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News > Alumnae Interviews > Hannah Sevenoaks - Class of 2004

Hannah Sevenoaks - Class of 2004

Hannah gives us an insight into the hard work needed to become a surgeon
Hannah Sevenoaks
Hannah Sevenoaks

It was a pleasure to meet Perkonian Hannah, who is a Speciality Trainee in Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgery and her daughter Dot aged 3, her son Ezra – 6 months, Granny (Jane Sevenoaks) and of course sister Lizzie who is our Art & Design Technician (also a Perkonian).  Hannah lives in Manchester with her husband Mark who works as a lecturer at the School of Architecture. Hannah and her 2 sisters all attended SWPS, they have taken very different career paths. This is Hannah’s story.

Hannah enjoyed her time at SWPS and was always passionate about the sciences. She remembers Mrs Husselbury and Mrs Yarwood in particular for their biology lessons, and her physics classes with Mrs Dennis-Jones.

Hannah also had a keen interest in sport at SWPS and was Games Captain, enjoying hockey, which she still plays.

With her love of science, Hannah decided to take A levels in Biology, Chemistry and Physics as she knew from around age 12 that she wanted to follow a career in medicine. As part of her Duke of Edinburgh Award she volunteered at St Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey, then in Year 10 did some work experience shadowing her local GP. Hannah continued her work experience over the summer serving teas and coffees on the wards at St Peter’s as well as helping out in other departments.

After A levels Hannah took a gap year and worked as a Healthcare Assistant at St Peter’s Hospital to earn some money so she could go travelling.  She spent 6 months in India, firstly working in Kolkata in an Orphanage teaching English and Maths and then travelled around India for 3 months.

Hannah had a deferred place at Manchester University where she started her 5 year course in Medicine in 2006, but stayed on for another year for a Masters in Research.  She took an elective 2 months in Sierra Leone at the end of her studies where she treated malnutrition, trauma and helped the midwives deliver babies.

Hannah went on to do a 2-year foundation training in Manchester.  This involved 6 x 4 month placements in different medical and surgical specialities.  It was while doing one of her placements that Hannah met a female orthopaedic Registrar who took her under her wing and provided great exposure to orthopaedics.  Hannah mentioned that 10 years down the line she has recently met up with the same Registrar who is now a Consultant and happened to live down the road and have children the same age.

Given this positive early exposure, during foundation training, Hannah decided to pursue an orthopaedic career, a highly male dominated area of medicine. This involves 8 further years of hands-on training (consisting of 2 years of general core surgical training and 6 years of specialised orthopaedics training) which Hannah is nearing the end of now.

One of the challenges during training is the regular rotation around different hospitals in the region you are assigned to train in. This meant Hannah was never in the same hospital for more than 6 months and said that this was one of the biggest challenges as she could either be a 20-minute bike ride away from her work or a 1.5 hour drive each way! It is a challenge to adapt to new colleagues and workplaces that frequently change. Throughout this time there are multiple exams and the constant flux in your working life can be a challenge when planning or arranging life’s big events (marriage, house purchase, babies!)

Hannah went on to tell me that exams and work-based assessments are a constant presence during surgical training.

Hannah knew she wanted children (see photos), but had she waited until after her exams and training was complete, she would be into her 40s, so she decided she would aim to make training work while building a family.

After the arrival of her first child, Dot in 2018, Hannah made the decision to cut down to working 3 days a week.  This involved taking a cut in salary as well as prolonging her training (most of her cohort from medical school are consultants or GPs already), but a good work/life balance was a priority for her while her children were young.

Hannah said to become a consultant in orthopaedics would usually take 10 years from leaving medical school and that because of covid and Hannah’s maternity leave and part time work it will hopefully take her no more than 15 years.

“I can’t believe I am still taking exams at 36”

I asked Hannah a little more about her training, which she stated had been hard hit by covid, with elective orthopaedic operations being put on hold for significant portions of 2020 and 2021 and that things are still not completely back to normal.  Hannah is expected to do 1800 operations over 6 years of training and is assessed continually by her trainers.  Despite the number of operations happening across the NHS falling hugely during the pandemic, this expectation has not changed, meaning training has been extended for the majority of surgical trainees.

Hannah enjoys the variety in general orthopaedic practice, from looking after children with broken arms to older people with arthritic joints or broken hips.  She hopes to subspecialise, once qualified, into looking after hands or feet and ankle problems specifically.

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