Up to 1 in 10 of those entering medical school in the United Kingdom will drop out either during or just after completing their degree, and only a third of doctors who have successfully completed the foundation training choose to go straight into specialty training, according to the latest available data. This is the highest percentage it has ever been. So, when Dr Hilali Noordeen’s fifteen-year-old son asks his opinion on pursuing a career in medicine, the question provokes a period of deep reflection. As a consultant orthopaedic and spinal surgeon at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and other leading London hospitals, Noordeen endeavours to explore his son’s concerns at a primary level. But what advice can he offer a teenager poised to devote himself to years of study, followed by a career punctuated alternately by uncertainty and prestige?
Letters to a Young Doctor is both a meditation on the practice of modern medicine and a manual that aims to identify the profession’s problems, while prescribing possible solutions. Hilali Noordeen gives an understanding of the practice of medicine as it currently is, so that expectations of students and young doctors can be more realistic. The book also prescribes a way to manage the consequent disappointment, or alienation, that prompts many to leave the field. By focussing on healing within as well as out, and using an introspective method akin to soul-searching or a profound spiritual awakening, aspiring doctors and practising medical professionals can achieve the change or equilibrium they need to find true fulfilment in the practice of medicine.
Praise for Letters to a Young Doctor:
“A delightful witty account of the life of a successful surgeon, whose own warmth and empathy has clearly defined his medical practice. His plea to revisit reforms in our health service – which rely on command and control and which are destroying the values of care and compassion – is timely and powerful. This is both a lively guide to young doctors but it is also a serious message to our society about the ways in which we are seeing the de-professionalising of great professions in pursuit of distorted notions of efficiency.”
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC
“At a time when, more than ever, we are focused on the NHS, this is a reminder of the compassionate care that needs to be at its heart. Part polemic, part guide to a medical career, and part memoir, Letters to a Young Doctor is also very funny and written with passion, elan and fluency. Professor Hilali Noordeen has written a book which should be prescribed reading for any budding doctor, not to mention their parents.”
Rachel Kelly, writer, mental health advocate and author of Sunday Times bestseller ‘Black Rainbow: how words can heal – my journey through depression’.
“A brilliant and impassioned cry from the heart at the current state of medical education and practice, from the top of the profession. That it is also spiritual, wise and funny makes this book something special.”
Jesse Norman MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury and author of The Big Society
Professor Hilali Noordeen was appointed as a consultant Orthopaedic and spinal surgeon at The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in 1995, as well as an Honorary Consultant at the Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square. He did his undergraduate training at The University of Oxford, where he was the President of the Oxford Union in 1983, and his orthopaedic training at Middlesex Hospital, UCL and The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospitals.
Professor Noordeen’s fellowship training was in spinal surgery in Minneapolis and Seattle, USA. He is a Professor in spinal surgery, KUM, National University of Malaysia, and was visiting professor University of Columbia, Missouri, USA. He was awarded the Gold Medal for the FRCS (Orth) exam. He has several Patents to his name as an inventor in Medical Technology. His latest innovations are in the field of Tissue Regeneration, particularly that following Spinal Cord Injury.
Professor Noordeen is the author of several articles in peer reviewed journals and chapters in books, and is the editor of the Interactive Spine CD. He was a Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Orthopaedics and the Institute of Child Health, University College London, and has been awarded a number of prizes and awards for his clinical and research achievements including the ISOLA Prize awarded by the British Scoliosis Society (BSS) for the Best Scientific Paper.