Caring Jo's love of lifelong learning

Jo Ledger, a specialist doctor in community drug and alcohol services, left RGS in 1992 to study medicine at the University of Nottingham after taking A-levels in biology, chemistry and maths

Q: How did your career path, from general practice to forensics and community drug and alcohol services, develop?

A: After five years at medical school, I spent a year working as a pre-registration house officer (now foundation training) in Bradford and Leeds, followed by senior house officer jobs in accident & emergency and oncology before starting my GP vocational training in Nottingham, which I completed in 2002. I worked as a GP partner and salaried GP up to 2012 which is when I started a portfolio career, pursuing my interest in forensics alongside my GP work. I completed the diploma of forensic medical sciences whilst working as a lead forensic physician in Humberside and North Yorkshire. I then worked for a not-for-profit community interest company between Oct 2018 and Nov 2022 – leading a clinical team providing remote primary care in prisons across the north of England (with a telemedicine offer prior to Covid).

More recently, I started working for the Humankind charity which provides community drug and alcohol services in various locations across the country. I continue to provide face-to-face care to patients and support development of services.

Q: Can you outline a typical day?

A: There isn’t one in medicine! No two days are the same.

Today – I logged on at 8am and started by reviewing and updating draft guidance on remote consulting and prescribing, then led a complex case supervision where recovery workers brought a list of patients to ask for advice on clinical management. Following on from that I liaised with consultant and GP colleagues about two of the patients and updated the notes. I then had my own clinical supervision with the executive medical director, discussing cases I have seen in clinic this week. After a 30-minute lunch break I returned to writing the guidance and dealt with a couple of patient-related calls during the afternoon. I logged off just after 6pm.

Yesterday - I drove to Leeds and worked in clinics all day, reviewing patients and prescribing medication to treat addictions.

Q: What have been the highlights of your career to date?

A: Finishing and writing up the six-month telemedicine pilot in January 2020 which meant I was able to induct and mobilise clinical staff across the North East and North West prisons when lockdown happened, and maintain service continuity.

I really enjoyed working in police custody too.

Q: What’s the best bit about your job?

A: Being able to provide competent compassionate care for people at their most vulnerable who are at risk of exclusion or being stigmatised by society.

Q: And the worst?

A: Work-life balance

Q: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

A: When I first qualified, I was one of the last years of medics who regularly worked 90+ hours a week. That was hard!

Q: What was the most important thing you learnt at RGS?

A: I loved school because I love learning. RGS provided a great environment for me to flourish and achieve the grades I needed to get into medical school and strengthened the focus and discipline I have needed throughout my career.

Q: What extra-curricular activities were you involved in while at RGS and how valuable were they?

A: I enjoyed playing hockey at school – never made it into the A-team but enjoyed the game and remember school trips to Wembley organised by Miss Holland and Mrs Rich to watch the All-England Women’s Hockey team play. I used to work in WHSmith as a Saturday job (from the age of 13) and during school and university holidays.

I also enjoyed a few school trips – I went to France a couple of times in 1st and 2nd year and the economics teachers were kind enough to let me gate-crash the trip to Russia when I was in upper sixth – I had my 18th birthday in Russia.

Q: What do you wish you’d known back then?

A: That my hard work would pay off!

Q: What did you want to go on to do after leaving school?

A: To be a doctor!

Q: What is the one piece of advice you’d give students interested in following a similar career path?

A: It’s a vocation not a job – if you want a role where you’re constantly learning, it’s not 9-5, no two days are the same and there is a huge range of individual specialities to choose from - go for it.

Q: Who was your favourite teacher and why?

A: Mr Rowland (GCSE Latin) – we were his last GCSE class before he retired in 1990. He used to slam desk lids and throw board rubbers, but he was lovely and able to engage the class. And Miss Charlton (biology) who was very encouraging.

Q: Who or what inspired you when you were at school?

A: My Grandad. He always wanted to be a doctor but didn’t have the opportunity. He died just as I started my A-level exams. I hope he would be proud of what I’ve achieved.

Q: What would you say has been your greatest success?

A: Meeting my husband and having our children. I couldn’t do what I do without his support.

Q: What did you miss most about North Yorkshire and Ripon?

A: The people and the countryside. I always knew I wanted to come back and I have. I wanted my children to have the same upbringing that I did. We moved back to the area in 2017. I do family history (an interest for over 30 years now) but only found out after we moved back that I have deep roots in this area. I found out that I’m descended from the Markenfields who built Markenfield Hall between Ripon and Harrogate and donated money to build Ripon Grammar School.

Q: What are your hopes for the future?

A: To continue developing in the role that I have just started and supporting my children through the next phase of their lives – through college and A-levels and onto whatever is next for them.