Choking back tears, it’s clear the impact the late Peterhead GP Dr Iain Small had on Callum Anderson, a junior doctor also from the Blue Toon who is set to star in a new BBC Scotland documentary filmed at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Three months on from losing his family friend, fellow panto performer and the person who inspired him into medicine, Callum says it’s still very raw but finds comfort knowing that Dr Small would be proud of him as he stars in Junior Doctors : Life on the Wards, a new TV series which focusses on six First Year Junior Doctors (FY1s) embarking on their medical careers at the ARI.
Throughout the fly on the wall three-part documentary, which started this week, viewers will watch Callum treat patients and will undoubtedly be moved to tears when he talks movingly about Dr Small who he used to perform alongside with the Peterhead Panto Group.
“One of my biggest inspirations for going into medicine was Dr Small,” says Callum.
“He was an incredible person, our local GP in Peterhead, a local panto star, he just did so much for the community that it’s hard to put into words.
“When he found out I wanted to be a doctor he helped me to get work experience and he and his family also bought me my first stethoscope.
“He was a huge inspiration.”
No stranger to the A&E department
Born and raised in Peterhead to proud parents Kevin and Karen, Callum was no stranger to the accident and emergency department at the ARI.
“I was such an accident-prone child, I sprained my wrist and ankles constantly and I’ve got bald spots from where I split my head open so I’ve been in hospital environments from a young age,” laughs Callum.
Long before he stepped foot inside a medical theatre though, Callum had an affinity with a different style of theatre.
“I started doing panto in Peterhead when I was eight and I’ve now been there for 17 years,” says Callum.
“Dr Iain Small was also in the panto group so it was amazing to perform with him in so many productions over the years.
“So he not only inspired me into medicine but he also encouraged me to keep up theatre.”
Dream role in Kinky Boots
During the programme, the camera follows Callum as he looks after patients on the wards during the day and by night when he performs in Kinky Boots at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen.
“Kinky Boots was one of my dream roles, it was an incredible experience,” says Callum.
“Growing up where I’m from, it felt like I was one gay in an area so being able to do a show with the angels who were six other gay men was amazing.
“We made such good friends.
“I loved that experience and getting to be on stage with all of those incredible people was amazing.”
It’s not only the theatre audiences who have given Callum a rapturous reception though as the patients who have been under his care appreciate his medical expertise and the fact that he can speak Doric.
“One of the first experiences I had on the wards was with another student from London and the patient we got assigned to was a farmer from the middle of nowhere in Aberdeenshire,” says Callum.
“He spoke broad Doric, he didn’t speak anything else.
“So I spent time translating everything and it helps make the patient more relaxed.”
Now seven years into his training after starting at the University of Aberdeen in 2016, Callum has his sights set on becoming an anaesthetist.
“I enjoy how broad it is as they work across a number of departments including the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and in emergency care,” says Callum.
“Also I like being in theatre but I don’t want to do the surgery so that’s another aspect of it.
“It’s such an interesting career as it’s so patient centred.
“You’re in charge of the patient and keeping them alive essentially.”
With another eight years of intensive training ahead of him before potentially becoming an anaesthetist, Callum has plans to take a break in between.
“Obviously musical theatre is a big part of my life so I’m planning on taking a year out to do a Masters musical theatre post grad course,” says Callum.
“I just want to try something new for a year and have a bit of fun.”
A constant source of fun and an instant stress reliever, Callum is still very much involved in Peterhead Panto Group.
“I’m doing the Peterhead panto again this year, we’re doing Dick Whittington so I’m the Tom cat, it’s a Doric character” says Callum.
“It’s a very nice year to be involved as we’re all aware that this was the last project Dr Small was involved in.”
Due to the demands of Callum’s job, he’s likely to be working a nightshift when his episode of the series airs.
“Hopefully I’ll get to watch it afterwards,” says Callum.
“I never like to watch myself, I cringe at myself so we’ll see what happens.”
Junior Doctors : Life on the Wards started on BBC Scotland on Wednesday evening. It airs every Wednesday on BBC Scotland at 10pm. All episode are also available on the BBC iPlayer.