Three months after her first baby was born, paediatric cardiologist and Rhodes Scholar Marina Hughes was faced with a difficult decision.
The job she'd been waiting on - a six-month training role in paediatric intensive care involving regular 24-hour shifts - had opened up. The job represented the start of her fellowship in paediatric cardiology and if she didn't take the single post available, she would have to wait another two years while someone else started their training.
"So I just did it," Dr Hughes told Uniview. "It was part of that ‘can do' attitude I learned when I was doing my medical degree at UWA - you just do it. It was hard work, with a lot of pressure. You can only do that when you have a partner who's prepared to do the 24 hours of child-care that you're missing, and fortunately I did."
The hard work paid off, with Dr Hughes, née Barbour, going on to become a consultant cardiologist first at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, and then the prestigious Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London.
She's now the Clinical Lead for Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging at GOSH, a full-time role that involves scanning children and adults with every sort of congenital heart disease.
"Cardiac MRI can give a complete non-invasive investigation of very complicated hearts, which is just fantastic," Dr Hughes said. "We work closely with the cardiac surgical team and cardiology interventional teams to help with the diagnosis and assessment of the patients. Some patients are scanned frequently, to help with planning the serial operations that they need, as part of their lifelong management.
"It is fascinating and clinically rewarding work, but often restricted in many ways by the limited resources in Britain's National Health System."
Dr Hughes, who grew up in Boyup Brook, attended St Mary's Girls' School in Perth before beginning her MBBS at UWA in 1984. She lived at St George's College for two years before moving into a shared house with fellow students.
"Looking back, I remember a pervasive joy of life," she said of her college days. "We were very fortunate and very happy. There was a can-do attitude: just have a go, you can do it. I remember the activity, the work, the sport and the social energy. I joined a huge variety of clubs in the first years. I taught aerobics in the sports centre, learned how to abseil, do stained glass windows, and massage!"
Academically, she remembered 8am lectures with lecturers using black boards and chalk, being inspired by epidemiology lectures by Fiona Stanley, and drawing confidence from the close-knit community of her fellow medical students.
"There was a spirit of learning and achievement but there was also support and activity and fun. There was a real community spirit at St George's and in the Medical School. Perhaps it was the common foe of Biochemistry exams that first really united us!"
It was the can-do spirit she picked up at UWA which spurred her to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship in 1989.
"Being in Oxford was a culture change, but again it was such an honour to be able to be active in an institution with inspirational friends and teachers," she said.
"I was among really interesting and exciting people. They were fun and funny, they had ideas and they stuck their neck out to challenge themselves at work and at play. I was witness to some magnificent pranks. I was just incredibly lucky to be given that exposure, that education and that experience."
Published in Uniview Vol. 32 No. 1 Summer 2013