Interview with Geeky Medics Podcast Host Joshua Chambers - Part Two
EH: I’d just like to jump back to what you were saying about being interested in podcasts - apart from the video you made, were you involved in producing any podcasts or in journalism at all? What sort of extracurriculars outside of clinical medicine might you have been involved in?
JC: We had a magazine at UEA medical school called The Murmur which I helped a little bit on in one of my years. I didn’t do much for it and I’m not actually that good at writing but I had a lot more free time in my intercalated year and realized that podcasts are a really good way of learning - not necessarily just educational things. It is an interesting medium to learn about people’s lives and other things that aren’t just pure medicine. This is why I thought it would be interesting to learn about different people’s careers and things - that’s what I like to ask consultants about - how they got to doing their job.
EH: I think there’s always that part of being a student - the curiosity about how people got to where they are. Obviously every doctor you meet has been to medical school and been where you are at some point and it’s interesting to learn about how they all went down their own paths.
JC: Exactly, to see the decisions they make. That’s partly why I love medicine - being nosy, being a people watcher and being interested in weird people - which aren’t we all? That’s why I like doing the podcast. And, I don’t know what I want to do. That’s the primary aim is to figure out what I want to do. I know I want to do medicine - that’s why we haven’t had a surgeon on the podcast yet! This is kind of my own exploration and mission to decide what I want to do at some point.
EH: Yeah, I mean you’ve spoken to quite a range of people. I was listening to an episode about Global Health related careers…
JC: Yes, Dr Abdulkarim Ekzayez was an interesting doctor in Syria - the first guest. It was the first interview I’d ever done and I was very nervous. He was really interesting - he was a health provider in Syria and now works in global health and on healthcare provision generally in Syria. But yeah, really interesting guy. Exactly as you were saying earlier, about how people get to where they are. I don’t imagine he had any idea about becoming a researcher in London (which is what he is now) before the war started in Syria. He had no idea that’s where he’d end up, but it is.
EH: Yes, the way that people’s lives change is fascinating. Following on from that, having talked to so many people from various backgrounds - what do you think you’ve learnt most from doing the podcast? You say that you’re still not sure what you want to do, but has it informed you in some way, even to deter you away from doing something you know you don’t want to do?
JC: I’ve realised there’s no one path to doing a speciality. There’s lots of other things these people do, they’re not just consultants. We had Doctor Simon Laing come on who was an EM consultant but also did prehospital things. We also had Amanda Howe who’s a professor and also the head of the Royal College of General Practitioners and also a GP. All of these doctors have lots of different things they do and those sort of portfolio careers are so interesting. It would make the job of being a doctor far more interesting, so I think that’s what I’d want to do at some point.
EH: Definitely. I mean a lot of us have read Adam Kay’s book and in that time period especially, you get the impression that it was very rigid and there was one set path that was consuming. I get the impression now that people want to tailor their careers to keep those different facets going. Hopefully medicine does move in that direction and things can be more balanced.
JC: Yeah and I mean I’ve only been a doctor for 6 months but I don’t think it’s as bad as that book makes it out. That could be because I haven’t been a doctor long or because contracts have changed, etc. I do feel relatively looked after and that if i don’t want to do something I don’t have to. If i work overtime, i’ll get time in lieu etc. So I hope it’s changed since Adam Kay… but it makes for a good entertaining book!
EH: My next question is a very classic interview question - if you could interview anyone, dead or alive, for the podcast then who would it be and why?
JC: I have been trying desperately to get an interview with Matt Hancock, which I know you’ve managed to do, which I was close to but it didn’t happen. I really want to interview Micheal Molesley because he’d be interesting - I’ve tried many times and failed. I’d really just interview some random physician in the 1600s or 1800s just to see how they think about things. No one particularly interesting but just to see what they thought of medicine, patients, and how they treated people. Because medicine has come so far. We interviewed someone - Peter Feldschrieber - who was a GP when they didn’t even have full training like now. It would’ve been interesting back then even and also years and years before that. It’d be fascinating to see how they saw patients, what sort of treatments they’d use etc. So no one in particular, just a random doctor from way back then.
EH: Yeah just to see how far we’ve come!
JC: Yeah exactly, I mean they were treating things that didn’t even make sense then. It would be cool to be a general physician like they were.
EH: Do you think there are any old wives remedies that you believe in or that you’d recommend to someone, like what they used back then?
JC: Honestly I don’t have an answer to that, I mean they do use honey in dressings and things. But I was thinking about it today, we should do a randomised controlled trial to compare senna or any laxative used in the hospital with a double shot from costa. I’m curious as to the efficacy of a double shot from Costa in moving the bowels. I know I would prefer a double shot from Costa than a suppository or something.
EH: Well you’ve got your supply right there with two Costas in Southmead! My next question is, with Geeky Medics and other websites becoming so popular amongst students, what do you think of the role of social media and the internet in medical education? I mean now everyone’s googling things, for better or for worse, compared to years ago when textbooks were the only source.
JC: I think that it is absolutely the future of education. Online platforms will be the future of education. I think that’s all very good but we also need to adapt to delivering lectures and sessions online rather than continuing as if 50 people are in the room. There are ways that you can make online teaching really engaging and we haven’t quite gotten there. Also the platforms, like Blackboard, aren’t that user friendly.
EH: I definitely can agree with that as a user of blackboard myself….
JC: Exactly, and I’m in the beginning stages of looking at why Facebook is a user friendly platform and how that could be used in education. Maybe people would like that or maybe they’d be distracted and wouldn’t like their social lives being mixed with education. I’m not sure, but it is absolutely the future. But I do think that googling is great and I’d rather have a doctor who looked up something that they didn’t know. If I’m asked to do a neuro exam or something I don’t know super well then I’ll quickly look up the Geeky Medics website beforehand and revise it so I’m more comfortable.
EH: See, Geeky Medics is a great resource! It is interesting though, social media has completely taken over our generation - for people younger than me even more so. I’m sure a lot of people might have their education and social media platforms both up during tutorials anyway… so that may be a new avenue.
JC: Yeah I mean I’d waste hours of time on Facebook, especially in lectures and things - you just switch off, don’t you? And twitter too, I don’t know if you have twitter but that’s how I find loads of the guests for the podcast. I learn loads of stuff too, there’s lots of studies shared there so if you follow the right people on twitter it’s a really good resource. I’ll retweet a professor’s post and then they’ll like my post and that will be really cool - that engagement with people.
EH: Yeah it’s a really interesting way to be able to connect with people across the country and across different fields in a way that wasn’t possible before. I don’t use twitter that much but Instagram even has so many accounts now where people share illustrations/diagrams for revision and daily MCQs for people to revise from. It’s a good way to get things circulating. As a student and now a doctor, when you look back at your medical education are there any gaps that you think may need to be filled going forward? Obviously what you learn in lectures is sometimes relevant, sometimes not. A lot of people say you learn how to be an F1 on the job. How did your education prepare you and where do you think there were gaps?
JC: I think a lot of people are now interested in public health. We didn’t have an awful lot of public health teaching and I imagine now people are more interested in that and its impact. You’re right, I don’t use much of the knowledge I had during the 6 years at medical school as an F1. Most of the job involves me being very organized, being able to talk to families and to patients. You can kind of get by as a foundation doctor without much medical knowledge. It’s a bit sad but I will re-learn a lot of it. I think my medical school was good at preparing us with lots of clinical skills and such, but I think you also have to be fairly proactive to get practical experience. It depends on who you shadow as some people get you really involved which is great. But if you don’t get that sort of thing then when you become a doctor you’re like ‘oh what am I doing?’. I had friends who were doing a night ward cover and had never done an ABG and needed to do one. That’s scary - if you haven’t done it as a student that’s very scary. But in terms of education, the skills such as prioritization of tasks unfortunately can’t really be taught and you do have to pick those up on the job.
EH: So you’ve probably seen a lot of medical students on the wards at the moment - trying to do exactly what you just said - latching onto someone for dear life to gain some experience. What is the main advice you’d give to a medical student?
JC: I feel like I’m not very qualified to offer this advice but I was a student just a few months ago. I’d say be really nice, say you want to do stuff, act reasonably enthusiastically - that can all be very useful. Also going back to the same wards and following up with the same people can be very helpful. There was a time when I went back to the ward and even though I had things signed off, they asked me to do bloods for them and I did, and then they helped me with some things so it kind of goes both ways. When doctors know the students it’s much easier to trust them to do things, so you can be helpful to us and vice versa. It’s difficult though, because sometimes you’re really tired and sometimes you’re ignored and sometimes you don’t know what’s going on or you don’t know the patients - so it’s really tricky.
EH: Yeah it can be strange entering this world where you can obviously help in some ways, as you say, but really you’re a bit of a leach and everyone can offer you something but you don’t have much yet to offer the team - except taking the odd blood.
JC: That’s true, and eventually as fifth years you’ll end up being expected to do these sorts of things (assess a patient, cannulate, take bloods) alone, autonomously. That comes with just spending time on the wards. As long as you’re enthusiastic and don’t take risks that’s my advice. Everyone bumbles through really. If you’ve got half a brain on you and you’re a nice person, you’ll make an excellent doctor. You don’t need that much knowledge as long as you’re caring and good at talking to people - that’s it really.
EH: That’s very good advice, quite comforting as a student myself! Thank you very much, I think that’s all my questions. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
JC: Yes, so we are looking for a producer for the podcast - it’s being advertised on the geeky medics website. If anyone is interested they should look on the website. We are looking for someone to help write questions and find guests. It’d be good for your CV and things. There’s no set criteria, if you’re interested, enthusiastic, and good at writing that’s great - anyone can apply!
EH: Great, thank you so much for your time!
JC: That’s alright.
If you’d like to apply to join the podcast team, visit Geeky Medics’ ‘Join the Team’ page: