Top tips from around the globe: Undergraduate medical electives in SEM

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

A medical elective is a placement undertaken away from medical school usually in the fourth or fifth year of study. Although it can be very tempting, this shouldn’t be viewed solely as an opportunity to lounge in the sun, dipping your feet in the pool with a cocktail in your hand recovering after your exams. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, travel and explore a new culture! Your elective is a chance to explore a specialty you might want to pursue in the future, dive into a different healthcare system or find out more about an area of medicine you have never experienced of before. Seize this placement and make it memorable- the world is your oyster!

Banff, Canada

Below are some reflections from students who have undertaken medical electives in the field of SEM accross the globe, feel free to contact them should you have any questions:

  1. Axis Sports Medicine, Auckland, New Zealand. Manroy Sahni.

My elective was spent with Dr Mark Fulcher and Dr Dan Exeter at Axis Sports Medicine, Auckland. I had the opportunity to shadow sports physicians and orthopaedic surgeons as well as pursue my interest in research.  From a research perspective, I was able to plan and initiate a project investigating whether shoulder proprioception training before tackling can enhance joint position sense in professional rugby players. This experience taught me the steps required to initiate a primary research study from ethical approval through to intervention development. Learning from sports physicians and orthopaedic surgeons strengthened my interest in the field, developed my MSK examination skills and confidence when assessing sports injuries. Spending time in New Zealand also introduced me to a new healthcare system and broadened my view of SEM.

Top tips:

  • Be open-minded when you arrive at your elective placement- go with the flow and get involved with as much as you can
  • Start planning well in advance and have a back-up idea in case your first placement falls through
  • Spend time with as many different specialists as possible- they will all have something different to teach you


  1. Banff Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics, Banff, Canada. Emma Fitzpatrick.

For my elective I shadowed Dr Mark Heard, orthopaedic consultant for Banff Sports Medicine Centre at Mineral Springs Hospital. I worked closely with Dr Heard clerking patients in his clinics, which included elite sports people and assessing people for ACL post-operative research. The team included sports medicine doctors and physiotherapist, both of which I worked with in clinic. I also assisted in theatre which included both trauma and elective. In particular I learned to inject steroid in to a knee joint and improved my suturing skills. I also had plenty of time for skiing and enjoying the awesome Canadian lifestyle!

Top tips:

  • Ask orthopaedic and SEM doctors whilst on placement, they may be able to suggest good places for you to apply.
  • Do lots of googling, choose the area you would like to go to and make a list of centres and emails to send your application to.
  • Make sure your CV demonstrates your interest in SEM, for example some work experience or pitch side shadowing.
  • If you have done some SEM work experience, ask for a reference to send with your application.
  • Persevere!

A note about Canada, each province in Canada has its own application process so make sure you research this carefully. In Alberta, it is not possible to get an elective through University of Alberta or University of Calgary from a UK medical school as the medical school needs to be LCME accredited. However you can apply for an ‘observer-ship’ through Alberta Health Services. You can also apply directly to the rural places. Dr Heard also advised that it will be harder for him to accept students in the future due to stricter rules, particularly in regards to participation in theatre.


  1. Auckland Blues Training Centre, Alexandra Park, Auckland, New Zealand. James Murphy.

I spent my elective placement with Dr Stephen Kara, the club doctor for Auckland Blues Rugby, a professional rugby team in New Zealand. During my placement, I shadowed Dr Kara at the team’s training centre and on match days. On an average day, I would attend the morning medical clinic, before heading out to the team training session. In the afternoons I would either do self-directed learning or have a teaching session with Dr Kara, where he went over topics that I had asked for extra teaching on such as musculoskeletal examinations or pitch side concussion assessment. On match days I would help Dr Kara prepare before the game. This involved organising equipment and bags needed during the game and putting out pre-match medication. During matches, I sat with the team and was able to assist with Head Injury Assessments and stitching when required.

Top tips:

  • Decide on what you are trying to achieve/get out of your elective placement and discuss this with your supervisor, they can help you gain relevant experience to achieve your goals/learning outcomes.
  • Spend time with all the professionals that are in the clinic/club environment – you can learn something and get advice off everyone.


  1. LOU Rugby, Lyon, France. Adam Lucas.

For my elective I spent a week with in clinic with Dr Olivier Capel at Centre Orthopédique Santy Lyon, where I was able to see patients in a specific sports medicine clinic and have the perfect introduction to Sports Medicine in a foreign language before starting with the Rugby team.

The next 6 weeks were spent with LOU Rugby in the club where my experiences ranged from shadowing and helping the club Doctors, physios and Strength and conditioning coaches in their various different tasks. We looked at new injuries from matches and training, worked with the players on rehabilitation and manual therapies and also worked with the players on various injury rehab maintenance and prevention protocols.

I was also fortunate enough to be asked to help pitch-side for all the pre-season friendly games and the first home game of the new Top14 season, where I would be doing anything from aiding in injury management on the side-line, to being responsible for equipment and helping with other things such as the water and recovery drinks for the players. My other main role was translating for some of the English speaking guys when they had problems and this, along with my enthusiasm, really allowed me to integrate and become a valued member of the team.

All in all it was honestly the best experience of my life and really cemented my desire to work in the field in the future along with giving me the experience that will really benefit my practice in the future! I appreciate this has been very brief so if you are interested the please do read my blog! (

Top tips:

  • Be enthusiastic and throw yourself into everything you do!
  • Be willing to do anything- for me this was translating, filling up water bottles, lifting, carrying and tidying, all of which helped me to integrate and ultimately get more from the experience.
  • Don’t be scared to ask questions!



Manroy Sahni (@manroysahni) is an Academic Foundation Year 1 Doctor in the West Midlands with a passion for SEM. He also co-coordinates the BJSM Undergraduate Perspective blog series. Please send your blog feedback and ideas to:

Emma Fitzpatrick is a Foundation Year 1 Doctor in Trent West. Last year she was president of Nottingham Sports Medicine Society and is continuing to work with them this year.

James Murphy (@murpjn7) is a final year medical student at Newcastle University, he has recently intercalated on the MSc Sports and Exercise Medicine degree course at the University of Nottingham.

Adam Lucas (@Adam_jLucas) is a final year medical student at the University of Leeds with a BSc (Hons) in SEM and President of the Leeds SEM society. His interests within SEM include Rugby medicine, having worked with Saracens, Leicester Tigers, Lyon LOU Rugby and also working with Yorkshire age groups.

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