An oncologist's journey to the UK - Dr Eric Lee

  • February 24, 2022
 

Are you an overseas oncologist looking to move to the UK? Have you always wanted to hear first-hand the experiences of an international oncologist who has been through the process, from completing their FRCR (Oncology) exams, to GMC registration, securing an NHS job and relocating to the UK?   

As part of IMG Stories, we introduce to you, Dr Eric Lee, a wonderful clinical oncologist who relocated to the UK from Hong Kong. Eric has been living and working in the UK with his family after gaining full GMC registration with license to practice.  

Today, Eric will be sharing with you his journey and experiences as an IMG oncologist, now working in Colchester in the southeast of England.  


Introducing Eric Lee 

My name is Eric and I'm a clinical oncologist. I have worked as an oncologist in Hong Kong for 25 years, where I received training in both medical and clinical oncology, in line with the UK system. 

Overall, I think the UK system has been so well suited to myself and other generations of doctors and learners, and this was one of my motivations for bringing my family to the UK. Also, for my daughter's education. 

Training as a clinical oncologist in Hong Kong 

I completed my MBChB and then the FRCR (Oncology) examinations. These were held in Hong Kong with the examiners coming from the UK for assessment. As standard, HK trainees begin FRCR (Oncology) right after becoming medical graduates. Alongside the Royal College exams, you also complete the FHKAM, which is the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine and are the standard qualifications for doctors to complete during their training in Hong Kong.  

I began the FRCR (Oncology) training one year after my graduation from medical school. This was in 1996. I spent a total of five years in FRCR (Oncology) training in Hong Kong and received my official FRCR (Oncology) qualification in 2001. 

One of the main differences between the UK and Hong Kong systems is that where FRCR (Oncology) tells the medical council that you are almost at the level to work as a consultant. The medical council in Hong Kong has further requirements for doctors transitioning to consultant grade. So, after receiving FRCR (Oncology), I still had to go through 2 to 3 more years of training.  

In regards to the Royal College exams, if there's one thing to mention, it's that the examiners are always looking for safe doctors who make patients' safety and comfort their top priority, therefore, my advice for overseas doctors who are looking towards Royal College examinations, especially in oncology, is to remain conscientious and diligent in every aspect of their clinical care, particularly in protecting patients' privacy, rights and safety.  

My career as a clinical oncologist 

Over the past twenty-five years, I've had rotations in different oncology sub-specialties, including paediatrics, CNS, GI, GU, breast cancer, haematologic malignancies and forensic malignancy. In the last 15 years however, I've been specialising in forensic and genitourinary cancers.  

In 2005/ 2006, I had the opportunity to go to Australia for one year for a fellowship. So, I spent almost a year gaining experience in prostate cancer under the supervision of British oncologists in Sydney. 

Over the past few years, I've had many thoughts about moving abroad from Hong Kong and looked at several options, including the UK. Finally, it was a Trust in the UK that offered me a job. 

This ended up being a very good choice for me, because the UK system is quite similar to medical system in Hong Kong. As an oncologist, I can administer both radiation therapy and chemotherapy, whereas in Australia for example, I'd only be able to practice radiation oncology. So, in the UK, I'm able to use my full training to practice in both medical and radiation oncology.  

Going through English language testing 

There were several things to consider before I was able to move.  

First of all, I had to pass an English language exam. I initially attempted the IELTS exam, but in the end decided to change to the OET exam, because the OET focuses on medical situations, so you don't need to spend too much time going through subjects in other areas. 

I managed to achieve a B grade in all 4 sections of the OET exam, which was not easy as my weakest areas are still speaking and writing, and there is of course speaking in the OET exam. You spend 20 minutes speaking in a seminar, similarly to an OSCE. In my exam, I had to take the patient history and give them advice in English. 

When the context of the exam is relevant to your specialty e.g. a breast cancer patient, then it’s much easier. However, in the OET exam, the context is not limited to your specialty alone. My tasks for example included two patients with diabetes mellitus and polymyalgia rheumatica. I've not had experience of psychiatry or endocrinology or orthopaedics for many years, but I had to use this knowledge in the exam and act like an orthopaedic surgeon. 

Many who take the OET fall into the mindset of a clinical examination and become nervous when presented with a clinical scenario they don’t identify with. My advice to anyone sitting the OET exam is to forget about all the medical things. Forget all your clinical problems. Just relax. Don't worry if your answers aren't 100% correct. What you're expected to do is speak clearly and have an overall caring manner.  

The GMC registration process 

During the GMC process, I was asked to submit evidence of my continued medical training over the past 10 years because it has been quite a few years since I received my FRCR (Oncology). The GMC wanted to know more about my further medical education over the past 10 years, so I had to submit evidence of all my CME training. 

Personally, I'm incredibly fortunate that I've been in the habit of keeping all my certificates of attendance whenever I attend any workshops, conferences or courses, so I have a good record of all my certificates. I spent around a week scanning in all my certificates of attendance from 2002 to 2021, all into one big PDF file.  

This advice was given to me by one of my favourite mentors 20 years ago, Dr F.L. Chan, a renowned radiologist in Hong Kong and the warden of the college in Hong Kong. He passed away 10 years ago, sadly, but he gave me some of the most important advice I've been given. He said, 'Eric, you have to keep every one of your certificates, even if you don't see the benefit of the course or workshop, you will find them useful one day'. Since then, I've held onto that advice, and over the last 20 years, I've kept every last certificate in a hard copy! 

Finding a job in the UK 

I actually posted my CV on LinkedIn and was then contacted by Marcus from IMG Connect. Initially, I wasn't sure if his offer was real as it sounded too good to be true! But I quickly realised that IMG Connect is incredible and could support me with every stage necessary. I personally had a lot of apprehension about the process of moving overseas. I'd been working in a secure job for 25 years, so for me to move from that into the unknown - I would need a lot of support, a lot of counselling. IMG Connect & Marcus were there to provide me with all the support I needed, from day one. 

I received job offers from three different Trusts, each with interview processes that began with a stage of informal question, before two rounds of formal interviews online in Microsoft Teams. 

Ultimately, the offer from Colchester was the best fit for me. It is the closest to my previous set-up, because I had been working in a General Hospital in Hong Kong and Colchester has the same kind of general hospital set up. This position also allows me to work in my subspecialties of interest - GU and forensic cancers.  

My journey to the UK 

The timings worked out well for me when it came to the move. We spent some time considering whether to apply for the Tier 2 or BNO visa. The Tier 2 visa requires additional documentation like police checks, but before we had to decide, we received the BNO visa in a matter of days and the decision was made for us. Luckily, because of this, things were much easier - with the BNO visa, my whole family - that is my wife and daughter - could come to the UK as a unit. 

The pandemic was really an issue because there was a lot of uncertainty about things like flights, and new variants. After we landed here, all the flights from Hong Kong to the UK were cancelled, so we wouldn't have been able to travel until 2022 if we hadn't left at the time we did.  

Since I still have many family members in Hong Kong, I was able to leave behind a lot of my property and belongings with them, and only brought my most important belongings with me. This meant that it didn't take too much time for me to pack all my things together to move, but I still had to do things like sell my car. 

What I wish I’d known before I moved to the UK 

I wish I’d known more about driving in the UK! There are rules here that I'm not used to, like driving in bus lanes. If I'd known about these things earlier, it may have been easier for me. 

My experience working with IMG Connect 

First, I must mention Marcus Anderson and IMG Connect - they were very helpful and did such a great job. Everything they do is perfectly timed. I couldn’t improve anything! 

Over the past half a year, Marcus was in constant contact with me over WhatsApp and email, and whenever I had a question, I'd WhatsApp or email him, and he’d always get back to me with the answers I needed.  

What’s next for me and my family? 

I still see myself as someone who is learning, so I'd like to continue with my career development in GU, GI and forensic cancers. I may also try to continue some of my medical studies, for example in palliative medicine, because I know the training for this is very good in Cardiff, where there is a distance learning programme. I'm also looking forward to joining the specialist register for oncology. 

My daughter is now enrolled in a private school in Colchester, where the teachers and students are very lovely, so I hope she'll adapt to the system and be able to enter the grammar school here too.  

For my wife, she first wants to be able to drive in the UK. She has a driving license, but she's still quite hesitant, so that's a priority for her.  

A message to my colleagues in Hong Kong 

I have a heartfelt message to my colleagues in Hong Kong, if they are interested in moving to the UK. First of all, there's a lot of negative news in Hong Kong, saying that a lot of good doctors are Hong Kong, leaving those living there unattended. My message to HK doctors is that things aren’t necessarily that bad in HK, but they can be better in the UK. 


Moving to live and work in the UK is a big decision to make but can be massively rewarding in many ways. International doctors have the chance to find a new home and the NHS presents an incredible opportunity for IMGs to secure rewarding jobs, progress within their fields and explore adjacent opportunities such as CESR, writing publications, teaching opportunities and research. 

Whatever route an overseas doctor may take on their journey to the UK, IMG Connect is here to support them through every step and welcome them to the IMG family.   

Join the IMG Oncologists Facebook group for access to a community of like-minded FRCR (Oncology) aspirants and dedicated oncology recruiters.

In this group you will find tailored resources for oncology IMGs, including access to our FRCR (Oncology) crash courses, completely free to all doctors.

You can access our IMG Oncologists community here.

For regular news and updates on the Royal College and all things oncology, follow IMG Connect on social media using the links below: 

            

 

Relevant Jobs

99,532 - 131,964

We are currently looking for an experienced Clinical Oncologist, who works with both chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments for a large acute hospital in the Midlands, England.

You\'d be joining a team of 8 clinical and 2 medical oncology consultants at the modern Oncology Centre (opened in mid 2010\'s), to help support and develop site-specific services in outpatient and chemotherapy as part of the development of the centre. 

There are 3 Elekta LINACS with VMAT and IGRT, using Mosaiq and Raystation for RT planning on site, along with 35 chemo day chairs used across 3 hospitals under this NHS trust.

JOB REQUIREMENTS:

  • FRCR Clinical Oncology or equivalent
  • Excellent english language skills
  • Extensive experience as a consultant oncologist (UK or overseas experience)

LENGTH OF CONTRACT:
12 - 24 months fixed term (subject to be renewed)

Benefits:

  • Attractive salary and relocation package
  • Training and development opportunities
  • CESR support for those eligible
  • Tier 2 Health and Care Visa (sponsorship for the whole family)
  • Guidance regarding the CV and full interview preparation
  • Assistance regarding the GMC registration, visa, accommodation and transportation by an experienced onboarding specialist
  • Complete IMG Relocation service from start to finish of process

GRADE:
Locum Consultant

Specialty & Special Interests:
Clinical Oncology with primary interest in Gynaecological and Upper GI cancers

99,532 - 131,964

An exciting NHS job opportunity is open for a Consultant Clinical Oncologist specializing in Lung & Breast Cancer at an NHS Trust that has been rated \"good\" over all by the CQC. This NHS Trust has undergone significant development, emphasizing patient and community care excellence. With £58 million in national funding, the Trust boasts a University Hospital status, prioritizing research, education, and training. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) lauds the Trust\'s outstanding performance, with 992 beds and 92% patient recommendation, serving a population of 675,000.

This position aims to strengthen the Oncology team, focusing on lung cancer care and Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiotherapy (SABR). Situated at the dynamic centre within the \"good\"-rated trust, the role contributes to systemic treatment advancements and ongoing research. The Oncology Department at the Combined Haematology Oncology Centre caters to 1-1.5 million residents. Designated as a Cancer Centre since 1996, the Centre collaborates with neighboring hospitals, fostering a multidisciplinary approach. The purpose-built Cancer Centre, equipped with advanced imaging, provides nurse-led services, chemotherapy units, and home-delivered immunotherapy.

The post holder is expected to: 

  • Participate in all facets of departmental activity.

Career development at the Trust includes access to CESR support, specialty training, and opportunities for external duties. The forward-thinking Oncology department initiated SABR practices in 2021 and maintains a dynamic research team supporting various clinical trials.

Life in the area, a historic home of the Royal Navy, offers cultural richness and proximity to scenic countryside. A thriving artistic community, excellent schools, and various development projects contribute to the vibrant atmosphere. The area combines city conveniences with picturesque villages, making it an excellent place to raise a family!

This comprehensive opportunity integrates the Consultant role, SABR RT specialisation, CESR support, and coastal life in the UK, creating a fulfilling and enriching professional and personal experience. 

AM I ELIGIBLE FOR THIS ROLE? 

EEA Candidates: 

  • Recognised European Medical Degree or Specialist Qualification

Non-EEA Candidates:

  • FRCR or equivalent qualification 

UK Based Candidates: 

  • FRCR qualification

This is a great opportunity for any experienced consultant clinical oncologist working towards CESR in Clinical oncology specialist registration in the UK.

£87,354-£113,408
A Cancer Centre in Wales are looking for a Consultant or Specialist in Medical Oncology with a sub-specialty interest in AOS/Melanoma. They are considering either UK or Overseas trained doctors for a permanent or fixed term contract type. The trust will support with CESR support and/or those looking to enter specialty training in the NHS.

This is a high performing and supportive department for overseas doctors new to the NHS, or UK-based doctors looking to further careers in the UK, and a great opportunity for any overseas oncologists looking for CESR support and great career development in a beautiful part of England, filled with sandy beaches and offering vibrant city living.

What is the Welsh Health Board like?

The Health Board are one of the biggest healthcare groups in the UK, providing primary, community, mental health and acute hospital services for the population of around 390,000. They have a budget of around £1bn and employ approximately 12,500 staff. Besides their three major hospital sites, they are also responsible for community hospitals, health centres, clinics, mental health units, community teams, GP practices and other services provided by dentists, opticians and pharmacists. Their mission is to improve the health, wealth and wellbeing of the people of Wales and the rest of the world.

What is the Oncology Department like?

This Cancer Centre provides a high degree of specialisation for all the major cancers. It has one dedicated ward of 30 beds (with scope to increase to 36 beds at periods of high demand) for both oncology and haematology patients, together with a chemotherapy and haematology day unit, and an aseptic unit on site. There are also two laminar flow rooms for patients requiring bone marrow/stem cell transplantation and one dedicated room for radioactive isotope therapy.

There is a state of the art telemedicine facility allowing regular multi-professional meetings between oncologists, physicians, surgeons and AHPs in Wales. The system has the capacity to transmit and view both high quality radiological images and histopathological slides.  

The staff are highly experienced, consisting of nurses, radiographers, research officers and admin staff. The new consultant will be joining a friendly and forward-thinking consultant team of clinical and medical oncologists who are committed to delivering highest standards of cancer care, alongside a large team of other clinical and non-clinical professionals.

What Career Development and Opportunities are available?

The Cancer Centre is heavily involved in training which takes place at all levels from undergraduate lectures and clinical teaching, through to Foundation and Core Medical trainee clinical and educational supervision, and higher specialist training. They will also provide excellent CESR support.

Life in South Wales

Based in South Wales, the area is fast becoming one of the most popular places to live in the UK. This waterfront location is actually Wales’s second most populated city and county, offering all the benefits and amenities of a built-up urban environment, alongside a 5 mile stretch of a pristine, sandy coastline. 

The city is home to multiple live music venues, showcasing everything from small gigs to orchestral performances. Annually, the city hosts a number of different festivals, attracting artists from across Wales and the UK. Today, new regeneration is planned which will only increase its popularity, amenities, and modernity. The city is experiencing a period of development and a resurgence of new business and investment, with the city council focusing on creating a culture of creativity and an emphasis on attracting tech led businesses.

The area also has good travel links. It is an easy drive to Port Talbot and Cardiff and you can get to London via the M4, and around Wales on the A48. There are also regular trains to Cardiff, Newport and London. For international and domestic flights, Cardiff Airport is just 44 miles away.

Am I eligible for this role?

EEA candidates: 
•    Recognised European Medical Degree or Specialist Qualification in Medical Oncology
•    Extensive experience in AOS/Melanoma oncology
  
Non-EEA candidates: 
•    MRCP
•    Extensive experience in AOS/Melanoma oncology
 
UK-based candidates: 
•    Extensive experience in AOS/Melanoma oncology
•    Within 6-months of CESR or CCT in Medical Oncology

This is a great job for any experienced overseas Medical Oncologists working towards CESR and specialist registration in the UK.
99,532 - 131,964
A cancer centre in the South West of England are looking for a Consultant in Clinical Oncology with any sub-specialty interest. They are considering either UK or overseas-trained doctors for a permanent contract type. The trust will support with CESR support for those who are looking to attain CESR and Specialist Registration.

This is a high performing and friendly department for overseas doctors new to the NHS, or UK-based doctors looking to further careers in the UK, and a great opportunity for any overseas consultant oncologists looking for CESR support and great career development in a beautiful part of England.

What is the NHS Trust like?

This NHS Trust is the first NHS Trust on the English mainland to provide community, mental health and acute hospital services. It was formed from the merger of two trusts on the 1st April 2020. Now, they are preparing to merge with another trust so that they are better able to support the health of all the people in the area.

The trust provides a range of services from 13 community hospitals including outpatient and diagnostic services, 190 inpatient beds and seven Minor Injuries Units. They also provide specialist mental health services, healthcare for adults with learning disabilities, medical and surgical care, maternity services and cancer treatment services. The trust\'s facilities for the treatment of cancer have undergone a major expansion, culminating in the opening of the Cancer Centre in May 2009.

What is the Oncology Department like?

The Oncology Department provides Clinical and Medical Oncology inpatient and outpatient services as well as radiotherapy and chemotherapy to all common tumour sites. The new appointee will be joining an ambitious team of 12 Consultant Oncologists (8 Clinical & 4 Medical), 1 Associate Specialist (Medical Oncology), 3 Speciality Doctors, and a rotation of junior doctors who cover the inpatient ward. There are also two Clinical Oncology ST3 doctors. It is a research orientated department with a dedicated clinical trials team and are one of the highest recruiters within the South West and nationally for a number of trials. 

The new consultant will be working within the Cancer Centre which provides cancer care to a population of approximately 500,000. It has received a number of accolades since opening in 2009 for the high quality care delivered. These include CHKS ISO 9001 accreditation, Macmillan Quality Environment Mark score of 5 (out of 5) on all principles and in the 2018 National Cancer Patient Experience Survey, the Beacon Centre was ranked third overall which is an excellent reflection of the patient centred care delivered.

What Career Development and Opportunities are available?

There is real opportunity to progress through CESR at pace at this trust, with a strong desire for newly-qualified consultants to develop their specialty areas of interest and undertake in various cancer trials and research projects where possible. Research is encouraged here, particularly when this is appropriate to professional development and to the service development of the department. Opportunities are available with applications for funding co-ordinated by the Trusts Medical Directors and clinical trial recruitment to International, National and Regional trials is active in all tumour sites. This trust was also rated as an area of Outstanding Practice by CQC (2016), and with the highest GMC score in the South West for training.

Life in the area:

This area has diverse shopping, restaurants, and regularly hosts international music and sporting fixtures. It is located between various areas of outstanding natural beauty, featuring national hotspots for cycling, surfing, and climbing. There’s plenty to keep you occupied alongside the abundance of music festivals and local traditions. The area is in close proximity to both the beaches of North Devon and Cornwall, while also being less than two hours from the city of London. 

It also offers some of the best schools in the country. Ranging from public institutions to award winning state schools with one being ranked in the top 10 of A-level providers nationally for the last eight years.

Am I eligible for this role?

Non-EEA candidates: 

  • FRCR (Clinical Oncology)

EEA candidates: 

  • Recognised European Qualifications 

UK candidates: 

  • Within 6 - 12 months of completing CCT
£55,329

Are you a Clinical Oncologist looking for a rewarding opportunity in the UK? An excellent NHS Foundation Trust is seeking a talented professional to join their oncology team. With a commitment to collaborative working, this NHS Foundation Trust provides excellent oncology services and ample opportunities for training, research, and career development. The trust is supportive of CESR applications.

The Oncology Department takes a collaborative approach to cancer care, with teams in two sites working together to provide comprehensive and sustainable services. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology, the Cancer Centres offer a multidisciplinary approach, supported by Acute Oncology Teams and a skilled team of healthcare professionals. The post holder will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in an NHS Role as part of a well-equipped, modern oncology department.

The department sits within an NHS Trust that is known to be the leading healthcare provider in East Anglia, serves a population of nearly 800,000 residents across two main hospitals, six community hospitals, and various clinics. With a budget exceeding £650 million, the NHS Foundation Trust invests in enhancing their hospitals and creating an ideal working environment. They prioritise the well-being of their staff and patients, offering exciting prospects for development, innovation, research, education, and training.

Additional to the opportunity of working for a great NHS Foundation Trust, living in the area offers a diverse and vibrant lifestyle. Essex, with its stunning coastline, beaches, and countryside, provides a great environment for families. The county offers a range of housing options, urban or rural, at affordable prices. With excellent transport links to London, you can enjoy the benefits of both city and countryside living. Furthermore, Essex boasts good schools and a high quality of life, making it an ideal place to settle and explore nature\'s playground.

Join them to make a significant impact in the field of oncology while enjoying a fulfilling career and a balanced lifestyle in a beautiful region of the UK.

AM I ELIGIBLE FOR THIS ROLE?

To be eligible for this vacancy you will need the following:

EEA Candidates:

  • Recognised European Medical Degree or Specialist Qualification in Clinical Oncology
  • IELTS or OET

Non-EEA Candidates:

  • MRCP/FRCR/PLAB qualifications
  • Experience in Oncology
  • IELTS or OET

UK-Based Candidates:

  • MRCP or equivalent MD qualification
  • 2 years post-registration clinical practice

This is a great opportunity for any experienced Oncologist working towards CESR in the UK and Specialist Registration in Oncology. There will be opportunity to develop and lead on sub-specialist areas of cancer care.

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