Bolton School Former Pupils

Jenny Fairwood (1986-1993)

Jenny is a GP in Clitheroe, Lancashire. She recently spoke at our Junior Careers Carousel, encouraging pupils in Hesketh House and Park Road to think about working in Medicine.

What were your favourite subjects and who were your favourite teachers at School?

I loved History at School and might have done it to A Level had it not been a mad thing to do if you wanted to do Medicine. I really loved Physics and Chemistry, too, and Mrs Hall was one of my favourite teachers because of her sense of fun. We all loved Miss Dickinson who took us for A Level Maths – she had the ability to get an entire group of Sixth Formers to arrive on time for her lessons merely to avoid disappointing her.

What further study have you undertaken since leaving School? How did you progress to your current role and what does it involve?

I headed to St Andrews from Bolton and graduated there in 1996, completing my medical degree at Manchester in 1999. I initially trained to become a Respiratory Consultant and completed my MRCP (Royal College of Physicians) exam at the first attempt in 2002, going on to work as a Registrar in Respiratory Medicine before deciding to become a GP. I did the Associated Royal College of GPs exam in 2007, which was the final exam I would have to take, 14 years after leaving School. I became a GP Partner straight after qualifying as a GP, working in a small practice in Trawden, near Colne, but always wanted to live and work in the Ribble Valley. After moving here ten years ago, I applied for a Partnership at my current Practice in 2009 and I’ve been here ever since. It’s a large Practice, looking after 14,000 people in Clitheroe and the surrounding villages. We were recently rated ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission. I have particular responsibility for Cancer Medicine and Palliative Care, in addition to my management responsibilities as a Partner, as well as the day-to-day management of my patients. 

Who/what influenced your career choice?

I wish I could say that Medicine was a calling that I had from a young age, but I had always wanted to be a vet as a young child. I started to consider Medicine when I realised how much harder it was to get into Vet School! I had no doctors in the family and no real idea of what a career in Medicine might involve, other than a nebulous idea that I might be able to help people. I was good at sciences and did not want to do a pure Science degree. School was able to arrange work shadowing for me and I spent time with an Orthopaedic Surgeon and a Paediatrician. I thought I might be able to make a go of it. My parents were very happy. Such was the decision I took at 15. 

What skills are essential for your role?

Very good communication and problem solving skills. Good time management. Genuine interest in people and their families and the ability to sort undifferentiated illnesses into those that require specialist intervention and those that can be safely managed in the community. Humility and the ability to learn from mistakes. A brain that can absorb a lot of facts and is able to keep on learning every day of your working life. Compassion and empathy.

What are the biggest challenges?

The time constraints of an average surgery, attempting to manage each patient within a ten-minute appointment slot, or accept that I will run late, but give patients the time that each needs. Managing ever-increasing workloads and ever-squeezed resources. Making enough time for my family. 

Who/what has been your biggest inspiration?

One of the first Consultants I worked for – Dr Munavvar, who still works at Royal Preston Hospital – was a huge influence on my career. His manner with his patients and his immense knowledge and skill with his patients made me want to be a better Doctor. 

What do you consider to be your greatest career achievement?

Becoming a Partner at my current Practice and getting the recognition of the CQC as an Outstanding GP Practice. 

How did Bolton School help you to be successful in your chosen career?

The School seemed to give me a level of confidence in my own abilities that carried me through my medical degree and beyond

Why did you offer your assistance to School?

I still have a connection to the School in that my old friend and flatmate from St Andrews teaches History in the Senior School (Mrs Pritchard). I’m drawn back to the place and I just enjoy coming back to visit. I started by doing mock interviews for the Sixth Form. I’d like to be able to help the next generation of doctors achieve their goal. 

Did you enjoy talking to the Juniors?

It was a lovely afternoon. They were lively and enthusiastic to hear about the job I love. Even if just one of them decides to give it a go I will be happy!

Jenny inspired would-be doctors at the Careers Carousel

Jenny inspired would-be doctors at the Careers Carousel