By Dr Patrick O’Halloran
For the medical student focused on sport and exercise medicine (SEM), there are distinct challenges. The budding cardiologist, orthopaedic surgeon or obstetrician can easily lay hands on a plethora of specialist role models for career/ guidance and advice, the budding “SEMer” treads a much more uncertain path.
Who can I talk to?
It’s not easy finding mentors. Although local sporting clubs and national medical organisations like BASEM are a useful starting point, the ratio of people seeking advice to those in the know is very high. And the experts are busy. The budding SEMer must rely very much on the kindness of strangers.
What advice to trust?
Once givers of advice are found, the floodgates are opened and advice may flow freely. Therein lies challenge number two, sifting the good advice from the bad. In a field which is rapidly becoming more tightly regulated and in which training programmes have been formalised relatively recently this is no small task. Even if one is to put aside trifling matters like opinions on the direction of the specialty, something which is constantly playing catch up with clinical practice, opinions on management and the doctor’s role are equally diverse.
If these turbulent waters can be traversed then there is the challenge of getting exposure to SEM in the clinical setting, whether this be pitch-side or in the outpatient environment. Though the offer of an extra pair of hands, eyes and ears is often gratefully appreciated, it can be tough to find a suitable environment where it is possible to learn and participate appropriately as well as observe. In some cases, administrators and coaches makes even the latter impossible.
Time crunch – we still have to become doctors!
And where can one even begin on the challenge of fitting all of this in around end of year exams and never ending formative assessments to ensure one remains that paragon of virtue, a reflective learner.
The moral of the story to all those reading who already work in SEM is, please strangers, be kind!
Despite the bleak picture painted above it is an area which is immensely rewarding and in which more and more medical students are showing an interest. The evidence for this is clearly demonstrated in the establishment of several regional SEM societies and even a national “SEM-Soc.” Regular meetings are held by several of these regional groups and recently national events have been held by the branches at Cardiff and Imperial medical schools, to name but two.
Call to action – now!
August 2012 will see a Student Panel of the European College of Sports and Exercise Physicians. ECOSEP is an organisation which aims to foster collaboration and friendship between SEM practitioners around the continent.
August 18th and 19th will see an inaugural meeting of this Student Panel at Queen Mary, University of London with two days of informative, interactive and practical lectures. Speakers include Professor Nicola Maffulli, Dr Nikos Malliaroupolos and ECOSEP President, Dr Aideen Henry. The aim of the two days is to ensure attendees leave with practical skills that they can apply in their continued interest in the field of SEM. Registrants will meet clinicians in the field and discover ways to overcome the challenges discussed above. It goes without saying that sampling the nightlife in the East of London is on the curriculum, I believe it is called a “Knees Up”.
So, while the medical student in SEM travels turbulent and challenging road, it is most certainly rewarding and one with an exciting future. We look forward to welcoming travellers to QMUL in August to prepare together for the next leg of the journey.
The conference is on August 18th – 19th, 2012. Tickets cost £10 and can be purchased HERE.
Patrick O’Halloran is a Foundation Year 1 Doctor. He currently works in the West Midlands Deanery at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.