- Just three months ago, Bhasha Mukhurjee, the recently-crowned Miss England, competed in the Miss World pageant.
- Today, she’s resumed her duties as a junior doctor in the UK, sometimes working in COVID wards.
- Mukhurjee is the first Miss England of south Asian heritage, and she said that it’s been “hard to stomach” the reality of minority groups being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
- “The expectations of Miss England are similar to the NHS,” she told Business Insider.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Bhasha Mukhurjee, the recently-crowned Miss England, was in India at the beginning of March doing charitable work. It was there that she decided she wanted to swap her pageant crown for hospital scrubs and return to her previous job – working as a junior doctor in the UK.
Just three months before she had competed in the Miss World pageant as the first Miss England of south Asian heritage.
To say it has been a rollercoaster 12 months would be an understatement. But she loves to be in the hospital corridor – especially as Britain’s social distancing policy continues over a month on since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an effective shutdown to public life.
“It’s been normalising to return to work – it’s the only contact you have at the moment,” Mukhurjee told Business Insider.
Every day is different. She’s covered accident & emergency (A&E), and worked in COVID wards as well as non-COVID areas. New beginnings, all with even more new patients to attend to. Mukhurjee has a sense of determination and “loyalty” towards her NHS (National Health Service) colleagues.
“Would you not help your family if they were in trouble? That’s how I felt.”
As an ambassador for Miss England, Mukherjee travelled across Africa and the Indian subcontinent undertaking humanitarian work. She plans on returning and picking up where she left off in the future. For now, that’s not an option.
“Unfortunately, while I was there (in India) COVID-19 was rampaging and causing havoc, taking so many lives. It ruined how I felt generally and I didn’t enjoy it.”
As of Thursday, UK coronavirus-related deaths stood at 26,168. But the mood remains upbeat among healthcare workers. Despite the large daily death toll, doctors, nurses and hospital staff at the Pilgrim Hospital in northeast England’s Boston still find time for a joke and a laugh to lift spirits, just as they did prior to the coronavirus pandemic. The only difference now, she says, is that it’s all done while wearing a mask.
Some patients know her simply as Miss England, but the junior doctor is fine with that as long as it helps lift their spirits up. But being well-known doesn’t always help during this time.
“I was struggling to sleep because I was in the public eye in an intense period. There has been some anxiety about going to work at times. But the good and the bad have taught me a lot.”
Mukherjee says that there are actually parallels between beauty pageantry and the medical profession.
“The expectations of Miss England are similar to the NHS. You’re a role model, and, crucially, there’s an expectation on how you present yourself, especially in outwardly appearance, your speech and your conduct.”
Mukherjee is immensely proud of her Indian heritage. That has made it even tougher for her to stomach the “sad reality” that ethnic minority groups in Britain – like in the US – have so far been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 compared to the majority of the population. She worries about living away from her mother, but she still maintains a calm attitude – undoubtedly from her medical training.
“We have to just be brave through this. Do what it takes to brave through it.”
Already experienced with handling high pressure situations, the 24-year-old medical professional shares some words of wisdom on how to handle quarantine and social distancing.
“Don’t think about when this will be all over but, instead, adapt to this scenario. That’s the best way to survive; not to expect circumstances to change but to change ourselves and adapt.”
Stay at home, build a routine, and create a coping strategy that is fun and creative, she says. Whether it’s baking or creating YouTube videos, “art is what people are resorting to for entertainment.”
“It’s a great coping strategy. And you’re contributing to the well-being of others staying at home.”
A level headed approach has kept Mukherjee on the road to success, from her origins in Kolkata, India, to moving to the UK aged nine.
The past year has been a major learning curve.
“Covid has been a life changing event for everybody. It’s my first year as a doctor … it’s such a unique year for me.”
Much like many of us, she’s taking stock of her journey from Miss England to frontline key worker but refuses to consider it an achievement.
“I’m going to look back in the future as to how many things happened for me. I wouldn’t say ‘achieved’, but fought through. Because even the big achievements can pull on your mental health.”
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