“I saw the table; I saw the lights and the instruments; I smelt the smell, soaked up the atmosphere, looked over the polished marble floor and thought it was something I could genuinely see myself doing.”

The sights and smells of an operating theatre are something visitors don’t often recall but these vivid memories do not belong to a patient. For Orthopaedic Surgeon Rob Pollock (H 81-86), this is the moment his adolescent senses came alive whilst touring a hospital where his mother was working as a Scrub Nurse. It’s the moment he decided to pursue a Medical career.


For aspiring Medical students among current Bradfieldians such experiences are off the table, no pun intended, in the current climate, however, they are afforded a daily glimpse of those same surroundings. Off-duty but garbed in scrubs and surrounded by lights and x-rays, Rob stands amidst the scene he described in a portrait which hangs on our Dining Hall wall.

For those inspired to follow in his footsteps, Rob asserts that they are in the right place to start honing the fundamental skills which will see them thrive in the profession as he once did as a Bradfield pupil. “I can’t do what I do in the NHS without a huge amount of input from an extended team. If you have teamwork in your DNA, in your blood, then you just get on with it and find solutions to problems that you have never before had to solve and my Bradfield experience certainly set me up for that.”

Speaking from his office at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Rob always knew Bradfield was the right school for him, even before he arrived for his first day in The Close.

“The Headmaster at the time, Anthony Quick, was very much of the view that every child has a talent, they may not know what it is before they start, but Bradfield would find it, nurture it and make them better at it. That’s what I loved about Bradfield and subsequent Headmasters have taken that on board. It very much comes through in the way Bradfield approaches education today.”




While admitting that his talents lay outside of academia it was in the classroom that Rob’s passion was allowed to flourish. With a Medical career already in mind it was only natural that he gravitated towards Biology and it was during an early lesson with the subject master Murray Argyle that his interest in the human side was piqued.

“He dissected this dead rabbit from top to bottom; from mouth to stomach to duodenum, large bowel, pancreas and kidneys, we saw it all. That was where my initial fascination with the way bodies work arose.”

The ability to communicate with others, be empathetic and be a team player working towards a common goal are essential. I got all of that at Bradfield.

Enthralled by the experience he arranged extra lessons to learn more about the human cardiovascular and digestive systems. “Murray was very happy to carry on talking forever about that because he was passionate and it became my passion too.”

Interests outside of the classroom played a key role in Rob’s holistic development and while he was a talented sportsman, playing cricket, hockey and football, it wasn’t just his sporting ability that he found being nurtured, it was the skills he gained through the co-curriculum that set him up for his professional life.

“My whole working life is spent in a team with people from all walks of life, all contributing in different ways. Whether it’s a nurse, a physio, a surgeon or an anaesthetist, the ability to communicate with others, be empathetic and be a team player working towards a common goal are essential. I got all of that at Bradfield whether it was from winning a match on New Ground, working out how to scale a 12-foot wall in the CCF or coming back to play cricket for the Waifs or run the Huxham X, these are the experiences through which you can develop the skills to succeed in life.”




As his journey at Bradfield ended, and feeling a need to mature a little, Rob deferred his entry to Medical School and took a year out to travel. His mother, who at that point worked in the travel industry, bought him a one-way ticket to India.

“I landed in Delhi with a handful of contacts but not much of a plan. I managed to fund a few months travelling around India and Nepal utilising my inter-personal skills to find work on a factory line, washing up in a kitchen, driving lorries and working as a removal man.”

Global collaboration became a theme of Rob’s training throughout Medical School and beyond. Orthopaedic training took him to Denver, Colorado, where he learned how to fix broken bones the American way and also to Sydney, Australia, where he encountered some inspirational surgeons.

His open-mindedness and passion for learning and problem solving have driven him throughout his career leading to him earning the prestigious American, British and Canadian (ABC) Fellowship by the British Orthopaedic Association, awarded to only a couple of English doctors every few years.

“I gave something like 17 lectures in 13 North American cities in six weeks as an ambassador for British Orthopaedics. I’m very much into collaboration. I enjoyed meeting like-minded colleagues and discussing their experiences. I don’t pretend to know all the answers and I enjoy exploring whether other people in other parts of the world have got different solutions to the same problems that those in my field face.”




Naturally the conversation turns to how the pandemic has affected his work and, like all other areas of the NHS, it has meant adapting to a completely new way of working. Early on hospitals put elective surgery on hold so Rob went from conducting hip and knee replacements to dealing with trauma patients instead.

“Suddenly overnight we became a trauma hospital. We are not normally trauma surgeons and my hospital became a busy fracture clinic and we had to go back to basics, treating broken bones. I have to say the NHS reacted and responded excellently. Everyone just took it on the chin, rolled up their sleeves and just got on with it.”

Rob’s advice to those Bradfieldians who feel inspired to pursue a career in Medicine starts with persevere and find the right role to suit your talents.

“Never give up. If it is your dream, then pursue it and keep pursuing it because if you want it badly enough you will be able to do it. It is an incredibly rewarding career and very diverse, not just in terms of the people who you will work with but the roles you can take on. Whether you are very academic and looking at a career in medical research or whether you like talking to people and see yourself as a face-to-face clinician. There’s something for everyone in Medicine for sure.”