Interview with Geeky Medics Podcast Host Joshua Chambers - Part One
There’s not one medical student who hasn’t heard of Geeky Medics and perhaps who doesn’t end up reciting their cardiovascular examination notes in their sleep before bedside teaching, but how many of us know about the people working behind the scenes of the popular website? In 2019, Joshua Chambers, a 5th year medical student, approached Geeky Medics with the idea of a podcast and the rest, as they say, is history. The podcast is produced in collaboration with Alice Appleton (another F1) and the founder of the website, Lewis Potter. The episodes "aim to inspire and inform through discussions with some of the most fascinating individuals in the world of healthcare and education", covering topics as varied as Global Health, Emergency Medicine, and Medical Law. I got the opportunity to interview the now-host of the podcast, Joshua, and discuss his experience of Medicine and of the podcast.
EH: I’ll start by asking you about your background, where you went to medical school and how you got started with the podcast - I heard in the first episode that you were still a student when you started it. Could you tell me a bit about that?
JC: Yes so I’m an F1 doctor at Southmead and I went to medical school in Norwich which not many people know. So yeah, University of East Anglia. I did that obviously for 5 years, I intercalated at King’s College London in genetics. It was during my intercalated degree that I really got into podcasts - listening to podcasts initially. I had already done one video for Geeky medics called 'The mechanism of labour' - which you may have seen if you’ve done Obs and Gynae, or if you haven’t then you’ll come across it hopefully. So I thought it would be a cool idea to do a podcast and I thought about maybe starting it by myself but also didn’t know how to do that. I contacted Lewis Potter, the founder of Geeky Medics, said that I had the idea and went from there really. I have been doing the podcast for about a year now in total and am really enjoying it.
EH: Okay right, so did you start F1 this past august, during the pandemic?
JC: Yeah, so I started F1 here in Bristol in August. Before that I did a COVID interim job in Norfolk. It was quite a relaxed start to being a doctor because there were so many others on the ward when I began and COVID wasn’t that bad in the area. It was a well supported way to start as a doctor. But I did have my internal elective cancelled. I got it quite light compared to you students as I didn’t miss my student time. I didn’t have to sit my finals which was quite nice I thought. So I got off quite lightly from the effects of COVID on education.
EH: How did that work, did they sort of say ‘we need more doctors’ and fast track you?
JC: It was weird, we did our final OSCEs the week before lockdown. That was when they just said 'perhaps don’t touch the actors… don’t shake their hands...but do everything else as normal' and we thought 'okay this is a bit weird'. A few days after, they emailed us saying the written finals were cancelled and then we got an email from the GMC saying we were on the register, and then we got an email from the University saying 'oh you’ve graduated'. It was a weird sort of anti-climactic way to start but you know, as I said, it was much better being in 5th year than 4th or 3rd or 2nd and I didn’t miss any of my student time.
EH: What was it like sitting an OSCE in that strange period in March - when everyone was thinking ‘is this gonna get really bad?’ and it flipped within about a week to everyone suddenly thinking ‘this is really going somewhere’. What was it like doing an exam during that uncertainty?
JC: Yeah it was really weird like I said, we kind of didn’t realize how severe it would be. When we took our OSCEs we were thinking that maybe we wouldn’t sit our written exams. I had already self-isolated as I didn’t want COVID before the written exam but I ended up getting it anyway. I went to the shops once and then got all the symptoms - fever, cough, anosmia - and then all my housemates got it. The rates in Norfolk were so low and then I went out once in a week and got COVID! But it worked out to my advantage because I had antibodies before I even started in hospital.
EH: What was it like starting the job - were your expectations quite different and did you have to quickly change the way you thought it was going to go?
JC: I kind of started a bit apprehensively. I started as a student volunteer first off in the COVID A+E for a couple of weeks - I had a bit more responsibility than as a student but was still reasonably supervised as there were lots of clinicians around. I was seeing COVID patients come through and that was quite a good experience. Then my GMC registration came through and I was in a bit of limbo because I was registered but working as a student and still couldn’t call myself a doctor. I then started at a different hospital and because I had intercalated I actually knew a lot of the foundation doctors as they were friends of mine from being in the same cohort originally. So I was very happy to ask them loads of questions and they were happy to help me. I was lucky to have a fairly relaxed start and then beginning in August was a bit easier - obviously I was moving to a new hospital and city and everything but I wasn’t scared about writing my first prescription which is like the scariest thing ever. I had already done that a little bit. I think it probably should change how F1 starts because that limbo period is very useful. We do have electives but you don’t really have that responsibility of writing prescriptions or seeing patients or clerking them on your own. As an interim doctor I did have that and was supervised. I think that’s how it should be and it was paid which is nice.
EH: Do you think the NHS and the medical schools will take things away from this experience with your year group?
JC: I hope it does, I really hope it does. There are lots of things that have changed. Conferences are now much easier to attend as a student or foundation doctor as they’re online and there is teaching for F2 and IMT doctors that is now on zoom that I can sign up to and receive that teaching too. All of our weekly teaching as F1s is online too so if you are at home and haven’t got anything else to do then you can be super keen and sign up to it. That’s all really positive. The downside is that I prefer face-to-face teaching as I’m sure you do. You can meet friends and ask questions right then and there, so there are pros and cons. I hope the foundation schools and universities take note of the change that’s happened because I think there can be some positive steps as a result of what has happened.
EH: For sure, I hope the NHS can change long term in some ways and there can be some positive effects wider than even just in education. I mean all of the appreciation from the public during this period and things like that.. It’s been a bit of a wakeup.
JC: For sure, funding the NHS effectively (not to get too political!) is obviously a thing that should happen. It’s also changing medicine for the better in some aspects - telemedicine with online clinics saves the NHS money and is very convenient and preferable for some people, especially young people. For example, seeing a specialist renal physician in a clinic can mostly be done over the internet - it’s mainly looking at your numbers. Some, not all, clinics could be done over telemedicine. It saves everyone time and money and you can see a specialist physician without even leaving your house.
EH: Exactly, hopefully positive things like this will stick with us.
Part Two is still to follow and discusses the podcast and the role of technology in education...