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My Medical Elective Down Under

Mr Daniel Phillips, 12 Jul 2018

My Medical Elective Down Under

My medical elective consisted of 8 flights, 3 sports medicine placements and countless amazing spots across Australia. As a naïve medical student in my fourth year I remember emailing different clinics in Australia with a prepped CV and a strong interest in SEM through my time so far in medical school. After working hard at getting contact with placements in Australia I was lucky enough to confirm placements with the Narrabeen Sports Medicine Centre on Sydney’s North Beaches, the Stadium Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Centre, Sydney and a placement in Melbourne with the Melbourne Rebels rugby team. The next task was to collate the finances. After working most of the summer months and every weekend during my final year, I was able to afford a trip of a life time. Reflecting on this experience; this made for a busy on-the-go final year at medical school with exams, interviews and distant placements across Wales making this year one of the busiest ever. I was also delighted with expediting the introduction of the new BASEM Undergraduate Elective award offering three students £500 pounds towards their elective in SEM. I hope this award will make the elective experience more accessible and easier for future undergraduates.

During my time in Australia I realised how much I really did not know about SEM. I had the privilege to learn a lot more about musculoskeletal examination. This was an area I was eager to learn more about having experienced very little exposure in medical school. The placements in Narrabeen and the Stadium clinic allowed me to shadow experienced sports physicians and orthopaedic surgeons where I learnt more about specific tests for certain musculoskeletal pathologies. I learnt more about musculoskeletal management, adjunct therapies and functional rehabilitation. I shadowed a range of professionals covering the areas of biomechanics, paediatrics, endocrinology, physiotherapy, radiology and nutrition; giving me great variety in all aspects of sports medicine. Being exposed to more musculoskeletal radiology was an invaluable experience, it was great to learn more about spotting different pathologies in different imaging modalities; another area I hadn’t had much exposure in medical school. 

I really wanted to get some sports team experience and pitch side experience during my placements. I was fortunate to be placed at the Stadium Clinic whose physicians are involved with the NSW Waratahs Rugby team and the Sydney Swans Aussie Rules Team. In Narrabeen I also had the opportunity to observe the Manley Sea Eagles Rugby League team but also, I attended the Sydney surf open in Manly beach. Finally, during my time in Melbourne, I visited the Melbourne Rebels rugby team. I learnt a lot about the differences between an athlete and a normal ward patient and the different demands and challenges in sports team medicine. It was great to attend team clinics, training sessions and team multi-disciplinary team meetings which were real highlights and incredible learning experiences. The main highlight for me was being able to be pitch side for a Waratahs fixture and being able to observe the medical operations in a professional Super Rugby game. This was certainly a different environment to my medical school placements in the hospitals around Wales. The only worry I had was not being to sweaty after my commutes in the morning in 30-degree weather in shirt and chinos to clinic.

During my elective, I travelled around different parts of Australia enjoying this incredible country and took part in many different activities. Australia’s seemingly endless incredible ‘spots’ offered fantastic beaches (Byron Bay, Bondi, Gold Coast….), national parks, surfing (lots of falling off in my case), hiking, great coffee and sport (most weekends I had the opportunity to catch a game from a different sport) and so much more. I was very soon to realise how big the country was. Most Australians I met told me they haven’t seen everything in their own country they have wanted too. I am sure I will return to see all that I didn’t get a chance to see.

My Take Home Messages for An Amazing SEM Elective:

  1. Plan ahead – get in contact with SEM clinics and doctors early, they are busy professionals whose calendars fill rapidly so try to be flexible.
  2. Work out your finances – Australia is expensive; this is like other countries that have attractive SEM electives around the world - so get the financial support you need in order to enjoy a trip of a lifetime through bursaries, summer jobs and sponsorship.
  3. Make the most of the country you are in, you never know if you’ll be able to go back again!
  4. Don’t be scared to go it alone, if you want to do something different from the rest -step outside the herd and go for it! Do think about the obvious precautions of safety and company as 8 weeks is a relatively long time.
  5. Plan, Plan, Plan….ENJOY!!

Blog Article by,

Daniel Phillips – Final Year Cardiff Medical Student, USEMs President, Immediate Past-President Cardiff Sports & Exercise Medicine.

Twitter: @DannyJP93

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