Fizzah Ali, MD

she/her/hers

Where to find her:

Education:

  • University of Birmingham, UK. Bachelor of Medical Science (Psychological Medicine) 2009.
  • University of Birmingham, UK. Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB), 2010.
  • Keele University, UK. Post-graduate Diploma in Medical Science (PgDip), 2020. 
  • Membership of the Royal College of Physicians (Neurology), 2019.  

Current Job Titles: Neurology Doctor. National Medical Director’s Clinical Fellow at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Editor-in-Chief Medical Woman magazine.

What experience first got you interested in science and is that field the same one you went on to pursue?

Both of my parents studied science; my mother botany and zoology and my father physics. So inevitably, I was brought up with a bit of science in the household from a young age. 

I have always had a particular affinity for biology and with my more creative side, medicine seemed a good fit; allowing a combination of both science and humanity.

Tell me about some people who helped or inspired you along the way, in your early training and later in your career.

I certainly had experiences as a school girl, as a medical student, and even beyond into my medical training where I have been told ‘you can’t’. In those instances, especially, it’s important to believe in yourself. 

I have been fortunate to have people around me who encouraged and believed in me and what I wanted to achieve. In a professional context, one of my earliest inspirations was my Bachelor of Medical Science degree supervisor, Professor Andrea Cavanna who is a Behavioural Neurologist. I was lucky to work with him – he saw my interest and my desire to deliver. He guided me on how to perform research, how to write to publish, and how to present well. As a supervisor he was very encouraging and offered opportunities for me to develop as a student.

Can you tell me about any moments of doubt you had as a student or early in your career and how you dealt with it?

We all have moments (or longer!) of doubt. 

I remember a specific year during my general medical training, which was particularly tough.

It was both physically and mentally draining, with long shifts teemed with needing to complete exams – alongside the usual mix of life. For me, a year away doing different things helped me evaluate what a good balance of work and life looked like, as well as what the right mix of career activities looks like for me. 

On the whole this experience paved the path to introducing greater flexibility into my career which in turn helped me integrate various other interesting elements into my professional life. 

Can you share two or three surprising twists or turns in your early scientific training and your later career path.

I started working less-than-full-time as a doctor in the middle of my general medical training and during my integrated clinical-academic training, ahead of entering my specialist training. It wasn’t what I had planned! Yet, this way of working has paved the path to a better work-life balance and also allowed me to integrate my creative streak into my professional career. 

Can you give some examples of how you have incorporated your non scientific interests into your work.

As a schoolgirl I had a strong interest in creative subjects such as Art and English Literature. Over the course of my medical training I have steadily incorporated various creative elements into my career. For example, I enjoy writing and editing and am currently editor-in-chief of Medical Woman magazine. I also enjoy speaking and have led several workshops and been a panellist at a debate. At the moment I am enjoying doing some media work, having spoken on radio and television on various subjects. 

Currently, I am a National Medical Director’s Clinical Fellow at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). This is allowing me to build some leadership skills in the context of public health and in a non-clinical environment. 

Is there some advice you could share from your own experience to help someone with a science degree who is just starting off on their own career path.

Do not be afraid to step off the traditional route and explore your own strengths and weaknesses, it will stand you in good stead and could help you understand the sort of career that will suit you best.

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