Medical Society: Dr Fey Probst on a career in A&E

With the conversation at supper ranging from bomb disposal using catheters to the bone-eating snot flower, we realised that our visiting speaker, Dr Fey Probst, was a precious find. Sure enough, Dr Probst kept the audience in the palm of her hand as she recounted story after story during her talk; there was an atmosphere of hushed disbelief as she told of her journey through medical school, supporting four children and playing poker at night to raise funds. She spoke of her career and how she had purposefully stunted it so she could stay in London, hotspot of all-night poker and residence of her children. When she finally had to decide what her speciality would be, she was too close to the doctor-patient interface for forensic psychiatry, too lazy to sit all the pathology exams, too bored by medicine and surgery upset her stomach. A&E was the only option open to her and she has been there ever since.

Dr Probst then pointed out that if doctors go on strike, the death rate falls, but if sewage workers go on strike, they rise. So why did she choose medicine? Her answer was, perhaps worryingly, “because it’s fun”! Then the pictures, that key component of every Medical Society meeting, began. There were gasps of horror at the shark bite, there were moans of disgust at the hand shredded by a firework and the blood drained from the audience’s faces as they were shown the man who had put a rocket up his bottom. Dr Probst then told more anecdotes (how she was forced to leave the helicopter service because she was too bored; the child she had brought back “from the dead”) and about her work with the London Ambulance Service. The reason for the blue light on her car and the bone-saws in the back suddenly became clear! She talked about her work on the London Triathlon and her success in managing to limit the number of deaths, which have decreased markedly since she took over. The talk was rounded up with some sound advice about the nature of medicine and how to behave in the medical world.

Despite the bum-bag full of ketamine and naloxone, Dr Probst gave a superb talk and got the society off to a fantastic start in the new school year. We had an audience of 90, despite the clash with the Champions League match, drawn from Eton and five other local schools. Doubtless, Dr Henry Oakeley’s talk (Wednesday 29 September) will be just as fascinating, as he talks about his search for new drugs. Often a search that involves canoes, I am told.

Edward Picton-Turbervill OS MS (MJP)