Annalise Katz-Summercorn (Medical Sciences 2002) kept returning to Fitzwilliam in her medical training. The former Bye-Fellow shares her experience.
What was your first experience of Fitzwilliam?
I remember arriving on my first day and going to the old Porters’ Lodge, going to get my key and sign in. Everyone was very friendly. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be. I had originally made a completely uninformed decision and had applied to another college. Getting pooled was a bit gutting at that age, but I remember getting the phone call around Christmas from Fitzwilliam to say they were offering me a place. That was just about the most exciting thing that had ever happened. The college system made everything so much easier – very different to being in London, where you just disappear and nobody knows who you are – having everyone around you, lots of friends and being well supported as you work. Work was probably harder than I realised it was going to be, but that’s a step up from school!
How involved in college life were you?
I was on the committee that brought back the winter ball to Fitzwilliam and it is still going strong. I played lacrosse for the university and that took up quite a lot of my spare time. I remember playing the clarinet in the Hills Colleges orchestra a few times. It was a way to enjoy the music without too much pressure. I remember spending many Friday evenings relaxing in the JCR with people selling toasties and music playing.
Why did you choose medicine?
I was doing my GCSEs when I started to think about it seriously. I was keen on something vocational and I spent time deliberating between medicine and engineering. You are not meant to say it in interview but the idea of helping people and combining it with scientific knowledge really did appeal to me. I made the decision and then was quite serious following it through after that. You have to be to even do everything required to get into medical school. I qualified in medicine in 2008 and then you spend quite a lot of years working as a junior doctor – I’m still a junior doctor. I did my house jobs in London and after that I decided I would like to be a surgeon. I came back to Cambridge for a year and taught anatomy for the university, working in the dissection room. That’s when I got back involved with Fitzwilliam supervising Anatomy, and carried that on until very recently, for seven years. I spent a year teaching in the dissection room and then carried on with my surgical training in London and then moved back to Cambridge to do my registrar years, which I started in 2012. Then, in 2015, I started a PhD, working on the early detection of oesophageal cancer in the Fitzgerald lab at Addenbrooke’s. I’ve been doing that for the last few years. I had a baby boy in 2018 and finished off my PhD before I went back to my training in October.
What was it like returning to Fitzwilliam?
I definitely have a different outlook now I am older. When you’re a student it’s a natural step in progression and there’s a real tendency not to appreciate your surroundings, where you are and how nice it is and what’s on offer. I love walking around Fitzwilliam and looking at the gardens, because they always look incredible. I had no interest in the gardens when I was 18! And having the opportunity to talk to people with all different areas of interest and find out about what they work on is a real privilege. Nicky Padfield was my tutor when I was 18. She was my pastoral support. She’s so extraordinarily welcoming, thoughtful and kind. I don’t manage to get to many events, but when I do I’ve always felt completely part of it.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
You can always make your own opportunities and you don’t always have to go with the treadmill, especially in medicine. There’s always opportunities there to grab, but also the possibility to search out your path and do it the way you want to do it. You can open doors along the way for yourself and it’s good to keep your options open and keep doors open, rather than go down a route that closes them. Work hard, be confident in yourself and your abilities and don’t worry about what other people think! And wear sunscreen…