Friday 12th January 2018
Alumni Guest Blog – Dr Edward Fitzgerald
Dr Edward Fitzgerald JLC Alumni
Surgeon & Global Healthcare Executive, KPMG
I paused in disbelief to double-check my dates when I realised twenty years had flown by since I stepped out of John Leggott College and into the great wide world. If I’d paused on my A-level results day to imagine where my career would take me over the years that followed, I could never have imagined the opportunities that JLC opened up for me.
My two years studying Chemistry, Physics, Biology and General Studies were hard but rewarding, and thanks to the support of my tutors, I was fortunate to go up to Magdalen College, Oxford to study medicine that autumn. It was a step into a different world, but a thrilling opportunity. Aside from the rigorous and challenging tutorial teaching, I made sure I took in the superb extracurricular opportunities available, from organising the Sherrington Society, and editing the Oxford Medical School Gazette, to starting the University Wine Society, and running the College JCR.
The experience was as career-defining as it was character building, and six years later I stumbled out of University into an NHS ward as a newly qualified doctor, still trying to work out which end of my stethoscope to listen to.
From early on my heart was set on becoming a surgeon, and over the decade that followed I climbed the ladder through the profession, becoming a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, and was honoured to be elected President of the Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT) by my fellow trainees. My grasp of healthcare policy, research and strategy grew with this role, and introduced me to a wider range of career opportunities that can open up with a medical degree.
One such opportunity grabbed my attention – a Fellowship with the Lifebox Foundation, an international healthcare charity founded by Harvard University’s Professor Atul Gawande. I was fortunate to be appointed, and soon found myself working with local healthcare teams across hospitals in Sub-Saharan Africa, helping improve their capacity for delivering safe surgery.
The challenge was great, the impact rewarding, and the possibilities exciting. As the NHS descended into ongoing strikes and strife, I weighed up where my career was taking me. Should I continue in clinical practice, perhaps moving abroad as many of my contemporaries had? Or venture out on my own and try something new?
After 12 years in the NHS, I took the big decision to hang up my scalpel and, armed with my growing experience of health systems and management, stepped into a new role with KPMG, the global professional services firm. This saw me working on the other side of healthcare providing management consulting expertise, only this time diagnosing problems with hospitals and health services rather than individual patients.
Moving from an established career in clinical practice to join a major global corporation was challenging, but the personal reward of successfully transitioning – plus a significantly more supportive and professional working environment than the NHS – has really helped my career take a major leap forward. The management and business skills training has been second to none, preparing me well for whatever comes next. During this time I’ve also been able to continue working with the Lifebox Foundation, and maintained my global health and surgery research as honorary faculty at King’s College London, keeping me connected to my clinical colleagues and interests.
My role has now progressed, and I’m currently working for KPMG’s Global Chairman of Healthcare in a ‘Chief of Staff’ post. This sees me assisting KPMG’s health practice network across more than 45 countries in six continents, with revenues over $1.2 billion. I support the Chairman internationally, lead our global health practice research and insights, and work to build and manage relationships with senior clients, governments, and partners worldwide.
The role brings extensive travel, and this year I’ve worked in more than 10 countries from Canada to China, with many interesting and unexpected places inbetween. Although never as glamorous as it sounds, it is a truly unique opportunity to learn about health systems and services globally. This international perspective is invaluable in understanding how we can tackle some of the biggest challenges in delivering future health and care, from rapidly growing elderly populations worldwide, to better managing the burden of long-term health conditions.
While I could never have anticipated the direction my career would take me since leaving JLC, I can now look back and think about the advice I would have given my younger self. I’ve distilled this into four reflections for today’s students:
- Firstly, work hard – it may sound glib, but this advice never grows old – there’s simply no shortcut. Your time at John Leggott sets you up for the career that follows. Be the best you can. It’s an investment in your future that’s worth a few sacrifices; whatever you do don’t waste it.
- Secondly, think global – it may sound ambitious and surprising, but consider your options early before life gets in the way. Economic prosperity – and opportunity – continues to shift to other developed and emerging countries. Do all you can to broaden your horizons and chase international experience. You will be rewarded for it personally and professionally.
- Thirdly, stay flexible – these same shifts in prosperity, coupled with new technologies and ways of working, will drive change at rates never before witnessed. Your generation will live this, and the impact will be felt across your entire working lives. Don’t get left behind. Learn the skills to keep you agile, adapt and evolve, and don’t fear change – embrace and harness its opportunities.
- Finally, keep going – the seemingly impossible often turns out to be possible. As the famous quote says, “success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”. Despite appearances, success is never a straight-line path; you just don’t usually see others’ failures and rejections on the way. I’ve certainly had my share, but staying power is key.
My time at College gave me a huge step-up to start my career, and I consider myself fortunate to have known the late founding principal, Eric Charlesworth, who inspired me to study at JLC, and the similarly inspirational David Linnell, who was Principal during my studies. As John Leggott turns fifty years old, I’m ever-grateful for the role they and the College played, and thankful for having had such excellent teachers that motivated and supported me on the way. I’m proud to be an alumnus of one of the country’s most innovative and successful Sixth Form Colleges, and I’m certain the next fifty years will be even more successful!
Follow Dr Ed Fitzgerald on Twitter:
Connect with Dr Ed Fitzgerald on LinkedIn:
If you’re thinking of going into medicine, talk to us at our next Open Evening on 7th Feb from 5pm.