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Creative Sparks: Where are they now? Hannah Johnston

We're very happy to have heard from another one of the Creative Sparks for our series on where they've been since being involved in the project. Here's the latest from Hannah Johnston!

How did you get involved with Creative Sparks?

I completed a Nuffield Bursary in Summer 2008, when I completed a placement at AstraZeneca – a pharmaceutical company – for 6 weeks of my summer holiday. A presentation of my project secured me a place at the National Science Competition, where I was absolutely shocked to place runner-up! Here, I was recognised and approached to become part of the Ignite! Creative Sparks programme.

What did you do as part of the Creative Sparks programme?

I decided to use my bursary to figure out more specifically what I wanted to do with my career. At the time of starting the programme, I was reading Biochemistry at Oxford University and wanted to explore options for my future research or PhD. I had many interests within Biochemistry and wanted to explore the different sub-topics such as genetics, microbiology or biophysical chemistry. I traveled to South East Asia for six weeks, where I was on a rotation in many of the different laboratories of the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Thailand, Cambodia and Burma. It was the best experience of my life, and I came back knowing exactly what I wanted to do - although if you’d told me before I left what my decision would be, I would’ve laughed in your face!

Whilst in the haematology labs at the Children’s Hospital in Siam Reap, Cambodia, I discovered that many of the researchers were also clinicians, and they kindly allowed me to shadow them not just in the lab, but also on the wards. I knew straight away that I wasn’t made for a life behind a lab bench, but I wanted to care for people and have contact with patients, not pipettes! I came back from SE Asia with an aspiration to train as a Doctor, and nothing could stop me!

How has your career developed since then?

Well, firstly, I had to get over my fear of needles which had previously stopped me from even considering medicine as a career! Then, I started to look into how to prepare for Medical School. I took a few years out after graduating from Oxford to work as a health care assistant in A&E, and have now just finished my first year of Medical School at Swansea University.

What kind of role does creativity play in your life?

Things in medicine are never as black and white as we are taught in Medical School, so there are many opportunities to get creative when it comes to taking histories and examining patients. Sometimes the usual resources are unavailable, or a patient’s ability hinders the usual method of examining them, so creativity is needed to adapt your practice to get the outcome you need. In my personal life, I am also a keen triathlete, so creativity plays a huge role here in developing training sessions and keeping me on my toes!

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