Skip to main contentSkip to footer
Four students walk through campus
Brighton & Sussex Medical School

Inspirational women: Catherine Hennessy

BSMS > About BSMS > Working here > Inclusivity > Inspirational women: Catherine Hennessy

Inspirational women: Catherine Hennessy

Meet Catherine Hennessy, Teaching Fellow in Anatomy at BSMS.

I joined BSMS in September 2015, so I've almost been here for two years. I became an academic tutor this academic year, which sees me helping eight students both academically and with any other issues they might have.

I am also an internal examiner for module 102, which involves sitting on the exam boards, and I'm about to join the Mitigating Circumstances Committee, so my role is constantly evolving. 

I started my part-time PhD last October. So far it has been quite challenging to fit this in around my job as it requires a lot of time management and dipping in and out of my research. My PhD explores whether social media offers opportunities or threats to medical students and doctors. The first phase will involve a review of the guidelines produced by governing bodies to determine what they actually say and what advice they give to medical students and doctors on how to use social media safely, ie maintaining professional behaviour. I'm looking at guidelines from governing bodies here in the UK, such as the General Medical Council and the British Medical Association, as well as governing bodies in the USA, Australia and Canada so I can compare the advice each country provides medical students and doctors. 

I grew up in an era where Facebook was immensely popular. It keeps me connected with lots of different people, so I have always enjoyed using social media. Before joining BSMS, I was a Teaching Fellow in Anatomy at the University of Southampton. During my time there I went to a talk by a professor of chemistry who was using Twitter as a means of supporting and engaging his students. At the time, both myself and the lead neuroanatomy Teaching Fellow were looking for ways to engage students more in neuroanatomy so we used Twitter as a support tool and it really took off! The feedback we received from students was very positive and we were invited to write a paper about our endeavours in the Anatomical Sciences Education journal, which was published in 2016. This was the start of my research career and has led me naturally onto a research topic for my PhD. 

Throughout my school years I thought I would be a physiotherapist. I did work experience in a hospital in Ireland on a neurological ward. I saw three stroke patients within an hour of each other and I realised quite quickly I wasn't the best person to do this role as I was too sympathetic. I went on to do a degree in Exercise and Sport Rehabilitation, which allowed me to work in a private clinic in Ireland for four years. I was working for myself, which I found to be quite unstable, especially when the recession hit, so I pursued a more stable career ­ teaching anatomy! 

I completed my Masters in Human Anatomy in Edinburgh in 2013. Initially, I deferred this for a year when I discovered my degree could get me work with the British Armed Forces! I worked as an Exercise Rehabilitation Instructor with the army in Edinburgh, which was an amazing experience. I will never forget my first day. I was quite scared to take on this role, especially as I was an Irish girl entering a British army camp, and I really didn't know what to expect. In the end I worked with the army for 14 months and loved every minute of it. 

If I could give my younger self any words of wisdom, it would be to not let one negative thing put you off. I don't regret not continuing with physiotherapy, but I can see now that not pursuing it after my work placement was a knee-jerk reaction based on one experience. I think it's important to remember that one moment shouldn't be allowed to dictate everything. 

The most challenging thing about my role is ensuring I have enough time to complete my PhD. I have a responsibility to myself and to the school to finish it. And maintaining a work-life balance, of course! I like to travel when I can and I am trying to get back into salsa too as I love dancing. 

The highlight of my career so far was getting the teaching award from the University of Brighton last year. It is always nice to get recognised for the work you are doing, so this was a lovely moment for me. And day-to-day, I find it incredibly rewarding when you see a student realise something they hadn't realised before. The expression on students' faces when something all of a sudden makes sense is such a highlight of my job. Another very recent proud moment was hearing that my IRP student's paper was accepted by the MedEdPublish journal.