Alumni team launches Alumni Perspectives series
Published: 02 March 2021
The Development and Alumni Team recently launched a new event series, ‘Alumni Perspectives’, to celebrate the achievements of our alumni and allow them to share their stories, advice and expertise with the St George’s community. On Thursday 18 February, we held our first event in the series, ‘In Conversation with Professor Frank Chinegwundoh MBE’. The event was attended by alumni, staff, students and external guests.
Professor Chinegwundoh graduated from St George’s in 1984 and was the UK’s first Black British urological surgeon. He has specialised in cancer care and raising awareness about prostate cancer symptoms throughout his career, making great strides in raising the awareness of cancer-related diseases and receiving an MBE for services to the NHS in 2013.
As well as sitting on a number of government advisory committees, he also volunteers for a number of charities and acts as a mentor and career advisor at a school in Hackney, where he shares advice and guidance with aspiring young Black medics.
There’s no doubt that there is structural racism in the NHS; having said that, one of the things I impress upon people is the importance of networking and mentoring. When you share your experiences, you learn from each other.
In this live event, medical students Khadija Owusu and Lucrece Wasolua-Kibeti used questions submitted by staff, students and alumni to speak to Professor Chinegwundoh about his career journey and achievements since he graduated from St George’s.
When asked about the challenges that black medics face pursuing a surgical career, and how he navigated them, Professor Chinegwundoh replied, “Things are a whole lot better now than they were, and things are more meritocratic than they used to be. There’s no doubt that there is structural racism in the NHS; having said that, one of the things I impress upon people is the importance of networking and mentoring. When you share your experiences, you learn from each other.”
When asked what could be done to increase the representation of black men in Medicine, Frank said, “It’s not ‘one size fits all’. I think it’s a wider issue than just Medicine. I think we have to help black boys to do better in the education system from quite a young age. We have to make a conscious effort to inspire and encourage and inspire young Black males.”
Among the advice he shared for aspiring black surgeons was, "Do as much as you can to make yourself appointable. Get a great portfolio; it’s difficult to turn you down if you’ve covered all bases and excelled.” Speaking about some of the qualities which are important in Medicine, he added, “I think the thing patients appreciate the most is kindness. When I’ve been a patient myself, I really appreciate when someone is kind and compassionate.”
Diversity and Inclusion Advisor Liz Grand spoke at the event about the Black and Beyond Campaign, which featured Professor Chinegwundoh and was a staff-student collaboration launched during Black History Month. This campaign is a student/staff collaboration and was prompted by student interviewers Khadija and Lucrece, who were keen to see increased representation and celebration of our Black staff, students and alumni at St Georges, recognising the importance of role models from Black backgrounds.
Khadija said, “Hosting the live interview with Professor Chinegwundoh was amazing. He shared the importance of staying resilient and determined, especially as he experienced several barriers in relation to career progression due to being black. Truly an inspirational SGUL alumnus!”
Professor Chinegwundoh commented, “It was great to be able to share some of my experiences with the students and demonstrate it is possible to achieve much despite pushbacks that you will encounter.”
He concluded, “Compassion, integrity and communication skills are requisites to be the best doctor you can.”