Dr Carl Hume was the winner of the AIMES Education and Overall awards in 2015. At the time, Carl said that his win completed a full circle: He was born at North Shore Hospital, was an intern there during his training and was working there as a junior doctor.
With a string of academic successes to his name, and an A-A+ average during his university career, his win was little surprise (to anyone except perhaps Carl himself). In his final year at medical school in 2014, he was awarded the prestigious Dean’s Prize as the medical student to have achieved the highest overall grade in his year, and the Alice Bush Memorial Prize for being the paediatrics department’s top performing student. The year before, he was given the Department of Anaesthesiology Prize for achieving the highest grades in the anaesthetics component of the degree.
At that stage, his medical interests lay primarily in academic neurosurgery. In late 2015 he presented some of his research at the Neurosurgical Society of Australasia’s Annual Conference, having been invited by a specialist neurosurgeon to present alongside him. He engaged in considerable – and varied – research while he completed his medical degree, exploring areas as diverse as reproductive technology, ethics concerning end of life care and non-English-speaking patients, and infection control. He said at the time he didn’t want to “pigeonhole” himself: “It’s a matter of keeping up with the research, keeping your mind open and seeing what it is you most like. At present, I’m very much a newbie - a bit like Bambi, trying to find his feet!”
He’s recently completed his house surgeon training and has left the Shore for Taranaki to start his new job as an anaesthetics registrar. While many young doctors move offshore to study their chosen area of specialisation, Carl is committed to remaining in New Zealand. “I plan on being in New Zealand for the rest of my training,” he says. “It will take some convincing (or mandating) for me to train elsewhere.”
He says his new role in anaesthetics “is a steep learning curve; the feeling is reminiscent of my early clinical years in medical school. I worked in surgery during my house surgeon years and found the anaesthetic side much more suited to my interests than the surgery itself (not to say surgeries are not fantastic). I therefore applied for the anaesthetics training scheme in the middle of 2017 and was lucky enough to be accepted!”
He will spend a year in Taranaki and then return to complete the rest of his training in Auckland. On top of his six years at med school are two years post-university; it’s a long haul to full qualification.
Carl aims to pursue his interest in research. “I am very fresh in the field at the moment, but I am hoping that once I become more settled in the programme, I might find myself with the capacity to do some work with Auckland researchers in the area, which would be a huge privilege. Alternatively, this may have to wait until I have finished my training; it is a fairly rigorous programme!”
During the last couple of years, Carl has attended “a few” courses around the country, in anaesthetics and intensive care. “These were naturally helpful for my current post in anaesthetics and critical care, and probably helped my application earlier in the year. My debt is also significantly lighter since winning the AIMES prizes,” he adds.
Carl remains aware that “there is a huge amount that I don’t know. I have a huge respect for the work that my colleagues and bosses do, as well as the service that the hospital system provides in New Zealand.”
His junior doctor training has also provided him with an awareness of the need to refine the “raw empathy” that was one of the key motivators in his choosing his career. “As I progress,” he comments, “I find it is easier to use that empathy as motivation to do my best for my patients, rather than feeling overwhelmed by their suffering.”
Work as a junior doctor has certainly been intense and “draining”, Carl admits, particularly emotionally, but he has still had “plenty of capacity to enjoy my family and friends, exercise, and play video games, as well as read (for business and pleasure). I also have a beautiful new cat who is just over a year old. She is a Scottish Fold and very clingy.”
But it seems some things have had to go. When we interviewed him in 2015 after his AIMES award win, he had just begun piano studies. “I think my piano needs tuning…,” he confesses.
Carl’s primary ambition now is to qualify as an anaesthesiologist within the next five to six years. Whether we’ll see him closing the loop once again, and working back here on the Shore, is up for debate. “With the current housing situation, I think I will likely look for a post outside Auckland – I am loving Taranaki at the moment (second best region in the world according to Lonely Planet!), and hope to reach the summit of Mount Taranaki once the snow has melted.”