August 1, 2023, by Leah Sharpe
You Will Never Be a Doctor!
By Andrew Evans, alumnus and Professor of Breast Imaging at Dundee University
I was born in 1961 (an identical twin) with a clubbed foot and syndactyly (fused fingers). Attempted correction of my foot shortly after birth failed. I therefore required seven operations between birth and the age of 11 and had to wear surgical boots and a caliper until my last operation. I also had a severe stammer and am colour blind. When I was a small child, people often asked my mother if I was I intellectually challenged.
Infant junior school
When I first went to school I was put in the remedial class as the teachers assumed my physical difficulties meant I must be intellectually challenged too! (to be fair, I evidently talked about by friend with green hair!). I am left-handed but as I had syndactyly in my left hand I was forced to write with my right hand, so my handwriting is not great. In the playground I was regularly mocked for not being able to say my name without stammering. I missed over a year of schooling due to my operations and though I loved sport, my foot meant I did not have the sporting or schooling success of my twin brother.
During school, my leg problems were much improved by multiple surgeries, and it was this miraculous improvement that made me wish to become a doctor. I sent a Christmas card to my orthopaedic surgeon every year till I went to university and let him know when I captained the school rugby team and got into medical school. My severe stammer however remained. I became passionate about playing classical music, maybe as a response to my ugly speech. In the sixth form I was told by the head of the sixth form that I would never be a doctor because of my stammer and many others thought I was being unrealistic. Despite this, I applied to medical school and was given a place at Birmingham Medical School following interview.
During the interview process I just tried to be myself and to focus on my achievements and my passion to be a doctor after the care I received and that I would be empathetic having spent so much time as a patient. During medical school and as a junior doctor, patients never had any issues with my stammer, if anything, I think patients felt it made me “one of them”.
Over the years my stammer improved and today I stammer rarely. After a medical rotation I entered radiology. After 20 years as a consultant radiologist, I became professor of breast imaging at Dundee University and ran a multi-disciplinary research team. I lecture on breast imaging around the world, chair international conferences and have over 200 peer reviewed publications.
Don’t let other people tell you what you can and can’t do, even if they are family or friends with your best wishes at heart. If you really want to do something, put in the work and effort and often you will get there. Also, if you don’t get there first time, try again. People are defined by how you respond to failure and rejection, not how you respond to success.
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