Reflections on Training


This part of the website will showcase the reflections of current and former trainees in the region. These short articles will give an insight into some of the diverse opportunities for training, leadership and research that are available in the Northern Deanery.


Alison Heggie

I have a freshly minted CCT in diabetes, endocrine and general medicine.  I trained in and am still working in the North-East, now in my first consultant job.  My training in the Northern Deanery started at CMT level; I decided it was finally time to leave my beloved home country of Scotland to explore new challenges and was attracted to the North-East as a leading and internationally-recognised centre of diabetes research.  I took 3 years out-of-program at ST5 level undertaking research under the supervision of Professor Walker at Newcastle University to investigate deterioration in beta cell function in early type 2 diabetes.  This involved a multicentre trial working with teams across Europe which was an exciting and interesting venture, and involved a lot of travel and networking.  I also included some laboratory work which introduced some very different challenges compared to hospital medicine.  Alongside I continued doing clinics and on-calls to maintain my clinical skills.  Dr Arutchelvam, my training programme director at the time, and the deanery were both very supportive of my research period and the application process was straightforward.  My time in research has given me new transferable skills and a much better appreciation of the breadth of work involved in both clinical and laboratory research.  I hugely benefitted from my research period and can highly recommend doing so in the Northern Deanery with all the support and research expertise provided.




Anna Mitchell

I became interested in basic science research as a medical student, when I undertook an intercalated MRes degree after 4th year of medical school. I spent 6 months in the mitochondrial genetics lab with Prof Turnbull and found the work fascinating. Keen to undertake more research in my future career, I applied for an Academic Clinical Fellow post in care of the elderly in 2007, following the foundation programme, which allowed me 8 months of dedicated research time. During this time, I was introduced to Prof Pearce who runs the Endocrine Genetics Group at the Centre for Life, and quickly got involved in a clinical project looking at levothyroxine prescribing trends in the UK and some data from the Newcastle 85+ study, and a basic science project investigating the association of PD-L1 gene variants in autoimmune Addison’s disease and Graves’ disease. The latter pilot data helped me to successfully apply for an MRC fellowship to investigate further the genomics of familial autoimmune Addison’s disease, and by this stage, I was certain that I wanted to be an endocrinologist, and so I applied for a training number in Diabetes and Endocrinology. I completed my PhD in 2013, and started back full time in a clinical post. A year later, the opportunity arose to apply for an Academic Clinical Lecturer (ACL) post in Diabetes and Endocrinology, and so I successfully applied. This post allowed me to use 50% of my clinical training time for research purposes.


I have been involved in endocrine research in the North East for almost a decade now and it has brought great variety to my day to day working life. I have gained numerous transferable skills (scientific writing, project management, public speaking, data interpretation, critical appraisal to name just a few examples) and have fostered some highly productive ongoing collaborations as a result of the projects that I have undertaken. There have been challenges too, such as balancing the need to gain clinical experience when half of your training time is dedicated to research as an ACL, but on the whole my experience has been extremely positive. The North East is fortunate to boast a number of highly respected, productive, inspiring and approachable senior researchers in both diabetes and endocrinology and I would encourage trainees wanting to get involved to contact them to express an interest – you won’t regret it!



Suhel Ashraff


Training in the North East offers not just high quality clinical and practical experience but also gives the much-needed exposure in management and leadership skills. This piece is a reflection on my experiences as a member of the Specialist Training Committee as well as a member of the North East training programme CME organising committee and the Management Forum. I joined the CME organising team and the Management forum when I was in my 3rd year of training. It seemed like a good place to develop one’s networking skills not just with your fellow colleagues in the region but also with trainees and trainers across the country. I was not wrong. During the two years of my time, I have made more friends, liaised with senior figures across the country and developed a working partnership with the pharma. The experience sharpened my organising and team building skills and developed my ability to delegate work. The STC trainee representative post gave me a platform to not just voice trainee issues but also gave me an insight into the practicalities of everyday functioning of the NHS. I would also like to think the roles enabled me in a small way to shape the teaching training programme for the better. All in all, it was an enriching and enjoyable experience and I would highly recommend it to my fellow trainees.