddynt, heb orfod poeni fy mod i’n esgeuluso fy ngradd wrth wneud hynny.

Nid yw astudio meddygaeth yn glir ac yn ddel fel lluniau o gamera, mae’n flêr a mi ydan ni am deimlo fel methiant weithiau, ond fod rhaid ni gofio’r adega hynny sy’n gwneud ni’n falch o’n hunain a gwneud i ni sylweddoli pan naethon ni ddewis astudio meddygaeth yn y lle cyntaf. Y cleifion sy’n bwysig, ac y ni sydd yma i leisio eu stori nhw.. Mae’n bwysig ein bod ni’n gwrando arnyn nhw ac yn medru eu helpu nhw heb orfod defnyddio rhyw dechnegau costus, crand.

Os wnes i ddysgu unrhywbeth heddiw yna dwi am gofio:

  • Addysg nid hyfforddiant
  • Deall nid dysgu
  • Doethineb nid gwybod
  • Gwrando nid sganio

Dwi eisiau diolch i Phil Smith am agor y gynhadledd gyda chyflwyniad sydd wedi fy ysbrydoli, ac sydd wedi fy mharatoi i ychydig bach yn fwy tuag at y dair blynedd sydd i ddod eto yn y brifysgol a thu hwnt hefyd. Gobeithio fydd gweddill y gynhadledd yr un mor ysbrydoliaethus.

Read the translated post below:


As this is the 1st conference of its kind here in Cardiff, I felt it was only fair for a small part of it to be broadcast in Welsh.

Today the inspirational speaker, Prof Phil Smith (neurologist at the University Hospital) gave us some insight into our journey through medical school. His message was conveyed through the idea of “The Theory of Everything”. He explained that being a medical student is so much more than the ability to read a textbook. So much more than reading and learning about endless diseases like a parrot.

The key is to look further than our exams, and gain an understanding of medicine as a career, not just a subject. And in the end, it is our passion for caring for others that will get us through our lives as medical professionals, not our love for textbooks.

Studying medicine is not as clear cut as you might think. There are many grey areas, and every now and then we may feel like we have failed ourselves. At stressful times like these, it should be the patients that remind us of why we chose medicine in the first place.

I feel that today’s talk has prepared me a little for the three years ahead and beyond. I hope that the rest of the conference will be just as inspirational.

Lecturers leave lasting impressions

Firstly I am biased, I like Tom Hughes as a lecturer – I remember his lecture when we were in second year. He taught us about swallow, he would walk around the lecture theatre encouraging everyone to hold their arms out in front of them and look down at the epiglottis (at the time it was imagined to be somewhere on our lap). It was a story, it was exciting and engaging, it was a powerpoint of very few slides which would be completely useless if you failed to attend. It appealed to my short attention span, I could learn from this so I remember it to this day.

Initially it was stated that these talks were here to inspire us. I have never been struck by a lightning bolt of inspiration whilst sitting in a crowd of 300 people. Inspiration often catches you by surprise in the middle of a ward round when you see excellent healthcare delivered. The way other doctors engage the patient, the way the story is listened to and a diagnosis is teased out. The way the nurse can motivate the unwell back on the road to health again by willing them to do things for themselves. And equally we can be inspired by witnessing poor attitude and poor conduct – see the images and actions you never want to replicate.

It was an engaging and entertaining introduction to the afternoon summarized perfectly by describing medicine as a meeting of art and science. I enjoyed it, maybe because as a fifth year I can appreciate it more, I have taken more histories from patients than my second year family. Perhaps this will be the Tom Hughes talk they remember – about taxi drivers and hairdressers being the laymen who listen to our daily confessions.

Catriona Spiers – final year medic

Phil shows passion in opening conference

Professor Phil Smith opened the conference by delivering a passionate keynote speech in the Michael Griffiths Lecture Theatre on Tuesday, 17 February 2015.  He started off with clarity, “Medicine’s a messy business, we deal in what are the most likely and least likely outcomes; there are very few absolutes”.

He spoke of his early years in medicine supported by peers, partners and progeny, claiming “luck alone didn’t get you here today”. Prof Smith described the changes he had observed in Medical Education, “we need to encourage deep-learning and the application of knowledge, not selective strategic-learning”. He claimed that there was little benefit in forcing students to learn, claiming that C21 needs to encourage students to continue learning in a way that suits them; “We as lecturers need to ask the question, what does the student want and need from this lecture?”

Unlike the normal rhetoric you would expect from a neurologist, Prof Smith remind the audience that low-tech solutions are easily overlooked in place of a high-tech, “a decent history, can be better than the latest scan” he effused.  Prof. Smith was adamant that medical students need to set an example, “in what you eat, how you live, how you treat others, honesty, integrity and respect for the rights and wishes of patients”.

At the heart of his Keynote speech was Professor Smith’s belief that professionalism, the attribute that binds clinical skill and knowledge together, is and will remain the cornerstone of the new C21 programme.


Paul Wheeler

Final Year Medic.

Thoughts on the keynote speakers

So I just went to the first lecture from the keynote speakers Prof Phil Smith and Dr Tom Hughes and while I was expecting to learn all their secrets for why and how they do what they do, I was actually thrown into a morale debate with myself. Am I on the right path to becoming a successful consultant like them? Am I on the path to failure as Dr Hughes said he once was? What path am I on? So maybe failure is not all bad, I mean look where it got him. He failed his second year and he is now a consultant in a big fancy hospital. The dilemmas that ran through my mind were uncountable but when Dr Hughes said he failed I was comforted to know that it’s not the end of the world, so long as you get up and bounce back.

There was a lot of talk in the lecture about what it is to be an actual doctor and while the normal things came up like being kind and knowledgeable and wise, I was particularly struck by Prof Smith when he said “You have to walk the talk”. A slightly different saying to the more commonly known “Walk the walk” but good advice all the same. Being a doctor is about being a role model, to patients and to people out and about, who may not know you are a doctor but will see you doing good deeds and be inspired to do the same.

In the wise words of Prof Smith “Doctors should be seen taking the stairs…they should stop and pick up litter when they see it…and they should eat little bits of fruit and such.” Wiser words I have never heard. Eat little bits of fruit. So simple.

Prof Smith strikes me as the kind of man who gets his respect without demanding it. With such tall stature it’s hard not to see why, any man who has to duck when he enters the lecture theatre must be worth listening to. When he talks I’m reminded of the top of British society having high tea not the local Cardiff scene watching the rugby and talking about how the English shouldn’t have won last weeks game. Maybe it’s his loud assertive voice and slightly posh accent but it somehow draws my attention and I imagine the attention of the majority of the lecture theatre, well those not glued to their phone screens. I do have a little laugh at his more conservative views of the hospital, with his depictions of there always being a man at the top of that steep sided authority pyramid he loves and I couldn’t help but scoff a laugh when the girl sat next to me described his comment as “horrifically sexist”. I thought it was rather funny.

Talek Nightingale

First impressions from an organiser

Two very interesting talks from Professor Phil Smith and Dr Tom Hughes started us off today. One said that he studied too hard while the other told us that he has failed is first set of major exams. Prof Smith talked about medicine being where art meets science and Dr Hughes emphasised the importance of a good story.

Good questions about authority gradients and work-life balance.

Having checked the first set of workshops, I noticed one very small room which was cramped full of students – sorry about that. Lesson one is avoid TDS 3F6 – it only has a capacity of 10 🙁

Then, I panicked and moved a Year 5 speaker which was completely unnecessary. My apologies for that too. I should trust more!

Generally, it looks good….