Alumna Dr Susie West has recently published her memoir An Ordinary Doctor, detailing her life and medical career, including her time at the heart of the Falklands conflict.
After studying Biology at Bedford College, graduating in 1972, Susie started medical school and discovered the excitement of travel. She became a ship’s doctor, and worked on board P&O’s cruise ship SS Canberra when the Falklands Conflict broke out in April 1982. She volunteered to stay with the ship, which was requisitioned as a troop transport and hospital, and sailed for the South Atlantic. An Ordinary Doctor contains extensive and revealing excerpts from the remarkable diaries she kept, recording the action from the heart of the war. After peace was declared, Susie reverted to being an ordinary GP, but mixed this with work as a doctor in the Royal Naval Reserve and with the Metropolitan Police.
Speaking about her varied career, Susie recollects, “The different settings that I have worked in give me a fascinating view into different working worlds. The world of an aircraft carrier, for instance, is utterly different from suburban practice. Working in a police station gives a close up view of other peoples’ working environments. Even working in the back of Marks and Spencer gave me a new set of insights! If a doctor has only ever functioned in a health care setting it is hard to imagine how different workplaces can be.
“I was inspired to write An Ordinary Doctor partly when I realised that my daughter and son knew very little about my background and career. I also thought that with the 40th Anniversary of the Falklands Conflict, there would be a lot of memories and reflections from all sorts of people. As I had such detailed diaries from 1982, it seemed the right time to document my memories and share them.”
Susie’s time at Bedford College was very formative for her and is referenced in the book. Reflecting on her time there, she says “My fondest memory of Bedford is the wonderful setting. Deep in Regent’s Park was the best place to start my Botany studies. I find that towards the end of a career it is a good time to appreciate the foundations of where you came from.”