"Clichéd as it sounds, I’ve always managed to get on well with children"

Syed Taha, an ST1 (specialty training) paediatrician, explains why he was drawn to paediatrics - and reminds us all to have a genuine interest in whatever we do.

What draws you to paediatrics?

I’m not quite sure when I began to have an interest in paediatrics, but clichéd as it sounds, I’ve always managed to get on well with children. I suppose that’s what sparked a genuine interest, and in my third year of medicine, I applied to become a Team Leader of our paediatrics society’s student play team. We would go on to the wards to provide children with play time, and to give some well-deserved rest to tired parents and carers.

I was elected as President of the society the following year, and from there on a career in paediatrics was the only way to go for me. With the help of some fantastic individuals from the RCPCH, I was able to set up a national undergraduate/foundation doctor paediatric society. The United Kingdom Aspiring Paediatricians Society (UKAPS) has been set up for more than two years now. The idea is to provide a link between the RCPCH and undergraduate students/foundation doctors.

It can be tricky to balance UKAPS with my clinical workload as a foundation doctor, but I have had tremendous support from the College to ensure that the society is sustainable.

What advice would you have for medical students interested in paediatrics?

Making a career choice in medicine can be difficult, and I count myself lucky that I knew quite early on. I would say that regardless of where you are in your training, it is never too early or too late to consider a particular career pathway. If you feel that you are interested in paediatrics, join your university’s paediatrics society (or set one up if there isn’t one!), do an intercalated BSc with a project focusing on paediatrics, volunteer outside university as a tutor for underprivileged children, contact academic leads to do a project with them alongside your studies.

...the best clinicians are those who are not only good at their job, but truly enjoy it

The key idea is to have a genuine interest in whatever you do. If you feel strongly about getting involved with the RCPCH at an early stage, then there is an opportunity for that too. The College always welcomes ideas ranging from improving interaction with undergraduates, to additional conference sessions, to providing funding for relevant projects. 

We are lucky to have a lot of incredible resources in the UK, and it is important to utilise them to make sure that you choose the right career for yourself. In my eyes, the best clinicians are those who are not only good at their job, but truly enjoy it.