In 1996 I started as a medical student in the medical university of my home city Varna, one of the most beautiful cities in Bulgaria, and a popular tourist destination, due to its location on the west coast of the Black Sea.
I graduated with honours in December 2002 and in March 2003 I started my journey in neurosurgery as a trainee and a PhD student in the same university. After finishing my training in 2008, I started my first consultant job in Varna.
During my training in neurosurgery and once it was completed, I was able to complete many international fellowships, including neuroprotection in Denmark, vascular neurosurgery in Japan, neuroendoscopy in the USA and finally the World Federation of the Neurosurgical Societies fellowship in the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, which I completed in 2011.
Throughout my training and international courses and fellowships I was preparing myself for to work and live in my home city of Varna. However, my last fellowship in London changed my trajectory, and I decided to continue my work and development in the UK.
My path to Belfast, came via Coventry, where I worked as a specialty doctor in neurosurgery, followed by a dedicated spinal surgery fellowship in Salford Royal Foundation Trust. While there I was offered the position of consultant neurosurgeon at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. I accepted the offer and started my work in Royal Victoria Hospital in December 2014.
I still remember the reaction of great surprise from my colleagues in Manchester when they found out that I had accepted the consultant position in Belfast. Unfortunately, the city and Northern Ireland in general still has a reputation of a difficult place to live and work. Of course, these reactions from my colleagues made me a bit anxious, but not for long. When I arrived in Belfast I found a welcoming, lively city with a lot of students and happy people.
When I started work in Royal Victoria Hospital, I joined a very welcoming and supportive team where I have had the full support of my colleagues to start and develop many new techniques and procedures including minimally invasive complex spine surgery, endoscopic spine surgery, lateral approaches to the spine, disc arthroplasty and pain procedures. I also established good relations with the spinal orthopedic team and we now organise combined MDMs, courses, educational and even social events.
Last year, I joined the BMA as a representative for Royal Victoria Hospital. I believe this will give me more opportunities to work even more for the well-being of my colleagues and also for our patients. I lived and worked in Northern Ireland for nearly seven years now and, so far, I have never had any regrets about accepting the job with the Belfast neurosurgery team.
Nikolay Peev is a Belfast consultant neurosurgeon and spinal surgeon