Clifford Mann: My biggest career failure

I had spent five years as a senior house officer in the late 1980s and early 1990s trying to decide on a specialty, sitting exams, and changing my mind several times. Eventually, having taken an accident and emergency post—largely to pay the mortgage—I finally found a subject that was sufficiently broad to gain my interest. Obtaining a registrar post, however, was quite another matter.

I was interviewed and rejected by Leeds, York, Leicester, Lincoln, St Mary’s, and the Central Middlesex. I learnt quite a bit from these interviews, including the lesson that one should never cancel a holiday to the Algarve in an attempt to get a job in Yorkshire. It was the Leicester interview that was the most memorable, however. It was clear almost from the outset that they did not want to appoint me, but the final question from the chairman of the panel was the “coup de gras.”

Chairman: “I see your primary postgraduate qualification is the membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians. Did you pass that first time?”

Me: “Yes.”

Chairman: “So you haven’t got a lot of experience of that either.”

Eventually in 1993 I obtained a post in Portsmouth. By such twists of fate are careers and lives determined.

Clifford Mann, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

A recent article in Student BMJ asked six doctors to reflect on their biggest career disappointments. This blog was originally published as part of the article.