Dr Sharman is a Foundation Year 2 doctor at the Isle of Wight NHS Trust and is currently working in General Practice, which is a million miles away from where he started out when he left school.
Dean has shared his story and the life experiences which have laid the path to him becoming a doctor and the motivation behind him wanting to help and support others.
After his Foundation Year 2 placement is finished, Dean plans to stay on the Island working at St Mary’s Hospital and gaining more experience in the emergency department before eventually following a career as a General Practitioner (GP). He hopes to continue supporting newly qualified doctors as they make the difficult transition from university to working life.
A different path to becoming a doctor by Dr Dean Sharman
How it all began
Having left school at 16 after achieving well in my GCSEs, I briefly attended a local college to study A Levels, but with no career in mind and unsure where I wanted to go in life, I was just going through the motions. I felt little motivation and so left college after just a couple of months.
I felt I had no direction or plan so I began working in a factory with the intention of returning to college the next academic year, after having some time to think about career choices. But things did not go to plan and so I went back to college as I thought that was what was expected of me – but again the motivation was not there and I left before the end of the first year.
I dabbled in general building maintenance and spent the summer with a roofing contractor before ending up beginning work with a mechanical plant installation company run by one of my father’s friends.
The job involved daily 2 hour each-way commute from my home in Eastbourne to London, squashed into a transit van full of co-workers. The work took me around the country but 90% of the time to London, working on large buildings from football stadiums, to office blocks to hospitals – installing and moving large machinery in the plant rooms. In fact, I can remember working on the exterior of a London hospital one winter, soaked through with numb fingers and toes, seeing staff in scrubs through the window, feeling as though I had ended up on the wrong side of the glass.
Time for a change
By my mid-twenties I’d had enough of 4.30am commutes to London, daily fried breakfasts and muddy building sites but still had no plan as to what else I wanted to do. Around this time a friend fell off a roof, breaking his back so badly he needed a long stay at Salisbury Spinal Treatment Unit learning to walk again. Over the year I visited my friend as often as I could there and I was impressed by the medical staff and their work and felt it was something I could imagine myself doing.
At 28 years old and over a decade out of education, I sold my car and flat to finance a full-time access to medicine course at the local college. There was no guarantee of a further course or job at the end of this year, but I decided the biggest challenge I could set myself was to become a doctor.
Things started to come together. I applied to the local medical school and passing the access course with a distinction, I was accepted at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. I was also able to continue living between my (very understanding and supportive) mother and sisters homes in Eastbourne for the first couple of years, which made it more affordable.
The 5-year course wasn’t all plain sailing. I had to repeat year 3 after unexpected events and worked back in construction whenever I could, including holidays and weekends.
A serious blow happened 6 weeks before my finals in my last year when my best friend died, someone I’d known since my teens and also a junior doctor.
My friend’s death was a suicide. I’d known him since he was 17 when we were at college together but had lost contact. We got in touch again a few years later and were both extremely surprised to find each had gone into medicine. My friend had qualified a year earlier but he had problems at work, had career doubts and had been signed-off work. He eventually took his own life and it was this that has motivated me to do something positive and become an Anti-Bullying Advisor (ABA) within the hospital.
Losing my friend was by far the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with and continue to do so on a daily basis – hopefully from this I can have a positive impact with the anti-bullying team. Even those that seemingly have it all on the surface can be struggling underneath. We must encourage people to speak up when things aren’t right and they must have the confidence that they will be listened to and supported.