Spotlight on... Professor Faye Gishen

Professor Faye Gishen

Professor Faye Gishen

This week, we chat to Professor Faye Gishen, Director of the UCL Medical School. She tells us about introducing more reflective practices for healthcare students in the UK and explains why, despite her achievements in medicine, her children don’t think she has a funny bone!

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am the Director of UCL Medical School (UCLMS), which is one of the largest medical schools in the UK. I am Professor of Medical Education and Palliative Medicine, which is my clinical specialty. Alongside my UCL Head of Department role, I continue to undertake clinical work, which I think makes me a better educator, whilst being immersed in education makes me a better clinician.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I’ve been affiliated with UCL since 2007 when I was a tutor on the MBBS (Medicine) course teaching clinical and professional practice. Over the past 15 years, I’ve held several different roles in the Medical School including lead for the Professionalism module and Deputy Lead for the MBBS Programme prior to starting the role of Director. As well as the MBBS, at UCLMS we have a research department, a postgraduate department and an international centre for collaborations in medical education.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

Something I’m very proud of is introducing reflective practice Schwartz Rounds into higher education institutions (HEIs) in 2014. This is an American model which is used in healthcare settings and provides a forum for multidisciplinary healthcare teams to reflect on the emotional impact that looking after patients can have on us. When I first approached the national Schwartz team about embedding this model for healthcare students, they didn’t quite know what to make of me! No one had ever done this anywhere in the world. However, I am pleased to say that it is now embedded in over 20 HEIs in the UK and research has shown that it helps healthcare students understand and empathise with patients and colleagues, and can even improve patient care outcomes. I’m especially proud of this as it has had impact on so many future doctors, nurses, dentists, other allied health professionals and helps to instil healthy reflective habits in a long and sometimes arduous career in healthcare.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list

Alongside a small team, I am the architect of the MBBS Curriculum Map which is a bespoke UCL online syllabus, and we are one of the first medical schools in the country to have one. With student feedback, we are constantly improving and iterating it to try and make it optimally helpful as a learning aid for our students.

Medical education never stands still! At the start of the pandemic, medical students nationally were withdrawn from clinical placements and their learning was pivoted very quickly online. They returned to clinical placements a few months later. I am immensely proud of the invaluable contribution that UCL medical students made to patient care and the NHS during the pandemic.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

I’m a bit of a bookworm and have been in a book club for many years. I think the book which has left the most lasting legacy on me is Viktor Frankl’s ’Man’s Search for Meaning’ which is a book full of hope amongst despair. I think it has helped me as a palliative care physician to make sense of some of the suffering that exists. I think for an album, as I’ve recently been to see the ABBA avatars in London, I will choose ABBA Gold. I enjoy ’The Godfather’ trilogy, so atmospheric! Maybe it’s too embarrassing to admit to watching ’Dirty Dancing’ more times than I care to remember...’

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

I’m not very good at jokes, and my children are always begging me not to try and be funny, so I’m going to abstain on that one...

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

If I could pick a dinner guest I would choose Ruth Bader Ginsburg - I think she would be fascinating company. She was an understated, amazing trailblazer (especially for women), a principled leader and scholar. I’m in awe of many of the things that she did in her career and life, whilst also being a committed mother.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I might advise myself not to take on too many things at once in order to try and focus on doing fewer things well. I also think where we have the luxury of time to reach a decision about a complex issue, sometimes it’s best to just sit and let your thoughts distil, like a fine wine.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I initially started training in another clinical specialty but showed little aptitude for it. Not following a completely linear path and exploring a bit along the way has made me more open minded and probably contributed to my leadership style.

What is your favourite place?

Being at home with my family around me is absolutely my favourite place to be.

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