Foiz Ahmed completed his MBBS at Imperial in 2004, including an intercalated BSc. He then returned to Imperial to study an MSc in Surgical Technology in 2014, and is currently working as a Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon.

We spoke to Foiz about his time at Imperial and his career since finishing his studies.

What did you learn during your time at Imperial, in class or out?

As with most people, university was my first time away from home, with a huge amount of independence and little support. Self-reliance, organisation and planning are key skills you pick up in this time, in addition to the pragmatic and necessary knowledge from the Medicine course.

Can you tell us about your studies at Imperial?

Medicine is quite an intensive course and mixes a huge amount of factual learning with practical, patient-centred teaching. There is also a logistical element to the course – getting to various hospitals, shadowing doctors on late shifts, and navigating complicated protocols at various NHS organisations. Imperial gives access to some of the best departments and best clinicians around, and it’s important take advantage of those opportunities whilst a student – you often have a 'free pass' and access to people you won’t get quite so easily once you’re no longer a student.

Who did you find inspiring at Imperial and why?

Very sadly, my surgical inspiration passed away a few years ago, at a very young age, of an undiagnosed heart anomaly. Martin Kelly was a Consultant Plastic Surgeon at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, and an Honorary Lecturer at Imperial. He was a naturally talented and renowned surgeon and an extremely kind man – and married to a Hollywood star! He allowed me to spend some time with him in clinics and in his operating theatres, and when I told him that I wanted to be a plastic surgeon, he gave me encouragement and invaluable advice.

Read Martin Kelly's obituary in The Guardian.

What is your fondest memory of your time here?

There were quite a few, but perhaps one of my favourites was playing football with all my friends in front of the Albert Hall, in the middle of the night, under the floodlights of the Albert Memorial. Simpler times.

What is your favourite place at Imperial and why?

I still live nearby, so am always around the area. Whilst I was a student there, I guess the place we spent most time was in the common rooms in halls. Friendships made on the very first day are still going strong 22 years later.

Can you tell us a bit about the work you’re doing now?

I now work as a Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon in Hertfordshire. Most of my NHS work is split between reconstruction for breast cancer, trauma and elective hand surgery, and skin cancer work. I also carry out aesthetic procedures, in private practice in addition to the above.

I am also involved with BFIRST (British Foundation for International Reconstructive Surgery & Training), which is the charity arm of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS). The charity aims to provide surgical training in developing and LMIC (Low and Middle Income Countries), using the principal of facilitating local doctors to provide surgical services for their own patients. The last project I was involved in was in Tanzania in 2019 – unfortunately, Covid-19 has meant that the 2020 trip had to be postponed, but we hope to continue this collaboration in the future.

View the BFIRST November 2019 newsletter describing Foiz's volunteering trip to Tanzania (PDF)

How has what you learnt at Imperial helped you in your career so far?

Obviously, a vocational course such as medicine is a prerequisite to a career as a surgeon, so Imperial has been an integral part of that. Beyond that, Imperial gave me the opportunity to experience medicine being practised at the highest levels, and exposure to clinicians who have helped to shape my own career.

What have been your career highlights and lowlights?

Probably my career highlight was getting a substantive consultant post within two weeks of getting my CCT (Certificate of Completion of Training – i.e. my name on the specialist register for Plastic Surgery). I may be mistaken, but I think I was the first person from the 'new' Imperial College School of Medicine to finish their training and get a consultant post in Plastic Surgery, which makes me very proud.

Lowlights on the other hand: postgraduate training is very arduous and with lots of setbacks as well as highs. It’s not always plain-sailing. My lowlight is probably having to re-sit MRCS exams – there’s a point at which it becomes difficult to work and study at the same time, but in simplistic terms, you just have to push yourself through.

What does a typical day look like for you now?

One of the main joys of plastic surgery as a specialty is that there is no typical day. My activities vary hugely and so I have days with clinics, days with operating all day, and days with a mixture of NHS work and Private work. Each brings its own challenges and requires a subtly different set of skills which have been developed through years of training.

What are your plans for the future?

To carry on enjoying my work and having as varied a workload as possible. And retiring.

What would your advice be for current students?

A quick message for the medical students: you’re all medical students at Imperial and so inherently capable of doing whatever specialty you want to do. Some are more competitive than others. Some require a set of skills and attributes which may be more or less suited to your own strengths and weaknesses. What will determine if you succeed or not is you putting the time and effort in to jump through the hoops. The advice that was given to me was that if you want to do something, don’t make excuses to yourself as to why you can’t do it – find the best way for you to do what needs to be done.

What makes you proud to be an Imperial alumnus?

I think the international reputation of Imperial as a seat of learning, especially in terms of medical research, does confer a certain amount of pride – and a sense of achievement at having been able to gain entry in the first place and managing to get through (as the first person in my family to go to university).

It’s that reputation which made me want to come back for a postgraduate Masters which I carried out during my surgical training.

What one word or phrase would you use to describe Imperial alumni?


Do you have a favourite quote or saying?

I have three:

“Don’t judge a man by how he treats his equals, but by how he treats his inferiors” (Charlie Chaplin)

“Better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt” (Abraham Lincoln)

“We will all make mistakes, but I try not to make the same mistake twice” (me)

Check out Foiz's website or his Instagram page at @mrfoizahmed.