Being National Director in Final Year

Posted by Layth Hanbali

Fri, 4 Mar 2016

I am the Medsin National Director - a very exciting privilege. When not doing Medsin, I'm doing Medicine at UCL or cooking. Prior to this year, I have been Regional Coordinator and UCL Branch President. Always feel free to get in touch -

Most people say I’m one of: crazy, superhuman, ridiculous, insane, brave. “How do you do it?” comes up a lot too. This is the blog to solve the biggest of all mysteries, how to be National Director of Medsin and a Final Year Medical Student. Cue dramatic music


Why did I ever think this was a good idea?

·      I love Medsin (clearly, but like I love it a lot)

·      I believe that this is worth my time

·      I believe that I have something to offer

Ok, we get it, you love Medsin, but why National Director?

I certainly wouldn’t recommend that every person who loves Medsin a lot runs for National Director, but here are some of the things that, if you enjoy, you might enjoy being ND:

·      Appreciation of the importance for Medsin to be one, holistic, united movement

·      Enjoying looking at the big picture

·      The ability to stay calm and maintain a “bird’s eye view” at all times

·      Appreciation of the importance of strong governance, sound processes, good management and solid strategy


I’m going to pause for a second: what on earth do any of these words mean?!

Governance = how things run. We have principles, strong governance is practising them effectively.

Processes = things like making sure we keep good financial records, have a clear way of dealing with requests for publicity, know how to act if we need to make a controversial decision on something.

Strategy = the thing that turns us from being a bunch of random people doing global health things here and there, to being a movement for health equity.

Do I need to be a global health expert?

I have been asked to speak on or discuss really interesting topics, such as the refugee crisis, TTIP and training health professionals in global health. It has been incredibly interesting to do that, but what is more essential is a good understanding of Medsin’s Vision and Mission, and our role in Global Health and the student world. It is not about having a global health “baby”, a topic that you are interested in and want to focus on, but more about having an overall idea of what Medsin does in its entirety, and facilitating that work.

What I’m proud of:

·      Strategy: we are getting very close to a democratic, comprehensive Long Term Development Plan, that has input from many members, externals and Alumni

·      Good Branch engagement: strong and diverse attendance at conferences and General Assemblies, and good links between members and National Committee

·      The launch of the Medsin Alumni Network

·      A cohesive, highly-engaged National Committee

·      Strong Operational Teams, that support the work of National Committee members and widen the scope of our work

·      2 dazzling conferences

In all, except the Long Term Development Plan, others have done the “legwork”. My responsibility as ND is to guide, support and mentor the appropriate people to carry out that wonderful work. It’s about facilitation and management, less about direct execution.

So where does my time actually go?

So far it sounds like I’m telling you I don’t do very much, so how do I actually spend my time?

I could, if I really wanted, spend all my Medsin time doing admin and management, but that would only maintain, and never develop, Medsin. It is just as important to put admin and managerial aspects to one side, and give time to come up with new ideas, think outside the box, and allow projects from the long pipeline see the light. Making sure I gave time to Long Term Development Plan, the Alumni network, a strategy to improve our General Assemblies, all made sure that these projects move forward significantly.

Let's break it down

My week normally goes something like this:

Admin: 1-2 hours/day. This includes dealing with e-mails, typing up notes and minutes from meetings, carrying out tasks like setting agendas for meetings etc.

Meetings: 6-8 hours/week: 3-4 meetings of 1-2 hours. These include National Committee/ Conference Organising Committee etc. for management purposes, and externals.

Development: 3-4 hours/week. That’s what I was talking about just before this breakdown.


This roughly equates to around 20 hours a week. I would be much happier if I could double each of those (2-4 hours/day admin, 10 hours/week meetings, 10 hours/week development). That would make it a full time job, at 40 hours a week. So how can I realistically do a Full Time job in my final year of medicine?

  1. Clarity of purpose: For every project or task that I pick up, I think “Why am I doing this?” If I come up with an unsatisfactory answer, I drop the task. You’ll be surprised how many things I can shed using this exercise.
  2. Prioritisation: Knowing what’s important when. If I was aiming to finish a piece of work for tomorrow but no one’s going to read my submission for 3 days, then it can probably wait… Nailing down point 1 is essential to prioritising things right though.
  3. Oversight: It’s important that others do the “legwork” not just for time management purposes, but to maintain the bird’s-eye view. Noone else has that overarching responsibility for “oversight”, so if the ND doesn’t have it, it’s likely no one else does.
  4. Delegation: If something is important enough to someone, they can probably help out. If they don’t want to, then you have to question if it is truly important enough.
  5. Reliable and efficient Ways of Working: Even when you’re at your worst, most panicked, busiest time, you have to ensure you are efficient and effective enough to prevent yourself from falling below a certain minimum standard. Only a reliable method of doing things on a day-to-day basis can achieve that.

(Side note: I practise a workflow concept called Getting Things Done: the art of stress-free productivity – check it out! I’ve found it wonderful)

Are you the right person for the job?

Noone is born with the above skills. For me, it was Medsin that helped me to develop them. Bear in mind that, if you’re thinking about running for National Director, the role does not start until August, so you have time to gain the skills. I hope the above has shed a little light into the life of a National Director.


If you have any questions, I would be more than happy to answer them. E-mail me on 


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