Siddhartha Yadav reminisces about his BMJ Clegg Scholarship

The BMJ has now called for applications for the Clegg Scholarship 2010. So, I think this might be the right time to talk about my own experiences as a Clegg Scholar and how I have fared since then.

If you ask me to name one thing that Clegg Scholarship is all about, I can’t. I might be tempted to say “medical journalism.” But confining it to this domain only would be an injustice to the multitude of opportunities that it provides.

Honestly speaking, the Clegg Scholarship is what you make out of it. There is no fixed schedule, work description or a list of things to do, and this is what makes it interesting. It is up to you to choose what you want to do and where you want to be.

The best part for me was learning to write news stories. It all started when Annabel (Ferriman – BMJ news editor) asked me to write a news story on a Department for International Development (DFID) report. I tried to go through the hundred or more pages of the report as quickly as I could which seemed like an impossible task.

It was not long before Annabel noticed this and came to my rescue. She told me that I was only supposed to go through the press release while writing news and not through the whole report. Thank God!! More news stories followed and I truly enjoyed it.

I wrote my first blog during my Clegg Scholarship. It took me quite some time to write my first one and David (Payne – editor) had to review it quite a few times before we could publish it. I still ask for his feedback on my blogs and he always gives me nice feedbacks without any reluctance.

I also liked attending the manuscript meetings on Thursdays. It made me realise how minutely a research is scrutinised before it can be published. Is this original? Is the research question important? What about the methodology and statistics? And so forth. I had never thought that there could be so many dimensions to a single research that need to be addressed.

Every time I went to the manuscript meeting, I would prepare my own list of research that I thought were good ones. However, more often than not, somebody would point out huge flaws in them. After the manuscript meetings, I was always like “Damn!! Why could I not think of that?”

The people at the BMJ are some of the best ones that I have ever known. In my part of the world I am used to being scolded by the seniors and being bossed around. To suddenly be amongst a group of friendly and modest people was a surprising but a welcome change for me.

And this did not last during the office hours only. I was often invited to dinner or lunch by them. Annabel’s husband, Fred, even showed me around a hospital and his work as an out of hours GP.

Interacting with all these wonderful and talented people changed my own perceptions on a lot of issues. I still write occasionally to some of them and they write back. I am proud that I have friends at the BMJ. Giselle was here in Kathmandu few months back and it was such a pleasure to meet her again. I hope I will be able to see others as well someday soon.

It was not always about work. London is a wonderful city and you can never exhaust the list of places to visit. This was my first travel outside Nepal and India. I will always remember the numerous museums, galleries and parks that I visited. Through the BMJ, I even attended a lunch hosted inside the House of Lords, which apparently was a big thing to do (I did not know this until afterwards).

I have always believed in the principle that one step leads to another. Following my Clegg Scholarship at the BMJ, a whole world of opportunities was suddenly opened to me. I have worked as a research editor in an undergraduate journal, editor in chief of two different newsletters and editor of a book since then. My Clegg Scholarship experience helped me a lot to get into these positions and to work confidently.

I can keep on writing about my “Clegg Scholar” days but I will stop for now. It has been one of the most memorable periods of my life.  So if you are a medical student from outside the UK, I strongly suggest that you should apply. I hope the same is true for students from the UK as well, although I may not be the right person to suggest so. Good luck with your application!!

Siddhartha Yadav is a former BMJ Clegg Scholar.