King’s College London: King’s students excel at Royal College of Psychiatrists London Division Awards

Possessing a desire to raise the profile of Psychiatry in all spheres and to work to break stigmas regarding the profession, 4th year student Samyak Pandey was awarded Medical Student of the Year at the London Division of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ first annual awards ceremony in late May.

King’s is immensely proud to have produced three of the evening’s winners, while South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM), produced an additional three – bringing the King’s Health Partners award tally to six out of eight awards in total.

Samyak, who – according to the judges – demonstrated “considerable innovation and initiative whilst undertaking a range of roles”, is President of the King’s Psychiatry Society and was also selected as the Royal College’s ‘Psych Star’ of the year.

The connection between the body and the mind has always fascinated me, and the interface of mental health with all aspects of our physical health is what drew me towards medicine. Kings’ reputation as a leading international hub for psychiatry made it the perfect place to apply! The interplay of psychiatry with spirituality is a personal driving factor of mine, as I believe that by pursuing psychiatry, I have a unique opportunity to work on my own growth and well-being. An understanding of the illnesses of behaviour and mood strengthens my own resolves, and instils within me the values of Sewa (Sanskrit for selfless service) and detachment from one’s Ego – both of which are pivotal for a compassionate and empathetic patient-centred approach.”
– Samyak Pandey
Recognising the adverse toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on work experience opportunities for aspiring medical students, Samyak and his fellow King’s Psych Society members devised an outreach programme for year 12 students, offering sixth form pupils a taste of medical school psychiatry.

Students were taught basic history-taking skills and practised them on simulated patients. Under the safeguarding of their teachers, they were taught about Major Depressive Disorder and provided the chance to take a full Psychiatry history. By the end of the sessions, all attendees said yes to considering Psychiatry as a career – particularly significant given 90% of the School’s pupils were from BAME backgrounds and communities where mental health disorders can carry stigma.

John Gillespie, a final year student at King’s, made the shortlist with a glowing nomination from Dr Kiki O’Neill-Byrne, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist at the Bracton Centre Bexley where John completed his placement.

John Gillespie is the most outstanding MBBS student we have had here on placement. He has accompanied patients in a vast range of activities – judo, bricklaying and boxing, for example – and through this has made our very marginalised patients feel that they are equal in dignity to a King’s medical student. He has established positive therapeutic relationships with a range of patients and gone out of his way to treat our patients, often excluded by wider society, with respect and courtesy. He considers the background and life experiences of patients who present with challenging behaviour and seeks to understand these behaviours rather than to condemn them.”
– Dr Kiki O’Neill-Byrne

John Gillespie and Dr Kiki O’Neill-Byrne
Commenting on his experience John said:

“My forensic psychiatry placement was not only my most enjoyable, but also my most rewarding placement to date. Over a seven-week period I was able to develop a therapeutic relationship with the same group of patients, all of whom were detained under the mental health act. As a medical student, we are often moved around and usually never see the same patients more than once. Building any meaningful relationship and earning somebody’s trust requires time, and this placement provided me with the opportunity to do that.”

Completing the shortlist for Medical Student of the Year with their joint nomination were Matthew Severyn and Konstantinos Lioulios, both second year students. Speaking about the awards ceremony Matthew said:

“It was a fantastic opportunity to meet and talk with so many amazing people dedicated to improving the field of Psychiatry. Everyone at the event showed true tenacity in putting their patients first, and many inspiring stories of healthcare workers going above and beyond to help others were shared. I feel privileged to have been present and to have been shortlisted as the Medical Student of the Year in only my second year at King’s.”

Matthew Severyn and Konstantinos Lioulios
Konstantinos shared: “It was a great privilege to be shortlisted. I am certain I speak on everyone’s behalf when I say that we are all motivated by a need to showcase the benefits of being exposed to a career in Psychiatry can have. I believe in and have witnessed first hand the power of Psychiatry to transform people’s lives. I intend to continue spreading awareness on the collective societal opportunity to drop the stigma surrounding mental health and to cherish the power Psychiatry uniquely posseses in helping place control back in people’s hands over their inner world.”

I’m very proud of our students for all their hard work and dedication and these nominations and awards are well deserved. I would also like to thank the whole team involved in teaching our students to be excellent mental health clinicians.”
– Professor Claire Sharpe, Interim Dean of the GKT School of Medical Education
In addition to our student’s success we had other reasons to celebrate:

Patient Educator, Onome Ugbeye, who gives talks to all our year 3 and 4 students won Patient/Carer Contributor of the Year, while Dr Abigail Swerdlow, alumna and previous King’s Psych Society committee member was shortlisted for Trainee of the Year. Dr Maurice Lipsedge, Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, won Educator of the Year. Dr Lipsedge is in his eighties and is retired, yet has provided extra learning sessions to GKT students who felt they had missed out because of the pandemic. Finally, the psychiatrist who leads the London Division of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and organised the awards, Dr Suhana Ahmed, is a GKT alumna.