To MSc or not to MSc; a doctor’s perspective

Undergraduate perspective on Sports & Exercise Medicine – a BJSM blog series

Part 1 of a 2 part series on making your post-graduate plans. Read part 1 HERE

By Liam West (@Liam_West)

weight liftign in chairRather than waiting for my specialist training in Sport & Exercise Medicine (SEM), I  undertook the SEM Masters (MSc) as a Foundation Year One Doc (UK version of a resident). Below are some of the questions that junior doctors should consider when thinking about whether to attempt the same challenge…

Is it worth it for a Doctor?

After graduating from medical school, junior doctors rotate through various jobs for a few years before specialization and even more years of training and exams. In line with the advice given by Prof. Khan in his “Career Development – #DreamJob”blog, I believe students should ‘differentiate’ themselves from their peers and ‘add value’ by undertaking post-graduate studies in Sport & Exercise Medicine (SEM) during these rotations years. Whilst the SEM specialist training pathway covers content taught within a SEM MSc, embarking upon an MSc also gives you the chance to ‘network’ with like-minded individuals whilst also improving research and literature based skills – this experience could reveal a hidden passion for research…

When in your training?

If you are serious about an SEM career, I must ask – why wait? I made the decision to study whilst in my first year as a junior doctor as I would have less commitments (i.e. family or elite sport) and I wanted the knowledge before entering the clinical aspect of SEM.

Part-time or Full-time Student?

So let’s say that you want to do the SEM Masters, over what duration should you complete it? Students need to be realistic – the commitments of a junior doctor with long days, on-call, weekend and night shifts are not ideal when you have strict coursework deadlines. I believe that to achieve high marks (you have chosen to do this degree so you no longer want to ‘just pass!’) you must either consider taking a year out to do the course or do it part time. I went for the part time route as this gives me five years to complete the degree and therefore if for one year the degree does not fit my schedule, I can postpone exams till the following year. I will also get to meet and network with more people and it will give me time to think what I’d like to complete a dissertation upon as currently I have no idea!

These are just a few questions you should ask yourself when considering whether to undertake postgraduate studies in SEM. I would suggest you plan well ahead, research the different courses and speak to former students.

Dr. Liam West, BSc (Hons) MBBCh ECOSEP(ac) PG-Cert SEM, is a junior doctor at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. He is a founder and current President of USEMS and is also the founder of Cardiff Sports & Exercise Medicine Society (CSEMS). In addition to his role as an associate editor for BJSM he also coordinates the “Undergraduate Perspective on Sports & Exercise Medicine” Blog Series. He has a passion for developing the SEM movement amongst undergraduates and sits on the Council of Sports Medicine for the Royal Society of Medicine as Editorial Representative and on the Educational Advisory Board for the British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine (BASEM). He has also now been elected as the President of the Junior Doctor’s Committee for the European College of Sport & Exercise Physicians (ECOSEP). His Twitter handle (as above) is @Liam_West.

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