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Pippa Bennett, Winner of the Emerging Talent Award

What went through your head when you heard your name read out as the Winner of the Emerging Talent Award?

A combination of disbelief and gratitude, not only to the individual who had nominated me, but to all those I had done the work with that resulted in being nominated in the first place. 

What work were you nominated for? Was there a specific achievement that resulted in your nomination?

I was nominated for work I’ve conducted as part of a team looking at ways to better manage Service personnel injured in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. The enemy’s use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) resulted in many young men and women sustaining severe injuries to their feet and legs, a substantial number of whom required amputation. 

There are multiple different ways to treat complex lower limb injuries and amputations. In order to provide the optimum care, it is essential that we evaluate our management. This involves assessing how the injuries were initially treated, and then following-up patients to determine whether their function is better or worse than those whose injuries were managed in a different way. By constantly evaluating and critiquing our management, we can strive to constantly improve the care we provide. 

Can you provide a brief overview of your role and responsibilities?

The Royal Navy requires its orthopaedic surgeons to undergo the same training as our colleagues in the NHS. I’m currently seconded to work in NHS hospitals treating civilian patients. When I qualify as a consultant in about six years, I will deploy with the Royal Navy again, either in a land or maritime environment.

My current job involves assessing and treating civilian patients with orthopaedic problems. This is a mixture of planned, elective work, and unplanned emergency trauma work. At the moment, I work at Poole and Bournemouth Hospitals, though our training requires us to change Trusts every 12 months. Although many aspects of my job are different to what is required when treating military patients, there are some parallels, and the training I receive on a daily basis in the NHS will ultimately benefit Service Personnel on future deployments.

I am continuing with the research that I was nominated for the Women in Defence Awards for, and dedicate time in the evenings weekends to pursue this. Although I do not currently have daily contact with the Armed Forces, I remain a Medical Officer in the Royal Navy, and feel I have an obligation to improve the care that we provide to those injured in the line of duty.

If you were judging the category, what would you be looking for in a nomination?

Making a difference does not always mean headline grabbing changes, or sweeping reforms. I think those who are talented understand that the work they’re doing may not be ground-breaking but it is their dedication to what they are doing that can result in improvements being made. I am not a natural researcher, and had to teach myself statistics and research methodology to answer the questions we were asking about the care we provided to our patients. I persisted through these challenges not because one day I thought somebody would nominate me for an award, but because I felt obligated to improve the lives of those injured when we sent them to war. 

If I was judging the category I’d be more impressed by individuals who demonstrate persistence and dedication, who realise that achievement often requires work and commitment beyond the normal requirements of our jobs, and who pursue their goals not for recognition but because it’s the right thing to do.

What does winning the Emerging Talent Award mean to you?

Although I was the one fortunate enough to be nominated there have been many people involved in the research I was nominated for. During the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan colleagues in Birmingham worked tirelessly to save the lives and limbs of those injured. Winning the Emerging Talent Award feels as though it is recognition for the whole team, and that we have brought attention to the incredible care provided by the Royal Navy and Defence Medical Services. 

If you had a piece of advice for future emerging talent nominees, what would that be?

Just enjoy the nomination! Of course winning is incredible, but to be nominated means that a colleague has noticed your contribution beyond the other members in your team, and that in itself is worth savouring. Also use it as a time to reflect on whether you adequately recognise the efforts being made by those you work with: it’s often those who are quietest about their achievements that do the most, and consider whether they could be nominated in future years.

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