My final year elective was a five-week placement in the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at John Radcliffe Hospital and the University of Oxford in England. I had an absolutely amazing time.
The John Radcliffe Hospital has a very large plastics department, with over 23 consultants who perform a very wide variety of surgeries, more so than probably any other department, including some surgeries which are only done in a handful of centres worldwide.
I had the opportunity to scrub into craniofacial and cleft lip and palate surgeries, complex upper and lower limb and hand reconstructions, breast reconstructions, microsurgeries, major trauma and head and neck cancer reconstructions.
The plastic surgeons often collaborated with neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons together in the same operating theatre, so I could assist with plastics and neurosurgery at the same time!
I was never turned away from any surgery or learning opportunity but only found myself struggling to decide between all the wonderful opportunities that were offered to me.
I was able to contribute to the team by seeing patients in minor injuries clinics, general plastics clinics and hand trauma specialty clinics on my own, and then presented my history, examination and management plan to the consultant in charge.
The best part was that I could then ask the patients to come back to our minor procedure theatres in the afternoon, where I had the opportunity to suture their minor wounds, remove cancerous lesions, assist with skin grafts and flap reconstructions and so many other fantastic operations, all with supervision and teaching from friendly surgeons.
I even found myself going in on some weekends to assist with emergency major trauma cases, and for more time with some of the most amazing doctors I have ever met.
Of course, I still made time to go to the city, to the famous Oxford libraries and colleges (to which I was given access as part of the elective) and for walks around the countryside, all of which were stunning!
While I spent time with several consultants, registrars and all other members of the plastics team, my placement supervisor (a wonderful plastics consultant) made a special effort to find the things I was most interested in and made sure I had the opportunity to be involved with everything that I was most passionate about.
He checked in with me regularly to ask if there was anything I needed or was having difficulties with, made sure I could meet other Oxford students on their plastics rotations and join in with their teaching, and catch up with the other 10 elective students doing placements in other departments, from all over the world (though several were from Australia too!).
Plastic surgery is creative, innovative, beautiful and fun.
Even being interested in this area, I did not realise just how vast plastic and reconstructive surgery was as a specialty.
I met really brilliant, kind and supportive surgeons who were passionate about their field and about teaching, and they were a real inspiration to me.
The elective was extremely well organised, and I would highly recommend anyone to do an elective at the University of Oxford (though I do think that the plastics elective was one of the best ones to do!).
I am so grateful I had this opportunity for an elective in such a beautiful place, with a wonderful, friendly and enthusiastic team of surgeons. I would love to have the opportunity to go back one day.