Two clinical fellows from Latvia have been learning and working in the gynaecology team at Leicester’s Hospitals. Doctors Ilze Silina and Natalija Fomina, who joined the Trust in June 2014 and August 2015 respectively, have been working in colposcopy, hysteroscopy and also gynaecology outpatient clinics with great success.
Both Ilze and Natalija studied at Riga Stradinš University in Latvia before their Professor at the university and Esther Moss, Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist at Leicester’s Hospitals established a gynaecology fellowship programme in 2014. The scheme was designed to help support the gynaecology services at Leicester’s Hospitals and to enable doctors from Latvia to gain specialist training in colposcopy and ambulatory gynaecology.
Latvia has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in Europe; more than double that seen in the UK. The Latvian National Cervical Screening Programme only began in 2009 and as a result there is very little experience of colposcopy in Latvia and no established colposcopy training programme.
During their time at Leicester’s Hospitals they have completed the British Society of Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (BSCCP) colposcopy accreditation and have become integral members of the gynaecology team.
Ilze said: “The entire population of Latvia is 2 million people so it took a bit of getting used to the number of patients we see. It was stressful in the first few months as we quickly started working in the clinics and had to learn all the new systems.” While Natalija loves the variety of cases she has been able to see, saying that in Latvia “you wouldn’t see such a wide range of diagnoses.”
Esther Moss said: “Since starting the fellowship programme in 2014 we have had three fantastic doctors come to work at Leicester’s Hospitals. Ilze, Natalia and Kristine Pcolkina, who returned to Latvia last year, have been a delight to work with and have provided wonderful care to our patients.
“We are very sad to see Natalija leave but we know that when she returns home she will be one of only 4 trained Coloposcopists in Latvia and will use the skills and experience that she has gained to develop specialist Gynaecology services that are not currently available in Latvia.”
Ilze and Natalija have loved working in the UK at Leicester’s Hospitals. Natalija is full of praise for the atmosphere around the city: “The whole team were so welcoming. Even just walking around the hospital and the city centre everybody smiles and says hello. The fact the city is so multicultural has been a real plus and I like showing off where I work to my friends and family back home.”
When asked for their advice to students from across Europe considering working at Leicester’s Hospitals Natalija was keen to recommend her experience: “It was the right decision for me. I’ve had lots of good training, met lots of good people. It hasn’t all been easy but it has been worth it.”
Natalija has now left to return to work in Latvia in obstetrics, gynaecology and urgent clinics looking after patients who might need cancer treatment. Ilze is continuing to work at Leicester’s Hospitals, having been offered an extended contract. She is keen to develop her career and is looking at doing more obstetrics work, a passion she has held from an early age. Both say they are indebted to the whole gynae-oncology team for their opportunity at Leicester’s Hospitals.