Dr Jonathan Thornley
Jonathan is an Accident & Emergency Consultant Doctor at Leeds Teaching Hospitals and the Director of Leeds Emergency Medicine Research (LEMeR).
What happened after you left Bridgnorth Endowed School?
I took something of a long way around to get to where I am now. I left the Endowed after A Levels in 1990, taking up a degree course in zoology at the University of Leeds. I quickly realised that I was more suited to medically-based thinking and swapped to study microbiology in 1991, graduating in 1993.
I then moved to the University of Sheffield, taking up a PhD post to investigate a bug, similar to the bug that causes cholera, and worked out how it was able to stick and cause problems. I submitted my PhD thesis three years to the day I started and moved on, with the techniques learned, to the University of Nottingham to investigate how bugs interact with the immune system. In 1999, I was presented with a European Research Fellow of the Year Award for this work, which has gone on to form the basis of medicines we use in clinical practice today.
My career then took a bit of a sideways move, as I went back to university to study medicine at the University of Nottingham, while concurrently running the research laboratory. I graduated MB BS Medicine and Surgery in 2003 and junior doctor jobs in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire followed for nine years, as I learned my trade as a medical doctor. This included six months as a brain surgeon, time working in intensive care, as a general medical doctor and finally specialising in A&E medicine. I completed my speciality training in 2012, and gained membership to the Royal College of Physicians and a Fellowship of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine in the process.
I started as an A&E Consultant Doctor in 2012, cutting my teeth in a busy district general hospital, before being invited to join the team at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, where I led the Leeds General Infirmary A&E team for a two-year tenure until 2018. I now combine the skills used as a medical and science doctor to forward medical research in the exciting field of injuries and emergencies. My other work passion is for team wellbeing, and I use skills and life lessons to help support and protect the team that I'm proud to stand with.
What does your current job involve?
I’m an A&E Consultant Doctor for the busy A&E Departments in Leeds General Infirmary and “Jimmy’s” St James’s University Hospital, which see some 350,000 patients each year. In fact, we hosted ‘A&E Live’ for ITV last year and I featured alongside Davina McCall, live to 12 million households over three nights – what an experience!
Our patients present with anything from minor injuries and illness, to strokes, heart attacks and major trauma. I am one of 30 A&E Consultants amongst a team of 450 nurses, clinical support, cleaners, porters, receptionists, and junior doctors, serving a population of approximately 1.5 million people – 24/7 – 365 days a year. This means that most of my ‘working day’ is in the evenings and all through the night, weekdays and weekends. It takes me away from my family a lot and, as such, the people I work with feel very much like my ‘work family’.
As an A&E Consultant, I lead the team and take clinical responsibility for every patients’ care, treatment and experience during my shift. This can often be clinical responsibility for several hundred patients a day, seeing and helping patients on what is often the worst days of their lives, helping provide life-saving treatments, introducing patients to the best medical and surgical specialists in the hospital, for patients from the moment of birth to the very end of life. Sometimes this is the hardest job in the world, but it is always the most rewarding.
What achievement are you most proud of?
I am exceptionally proud to be a doctor. To be able to offer life-saving help to a single person is an absolute privilege. To be empowered to do this for many, every day goes beyond this, while recognising that I am simply a small cog in a very big and wonderful NHS machine.
Having done this and having had a career as an international award-winning scientist is stunning and I still can’t quite believe it myself. I remember the day I was awarded my PhD and how proud my parents have been, standing beside me graduating from all six of my degrees, not to mention the Royal College membership and fellowships. I’m also exceptionally proud of my team at Leeds, and my wife and children for supporting me and my vocation.
What were the highlights of your time at Bridgnorth Endowed School?
I have so many happy memories of my time at the Endowed. From playing rugby in the snow with Mr Oliver, down by the river, to lunchtimes spent doing additional metalwork classes with Mr Lake, and the way that Mr Cobb always wanted to teach me French and German, but taught me about life and the world, not just the language or syllabus
I remember using the physics equations, taught to me by Mr Pickles, to help me maintain the blood pressure of a very sick patient one very tired night on intensive care as a junior doctor. These, along with memories of being taught how to appreciate and understand the world, without which I wouldn’t be where I am now.
A word to the wise
I’ve three children, two daughters and a son, and I’ve often thought about the advice I should offer them, for you can only ‘offer’ advice. So, the advice that’s personal to me is…
You’ll set goals and then work hard to accomplish them, but later you’ll realise the journey was just as enjoyable than the end result. Most of your life, your only company is yourself – like yourself, you won’t always. You’re always working for yourself, even when you’re working for someone else. Time is your only commodity. Don’t waste it and don’t give it to people or projects that don’t respect it.
Kindness can be disarming. Always try to offer those less fortunate a helping hand, recognising that some may not appreciate it, as doing ‘good’ is equally as important as ‘doing well’.
But most importantly, and I now recognise that this is what Mr Cobb was trying to teach me when he wasn’t teaching me French and German, something that has helped me through some impossibly difficult times, always look for wonder in the world. It’s sometimes hard to see, but always there if you look hard enough.