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Professor John Callan Leading Scientist

Be Inspired Series

Dr Eleanor Brown

Community Paediatrician
Downe Hospital

What is your job?

I work as a staff grade community paediatrician in the Children's Centre in the new Downe Hospital, Downpatrick. Staff and associate specialist grade doctors are amongst the well-qualified and experienced doctors, who are not consultants, who carry out much of the day-to-day work in the Health Service in hospitals and in the community.

What specifically does your current role involve?

In the Children's Centre I see children with developmental difficulties, behavioural disorders and other special needs.

I am part of a multi-disciplinary team including community paediatric nurses and allied health professionals such as speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. We would also work closely with health visitors, school nurses and social workers.

I also see pre-school children with behavioural difficulties as part of Downpatrick Sure Start, a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency team, which provides enhanced support for pre-school children in the Downpatrick area.

What does your role as deputy chairman of BMA's NI Staff and Associate Specialist Committee entail?

I attend regular committee meetings, as well as deputise for the chairman at regional and national meetings as required. I represent the BMA within the South Eastern Trust on its local negotiating committee.

At the present time the main role of the committee is the promotion of a smooth and speedy transition of SAS doctors onto the new contract for Speciality Doctors.

So, what does a typical week involve for you?

I work four days a week. For three days, I am involved in community paediatric clinics in the Downe Hospital. Children and parents love our new premises.

One day a week I go to the Sure Start offices where I meet with family support staff. I then visit families in the area, who have children with specific behavioural difficulties. Most of my work involves direct patient care.

I also attend regular team meetings for service management and planning. Keeping up-to-date is important for all doctors, so I attend educational meetings relevant to the work that I do.

What made you want to get into medicine in the first place?

To begin with, my mother was a nurse. I then became quite ill as a child and spent some time in hospital. I loved being able to recite those long medical terms. I was obviously quite a quirky child.
Attending so many clinics as a child helps me to relate to the children that I see.

What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do and the biggest challenge?

Each child is unique and special in their own way. It is a great privilege to help any child and his or her family.

There are many challenges facing staff in today's Health Service: as doctors we have to keep abreast of clinical developments and work effectively and efficiently with our fellow professionals within the current financial climate. Sometimes it may appear hard to remember that patient welfare comes first in the midst of so many changes in Health Service structures.

For SAS doctors the biggest challenge is the implementation of our new contract. We are one of the last groups within the Health Service to have a new contract in place.

What skills are most important in your role?

Good communication skills are essential as is a sound and up-to date knowledge base in both medicine and medical politics.

An ability to be objective and impartial is also important. Also important as a community paediatrician is an ability to keep up to speed with Hannah Montana and Bob the Builder as well as making intelligent conversation about Nintendo DSIs and Wiis.

What training is required for your job?

I originally did GP training but in the long-term, GP work was not going to be feasible for me. I became a clinical medical officer, in other words, a school doctor.

I then developed a special interest in behaviour therapy and I have a Masters in Social Learning Therapy, a form of behaviour therapy -- something that can prove useful in various areas of life.

What does the future hold for the sector you work in?

We seem to see an increasing number of children with a variety of behavioural difficulties including autism and ADHD. This is certainly an expanding area within community paediatrics. There is also an increasing need for allied health professionals and other staff to provide support for these children.

What are your interests outside of work?

Like most people I enjoy catching up with family and friends. I enjoy travel and in recent years have visited Russia, Malaysia, Namibia and India.

I am interested in architectural heritage and local history.

I recently became secretary of the Belfast Civic Trust, an organisation which is involved in various aspects of Belfast life, including architecture and history. I also enjoy pottery and I regularly attend Ulster Orchestra concerts.

Who or what has inspired you in your life and to get into this line of work?

My late husband, Sir Thomas Brown, was a great inspiration in all sorts of ways.
He was very much involved in the Health Service not just regionally but nationally as well.
I have also met some very inspiring doctors, nurses, patients and their families in my time.

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