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Medical connections at Caius

  • 12 October 2021

Doctors are used to finding connections between seemingly unrelated clues. Anthony Martinelli (Medicine 2008) enjoys it so much that when he is not working as a clinician, or researching for his PhD, he is appearing on the BBC television quiz show Only Connect.

In the tournament-format quiz, hosted by Victoria Coren Mitchell, teams compete by finding connections. Now in its 17th series, Anthony is in a team with fellow Caian Sophie Lovick (Medicine 2008) and Fitzwilliam alumna Maggie Huang, Anthony’s wife, named Scrubs, due to their medical pedigree.

Lockdowns inspired virtual quizzes worldwide, but Anthony and the team took it a step further by applying to be on Only Connect. Anthony had previous experience as part of the Caius team which won University Challenge in 2015. But Sophie and Maggie were appearing on camera for the first time.

Preparation came from watching old episodes of the show, utilising a book produced by the show, and practising for a round where words are missing their vowels.

“One of the nice things about being on Only Connect is you do have to work as a team,” Anthony says.

“Compared to University Challenge or Mastermind, it is more difficult to swot up. There isn’t a guaranteed subject area that’s likely to be asked about. For example, in University Challenge, knowing your kings and queens or US Presidents, or the periodic table, is a pretty good bet of something that will come up.

“I don’t think there’s the same guarantee with Only Connect. It’s more about getting into the vibe of the show than getting into specific topics.

“It’s often about piecing together different pieces of knowledge. Some people find it a bit more interesting than straight factual recall. It was valuable to draw from different knowledge and experience.”

Anthony is yet to make his Mastermind debut. He adds: “I’d have to find a specialist subject first to really swot up on, which seems a bit more of a scary prospect. There’s a bit more pressure on you when you’ve chosen something that you’re specifically meant to know about!”

More from Anthony below

Caian connection on Only Connect

Three people sitting facing the camera in a television studio

Fergus Navaratnam-Blair (Philosophy 2011, pictured above left) took part in Only Connect with his partner Sangeetha and her brother. He and Anthony attended Caius at the same time, and were both members of Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats.

It was a coincidence that Anthony and I ended up on the show in the same year. I didn’t know he was on it until the episodes started airing.

We suggested a whole bunch of different team names, including the Muppets, because Sangeetha’s favourite film is The Muppet Christmas Carol and we watch it ever year, and the producers picked that one. We were a little bit worried about it at first – being on TV with ‘Muppets’ under our faces. We have a work WhatsApp group and a lot of people posted photos and commented on the name! But we got used to it and came to be quite affectionate of it.

The show’s quite different from other quiz shows – it’s not about knowing all the facts, but being able to figure it out and think laterally around the topic. There’s a real sense of satisfaction when you get the answer right, which you don’t necessarily get on other shows. It also means if you don’t know all the clues, you can piece it together by thinking outside the box. It’s not just a knowledge test – that’s what we’ve always enjoyed about the show.

The Muppets are scheduled to appear on Only Connect on BBC 2 on Monday 18 October:

Anthony has a long association with Caius, having matriculated in 2008, and undertaken his full six-year undergraduate training while a student of the College.

After working as a junior doctor for five years, Anthony returned to embark on a PhD which is due to be completed in 2023.

“About five percent of doctors end up doing a PhD at some point during their training,” Anthony says.

“A reasonable proportion of consultants at Addenbrooke’s or Papworth will have done one.”

The PhD presents an opportunity to perform scientific work, or translational research which could benefit patients in future. Anthony is a registrar specialist in respiratory medicine, which is timely.

He says: “I’ve always continued doing a bit of clinical work alongside my PhD. When the first wave of Covid hit in March 2020 I paused my PhD for four and a half months and went back to doing full-time clinical work at Addenbrooke’s. We were doing a lot of respiratory support for people, which is basically a way of providing oxygen in certain pressurised ways to help patients with Covid.”

Anthony enjoys the variety of respiratory medicine, dealing with acute and chronic conditions, alongside various procedures. His PhD focuses on iron metabolism and hypoxia, and how cells respond to the unique environments brought on by tumours or physiological conditions. It is a similar area of research to that of Caian Peter Ratcliffe, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2019.

It has been a challenging time, with a release.

Only Connect did give an opportunity and a reason to think about something else. That’s been fun,” he says.

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