Celebrating the gift of life this Organ Donation Week: Charlie Brown, alumna of Howell’s School, Llandaff

This week is Organ Donation Week in the UK and so we were delighted to have the chance to speak with GDST and Howell’s School, Llandaff alumna Charlie Brown: ST7 Specialty Registrar in General Surgery, with a specialist interest in Renal Transplantation.

Organ donation week


What inspired you to become a transplant surgeon?

I qualified and started my training in Birmingham in 2011. One of my first jobs was in the liver transplant unit there, which was probably what sparked my interest in the field of transplantation. The way in which transplants transform the lives of patients, quite literally overnight, is astonishing.

What is the biggest challenge in your job?

For the stage I am currently at in my training, I would probably say that time is the biggest challenge. Trying to juggle training needs, final examinations, on-call commitments, and family life can be challenging at times.


Organ donation week


What is the best thing about your job?

Trying to pick just one aspect is tough! The variety of the job is remarkable. One day I’m in theatre transplanting a kidney from a mother to her son. The next day I might be in clinic, or covering the ward, or operating on someone who needs to start dialysis. The day after that, I might be operating in Scotland, retrieving organs for someone else to transplant! There is no ‘normal’ day at work in this job.

What would you say to girls considering a career in surgery?

Go for it! There will be tough days for sure, but overall, it is an extraordinarily rewarding career. I am surrounded by an incredible support network of women (and men of course), from all walks of life. Surgery, especially specialities like transplantation, are historically very male dominated. However, being a woman in surgery is no longer the exception, but rather the norm. The diversity than women offer the surgical profession is hugely positive, and my gender has never been a barrier to me progressing with my surgical training. I have worked with some phenomenal female surgeons over the years, and I am certain that the gender gap within the workforce will continue to diminish as the new generation of surgeons emerge.

What would be your message to alumnae this organ donation week?

Have the conversation about organ donation with your nearest and dearest. Let them know that if the worst happened, you wouldn’t mind being an organ donor. Even though we run an ‘opt out’ system of consent in the here in the UK (which essentially means; if you don’t do anything, it is assumed that you wouldn’t mind donating), your next of kin will still have the final say in the consent process. It’s a dreadful thing to think about, but it’s too important to leave to chance!

Find out more at www.organdonation.nhs.uk