I feel very privileged to be in my position and with this privilege it is our responsibility to maximise our skills for good. I have a very varied and fulfilling job at the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle as a paediatric nephrologist and lead for quality and safety.
I am a second-generation British Chinese; my parents grew up in abject poverty in Hong Kong. My mother sewed in a factory. My father lived without his parents aged three and had only primary schooling, leaving to work in a pawn shop aged 13. With little to lose they became economic migrants to the UK and worked their way up until they had their own Chinese restaurant in Cornwall. My father was a great role model. I remember despite limited English he was always helping fellow migrants in difficulty navigate the system, rallying his customers, who became close friends, to lobby against deportations. Growing up, I stammered very badly until university and promised myself if I ever became fluent, I will use my voice for others.
How does volunteering benefit your patients?
I have gained a lot in volunteering. I recently completed my term as Secretary for the British Association for Paediatric Nephrology (BAPN). There I met a lot of inspirational colleagues from across the UK who became lifelong friends. I learnt about innovations that I could share back at base. I learnt how to organise advocacy campaigns and conferences. When we are stuck with a patient dilemma, there is a great community I know I can draw support from.
Ever since I made a tenfold medication error as a registrar, I have been interested in quality improvement and patient safety. Volunteering with the RCPCH has bought successful collaborations to co-produce solutions with patient representatives, interesting colleagues outside our own fields and allied health professions. These collaborations facilitated a tenfold error study in Wales, helped expand the excellent Meds IQ into QI Central, and build eLearning for teaching children to swallow tablets. All would not be possible without the work of many dedicated volunteers.
What do you think of the RCPCH equality, diversity, and inclusion action plan?
Equality is important for us and our patients. The 2020 Social Metrics Commission report show that Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) children in the UK are over twice as likely to live in poverty than white children.
We are very privileged to have great diversity in paediatricians. Maybe less so in other parts of the NHS, for example some hospitals with no band 7 or 8 BAME nurses. Paediatrics have come a long way in recent years to redress inequity and widen access to career support and micro-opportunities. When I started in medical education some people could not see it was a problem that certain trainees were given acting up consultant posts without an open selection process.
We still have some way to go but we are getting there. At the most senior level, the RCPCH Heads of School committee still share many similarities with the UK supreme court but it was heartening to see so many BAME colleagues at the Training Programme Director study day.
Message to colleagues
Some people question what RCPCH does for them and their patients. As paediatricians in our everyday jobs, we know what needs to be done to improve healthcare. Do come and share your voice, your skills, and make a community.