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Date Posted... Jul 28th 2021

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Claudia Murton CO99

Memories of travels to exotic places and life as a Consultant in a global pandemic

Claudia Murton recalls her time at Truro School with great affection. As a music scholar, playing the violin, she enjoyed leading the orchestra and in the Sixth Form took on responsibility as a Senior Prefect.

“I enjoyed everything; the annual school ski trips; playing in the hockey team and the school discos. Truro School not only gave me the educational qualifications I needed for my subsequent career, it also gave me essential life skills and confidence too.”

Claudia had already set her mind on a career in medicine and remembers that she was among a minority of girls who chose to study science and maths at A-Level, but recalls she was never made to feel ‘the odd one out’ by any of her male peers or teaching staff.

After leaving Truro School, Claudia spent a year travelling in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the Cook Islands, USA and Canada. Once back in the UK, Claudia embarked on her medical studies at Cardiff University, during which time she completed her elective in the Soloman Islands. She subsequently went on to specialise in Psychiatry after her general medical and surgical training.

Having qualified and begun practising, Claudia was keen to travel again so extended her training to include an expedition medicine qualification, enabling her to become an Expedition Medic for Operation Wallacea (Operation Wallacea is a network of academics from European and North American universities, who design and implement biodiversity and conservation management research expeditions.) In this role Claudia visited Central America and remote parts of Indonesia, acting as the scuba dive site doctor, and South Africa, where she trekked through the Kruger National Park surveying wildlife.

“It was just an incredible experience and I got to travel to some very remote and exotic places – I have so many stories, photos and memories.

“Things I learnt from these trips included dealing with medical problems independently with limited resources, as well as resilience and that life on Earth is fragile. Accommodation was never luxurious, but you really felt absorbed in nature in a way you cannot do on a holiday. I met such interesting people from all over the world and worked in a team with the other staff and students on each site. I remember evacuating a scientist who had fallen in the jungle and broken his ankle. Easy to deal with where normal resources are available, but more of a challenge to coordinate where infrastructure is very limited. I slept in tents, hammocks, a straw hut and, on the dive trip to Cuba, on the deck of a boat under a mosquito net.

“The islands in Indonesia were so remote it took two or three days to travel there from Bali and you really felt that you were somewhere very remote and very special. Due to this location the scuba diving was incredible, and the conservation work undertaken by the project scientists helped to ensure the area stays as pristine as possible. Being up before dawn to go out on wildlife and bird surveys and hear the jungle waking up was so magical. There were difficult moments including a bush fire in South Africa where we had to fan flames away from the camp. Walking through the Krugar Park was an experience few will be lucky enough to have. Safari trucks often drove past with people staring wide eyed at us walking through the bush. We all did ‘bush training’ to help us deal with any wildlife encounters, but a close encounter with a herd of elephants whilst on foot, brought in to focus both the fragility of life and the fact that we are really not the biggest, most important thing on this planet.”

Claudia now works full time as a Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist at Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) and is the Cornwall Foundation Partnership NHS Trust Guardian of safe working for junior doctors.

“I love my job; it’s challenging but fascinating. My role involves clinical leadership, assessing and treating patients, supervision and teaching. We see patients at RCHT with problems including self-harm, eating disorders, acute psychiatric crises, functional disorders and psychological consequences of physical illness. It can be emotionally demanding at times, but I spend all day talking to interesting patients and staff. There is never a dull moment and I feel very privileged to be able to do this work.”

Claudia also has a special interest in Clinical Education and has recently completed a master’s degree in this field to enhance her role in teaching and education.

Advice for anyone considering a similar career.

“Make sure you enjoy it. Everyone should have an opportunity to really enjoy what they do, then they will go far. Work hard and you reap the rewards!”

Juggling family life as a doctor comes with challenges but Claudia says:

“My parents are both retired teachers and inspired my sister [Stephanie Murton CO01] and me to do what we do. They also, very importantly, now help with childcare which my kids love. Naturally my children are my priority and juggling family life as well as a busy role as a doctor comes with challenges and it certainly helps to have an extremely supportive husband and family. Without them it would be impossible.

“The past year has been one of the most testing in living memory for healthcare, but we have learnt a lot and supported each other through it. I feel proud to have been there caring for patients and supporting staff on the healthcare front line throughout this time; but I am looking forward to coming out the other side, developing my interest in Clinical Education further, whilst carrying on helping patients every day. The service I work in has been expanding its scope and size and we hope to continue this. I will also be spending more time with my family and of course helping my own kids to learn and be as happy as they can be.”

Claudia’s 40th birthday was curtailed due to the Covid-19 crisis, but she hopes to make up for it as soon as possible!

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