My CESR Journey and the Portfolio Pathway to Specialist Register in CSRH – a personal reflection

Posted 08 May 2024

Date: 08 May 2024

Author: Dr Farah Chaudhry

30 November 2023 saw the launch of the Portfolio Pathway to the Specialist Register in Community Sexual and Reproductive Health (CSRH). Dr Farah Chaudhry reflects on how gruelling and arduous it was in the old CESR days compared to the more proficient process now.

I took the scenic route with my career. Having started as an aspiring paediatrician, I took a side-step into General Practice to achieve a better work-life balance with my three young children. As a GP I developed a special interest in women’s health and started working in family planning clinics to enhance and maintain my skills.

Then along came the world of integration and tendering. CSRH meanwhile had been launched as a specialty. I threw my hat into the ring to apply for CESR, with an equal measure of enthusiasm and trepidation, as an opportunity to develop and challenge myself.

And challenge it was. The CESR process at the time felt like a proverbial mountain to climb and more a test of resilience rather than an assessment of clinical aptitude. It felt isolating and bewildering - like trying to dance a complicated routine to which no one has taught you the steps.

However, this inspired me to want to improve the process for the future workforce. Having had the opportunity to support the CESR team in developing the new Portfolio Pathway (the new name for what used to be CESR), and participating in evaluation and assessment, I have remained committed to this aim. I am confident that portfolio training is better supported and resourced than ever before and the changes to how an applicant evidences the skills, knowledge, and experience to fulfil the curriculum requirements are far more reasonable and achievable. Whilst the curriculum requirements remain rigorous - quite rightly so to ensure the quality of the successful applicants and expanding consultant workforce - every effort is made to make the evidence collection and application process attainable and the assessment fair and objective.

In truth, my motivation to pursue CESR was driven by the desire to seek validation as a clinician - an attempt to resolve my own ‘Imposter Syndrome’. As a ‘Portfolio Dr’ I feel I drew on all the facets of my previous training and experience and truly earned my position on that coveted Specialty Register. It ultimately has made me the clinician I am today.

Was it worth it in the end? Absolutely! It has evolved into an extremely fulfilling and rewarding career. I thoroughly enjoy the breadth, scope, and challenge of my clinical work. However, the added unintended consequence of becoming a CSRH Consultant has been the opportunity this has afforded me to influence and advocate for our services and to contribute to the ongoing evolution of the CSRH specialty.