This week Eton’s Medical Society hosted Dr Alex George, a prominent A&E Doctor, Youth Mental Health Ambassador, and Sunday Times bestselling author, who spoke about his days as a junior medic, his time on ITV’s hit series Love Island, and his subsequent mental health activism through his Instagram and YouTube channels. The online talk was attended by many students from Eton and its partner schools.
Dr George explained it was a challenge to get the required grades to get into very competitive medical schools, but that setbacks in coursework in his first application only gave him more drive to work hard and re-apply, winning a place at Exeter. “It’s an important lesson, no one goes through their life with everything entirely plain sailing. There will be times where you have to pick yourself up and learn from failure.”
There will be times when you have to pick yourself up and learn from failure.Dr Alex Geroge
Riveted by the TV programme 24 hours in A&E, he was excited to work with the real doctors from the show at King’s College Hospital in the emergency department. Before settling on A&E medicine full time, Dr George enjoyed training in surgery, geriatrics, and trauma. He strongly believes that “medicine suits everyone – there’s something there for absolutely everyone”, from the technology and equipment to anatomy or dealing with people. “You decide on a specialism based on what you don’t like”, as he advised everyone “if you don’t want to be on call 24/7, don’t work in A&E”!
A life-threatening close shave with sepsis, where “if I had just gone to bed instead of hospital I wouldn’t have made it”, provided a fresh appreciation for what it was like to be a patient, and “how precious life is.” When contacted by Love Island to appear in their 2018 season, he approached the opportunity tentatively, but with a “you only live once mentality.” In the end he lasted far longer on the show than he expected, with 57 days on the island out of a possible 59.
Dr George says it took him “6 months to get to grips with it and find a manager” but that he wanted to use his new-found fame for good. A passionate advocate for mental health education, he has since worked hard to raise awareness for issues surrounding mental health. From a medical perspective he says, “I can see how much mental health is related to physical health. If either gets worse, the other often follows.” Now with over 2M Instagram followers and 100,000 YouTube Subscribers, Dr George continues to advocate for mental health awareness in children and is currently lobbying the government to fund early support hubs for under 25s. Though they will cost £200 million per year, he is confident they will reduce overall costs by catching problems early, and will fix the shocking wait times for young people with mental health issues. He shares the statistic that “currently in East London, the average time between referral and being seen is 291 days for young people.”
In his newly appointed role as Youth Mental Health ambassador for 10 Downing Street, Dr George has been working hard to drum up support for new initiatives and legislation, as well as educating individuals. Hinting at a second book and more products for self-care like his bath bombs, Dr George clearly has a lot to work on and an exciting mix of opportunities.
Eton and its partner schools are really grateful to Dr Alex George for taking the time to talk to us. An incredibly varied and interesting talk, the latest MedSoc meeting was an undoubted success, with thanks also going to Year 13 student Theo Rich (ABH) who posed questions and led the discussion.