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How long can someone be infected with a Schistosoma parasite and have Schistosomiasis but remain asyptomatic?

If a patient had been swimming somewhere such as Lake Malawi and come back to the UK and did not get tested for Schistosomiasis, is it possible that they could be infected many years later and not know it, as they are asymptomatic?  
Jeremy Walker
over 8 years ago
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0
29

How do I check my subscription status?

I signed up for premium a few months back and was wondering how many months I had left.  
CHIRON VELHO
over 7 years ago
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8
516

Video Animation In Medical Education

Introduction This post describe the creation of a Stroke Summary video. The aim of this project was to assess the attitudes of medical students towards the use of video animation in medical education. An educational tutorial was produced outlining the basic principles of stroke. This aimed to provide a summary of different aspects relating to stroke, outlined in the Bristol University curriculum. This intended to be a short, concise animation covering stroke presentation, definition and recognition, with an overview of the blood supply to the brain and the classification of stroke presentation used in clinical practice. This was followed by some key facts and a summary of different management stages. After the video animation was produced an assessment of student’s attitudes using an online questionnaire was undertaken. This consisted of ten short questions and an open text feedback for additional comments. The video was then edited with reference to feedback given by students and the results analysed. This report will outline relevant research and project work that lead to this assignment being undertaken. A description of the method followed to generate the video animation and to collect feedback on students will be outlined followed by analysis of results. This will then be discussed in relation to previous work and research. Background There are a number of reasons this project has been undertaken. On a personal level, I have a long-standing interest in teaching and medical education. As part of a previous project I created a series of audio tutorials in cardiovascular medicine and assessed student attitudes to audio learning. The findings of this report showed that a large number of students found these audio tutorials useful and would like more of these available to supplement their learning. One of the questions given to students at this time assessed how useful they found different types of educational material. This project showed students reporting audio tutorials more useful than previously thought, while also reporting that they were not readily available. Although a video tutorial was not provided to them at this time, feedback questions assessed attitudes to video tutorials as a learning resource. Students reported low availability and felt they would be more useful than audio tutorials. Some results from this project are shown in figure 1. Figure 1. Results from previous research by Buick (2007), showing attitudes of students towards different learning tutorials. The majority of students report audio tutorials to be ‘quite useful’ or ‘very useful’. Video tutorials are thought by students to be more useful that audio tutorials, however there is a large proportion that do not have access to these learning resources. As a number of students reported an inability to access to video tutorials, it was thought that creating a video animation tutorial followed by assessing students attitudes would be a useful follow up project. If this is found to be a useful resource, other students may generate video tutorials in the future. Therefore student feedback also assessed attitudes towards authenticity, relating to who generates the tutorial and whether they find the ability to feedback a useful tool. Medical education is widely researched globally, although it is not often a consideration for those studying medicine. Those involved in teaching and educating future doctors have looked at different methods of passing on knowledge. A high quality medical education given to future healthcare professionals is important. It is widely accepted that a better knowledge results in better care for patients and education is at the centre of any healthcare system. This is reflected in the cost of educating medical students and training doctors in the UK. In the 1997 it was reported by the Department of Health that estimates of 200 million pounds would be spent per year for an increase in 1000 medical students being trained in the UK. This suggests that the cost of training a medical student is in the region of £200,0001. Medical education in the UK is split in two halves, with undergraduate and postgraduate training. The Department of Health has recently invested millions of pounds into the development of online tutorials for postgraduate training posts in a number of different specialities. Justification for is given by reducing the cost of training through the use of standardised online tutorials. This will be a more cost effective method than the standard in hospital teaching. This approach has not been undertaken for undergraduate medical education. Universities are seen as primarily responsible for undergraduate training. Many of these institutions have used the Internet to aid teaching and have produced video tutorials. However, as reflected in the previous project (Buick, 2007), resources are often limited and students do not feel they have ready access to these educational tutorials. The benefits of different types of learning resource have been researched. These include online audio downloads (Spickard et al, 2004), practice exam questions and interactive tutorials (Hudsen, 2004). Research showing the benefit of video was shown by Balslev et al (2005) comparing video and written text while teaching a patient case. Balsley et al (2005) found those who learnt using a video presentation rather than those given written text showed a significant increase in data exploration, theory evaluation and exploration. However, there is little research looking specifically at video animation for explaining conditions. Animation software is now available on personal computers and is also possible using Microsoft PowerPointTM, which is the most widely used presentation software. It is clear that recent trends show training can benefit from this type of learning resource. Generation of high quality video tutorials can help students learn while reducing the cost of training. It is for this reason that more material is likely to become available, either from funded production supported by external organisations or by the trainers and trainees themselves who have technology able to produce material such as this on their home computer. Ethical and Legal Issues During the development of this video some ethical and legal issues arose that had to be addressed before a final video could be made. When considering what imagery would be used in the video, I wanted to include pictures of clinical signs relevant to the audio narration. However, taking images from the Internet without prior consent was not thought to be ethical and therefore clinical signs were displayed graphically through drawings and diagrams. Plagiarism and copyright were some of the legal issues surrounding the presentation of medical information. Narrated information was generated using a number of information sources, none of which were exclusively quoted. Therefore an end reference list was generated showing all supporting information sources. Images used in the animation were either self generated or taken from sources such as Wikipedia.org. This resource supplies images under a free software license such as GNU general public license2. This allows anyone to freely use and edit images while referencing the original source. Skills Needed To Develop This Video Animation To generate the video a number I had to develop a number of new skills. Unlike previous work that had been undertaken this media was generated using animation software. To use this effectively I had to research the different functions that were available. To do this I combined reading books aimed to teach beginners such as Macromedia Flash 8 for Dummies (Ellen Finkelstein and Gurdy Leete, 2006) and online sources such as www.learnflash.com . To generate voice narration, another program was used that allowed editing and splicing of audio tracks. This was then split up into a number of narrated sections and added to the animation. Method Script To produce the tutorial the first stage was to construct a script for narration. This involved outlining the areas to be covered. The main headings used were: Stroke definition This gave a clinical definition and a lay person recognition mnemonic called FAST which is used to help members of the general public recognise stroke. Pathophysiology This covered blood supply to the brain. This combined diagrams of the circle of Willis, with images of the brain. Arterial blood supply were then displayed over the brain images while relating this to the arterial vessels leaving the circle of Willis Classification Students at Bristol university are asked to understand the Oxford / Bamford classification. This was covered in detail with explanations of clinical signs that may be seen and graphical representation of these. Prevalence This section covered prevalence, national impact and cost of stroke in the UK. Management In this section management was split up it to immediate management, medical management, in hospital care and some of the procedures considered for different cases. Risk factors for stroke and research into this was also written up and narrated. However at a later stage this was not included due to time constraints and video length. Narration An audio narration was generated using software called ‘Garage Band’ which allows audio tracks to be recorded and edited. The narration was exported in 45 sections so that this could then be added to the animation at relevant points. Animation The animation was made using Adobe Flash. This software is used for making websites and animations used for Internet adverts. It has the facility to export as a ‘flash video format’, which can then be played using a media player online. This software generates animation by allowing objects to be drawn on a stage and moved around using command lines and tools. This was used as it has the ability to animate objects and add audio narration. It also is designed for exporting animations to the Internet allowing the material to be accessed by a large number of people. Feedback A short questionnaire was generated which consisted of ten questions and placed online using a survey collection website (www.surveymonkey.com). Students were directed to the feedback questionnaire and allowed to submit this anonymously. Adapting the tutorial Some feedback constructively suggested changes that could be made. The video was updated after some concern about the speed of narration and that some of the narrative sections seemed to overlap. Analysis and Report The results of the feedback were then collected and displayed in a table. This was then added to the report and discussed with reference to research and previous project work. Results Students were allowed to access to the video animation through the Internet. After uploading the video an email was sent to students studying COMP2 at Bristol University. These students are required to know about aspects of stroke covered in this tutorial to pass this section of the course. The email notified them of the options to view the tutorial and how to give feedback. In total 30 students completed the feedback questionnaire and out of these 4 students provided optional written feedback. The results to the questions given were generally very positive. The majority of students showed a strong preference to video animations as a useful tool in medical education. The results are displayed in Table 1 below. TABLE 1 shows the ten question asked of the students and to what extent they agreed with each statement. Results are given in the percentage of students who chose the relevant category. Written Feedback Four written comments were made: "Really useful presentation!! Would be much better if someone proof read the whole thing as there are some spelling mistakes; also if the pauses between facts were longer it would be more easier to take in some facts. Overall, really nicely done!!" "Some of speech went too quickly, but good overall" "Very clearly written with excellent use of images to match the text and commentary!" "The Video was excellent." Discussion Student attitudes to this video tutorial were very positive. This was in contrast to the attitudes previously shown in the audio tutorial project (Buick, 2007) where video tutorials were not thought to be a useful resource. These results support recent developments in the generation of online video training for doctors by the Department of Health and previous research by Balsley et al (2005). Question one showed that the majority of students strongly agreed that the stroke video would be a useful resource. Questions two, three and four aimed to establish what aspects of a disease were best outlined using a video animation. Results showed that students agree or strongly agreed that defining the condition, pathophysiology and management were all well explained in this format. Interestingly, a large majority of students (70%) felt pathophysiology was best represented kinaesthetically. This may be due to the visual aspect that can be associated with pathophysiology. Disease processes are often represented using diagrams in textbooks with text explaining the disease process. Using computer technology it is possible to turn the text into audio narration and allow the user to view dynamic diagrams. In this way, students can better conceptualise the disease process, facilitating a more complete understanding of disease and its clinical manifestations. Question five aimed to highlight the benefit of visual stimulation as well as audio narration as a positive learning method. All students agreed or strongly agreed that the combination of these two aspects was beneficial. Question six showed a very strong response from students wanting access to more video tutorials, with 70% of students strongly agreeing to this statement. It is often the case that students take part in generating teaching material, and some students may be concerned that this material is inaccurate. However, many students do not think that this is a significant problem. This is reflected by the spread of student’s opinion seen in question 7, where there was no clear consensus of opinion. It may be that as students learn from a number of different resources, that any inaccuracies will be revealed and perhaps stimulate a better understanding through the process of verifying correct answers and practicing evidence based medicine. Question nine and ten show that most students value resources that allow sharing of educational material and feel they could help others learn. They would also value the option to feedback on this material. The written feedback showed positive responses from students. However there was feedback on some aspects of the video that they felt could be changed. The narration was delivered quickly with few gaps between statements to keep the tutorial short and concise, however this was thought to be distracting and made it less easy to follow. Following this feedback the narration was changed and placed back on the Internet for others to review. Further research and investigation could include the generation of a larger resource of video animations. My research has suggested that using animation to cover pathophysiology may be most beneficial. The software used to make this video also allows for the incorporation of interactive elements. The video produced in this project or other videos could have online menus, allowing users to select which part of the tutorial they wish to view rather than having to watch the whole animation, or they include interactive questions. Reflections Strength and weaknesses Strengths of this project include its unique approach to medical education. There have been few animated videos produced for undergraduate medical students that use this advanced software. This software is used by professional web developers but can be used effectively by students and doctors for educational purposes to produce video animation and interactive tutorials. For these reasons, I passionately believe that this technology could be used to revolutionise the way students learn medicine. If done effectively this could provide a more cost effective and engaging learning experience. This will ultimately benefit patients and doctors alike. This material can be place online allowing remote access. This is increasingly important for medical students studying on placements who are often learning away from the university setting. Weaknesses of this project include that of the work intensity of generating animated video. It is estimated that it takes around 6 to 9 hours to produce a minute of animated video. This does not include the research and recording of narration. The total sum of time to generate material and the additional skills needed to use the software makes generation of larger numbers of videos not possible by a small community of learners such as a university. Although it was done in this case, it is difficult to edit the material after it has been created. This may mean that material will become inaccurate when new advances occur. The feedback sample collected was opportunistic and the response rate was low. These factors may bias the results as only a subsection of opinions may have been obtained. These opinions may not be representative of the population studied or generalisable to them. It was difficult obtaining a professional medical opinion about the video in the time that I was allocated. However this has been organised for a later time. Knowledge and skills gained During this project I was able to learn about stroke its presentation, classification, management and risk factors. I read texts, which summarised stroke and research into risk factors and management of stroke. The challenge of usefully condensing a subject into a short educational tutorial was a challenging one. I feel I improved my skills of summarising information effectively. I gained knowledge of some of the challenges of undertaking a project such as this. One of the largest challenges included how long it took to produce the animation. In the future I will be aware of these difficulties and allow for time to gather information and generate the material. I also learnt the benefit of gaining feedback and allowing for adaption to this. It took more time to respond to feedback but this resulted in a better product that other students can use. I also reflected on the impact of stroke itself. Stroke has a major impact on patients, health care and carers. Much can be done in the recognition classification and management. A better understanding benefits all areas and I have gained a better knowledge and the importance of helping others gain a good understanding of stroke. I learned how to generate a video animation for the use of teaching in medicine and combine this with audio presentation. I learned how long it can take to generate material like this and the skill of organising my time effectively to manage a project. I can use this skill in the future to produce more educational material to help teach during my medical career. I also gained skills in learning how to place material on the Internet for others to access and will also use this in the future. Conclusions Previously evidence has shown the use of videos in medical education to be beneficial. It has normally been used to demonstrate clinical examination and procedures this study suggest there is a place for explanation of pathophysiology and disease summaries. However, there has been little research in to its use for graphically representing condition summaries. Computer technology now allows people to generate animation on their personal computer. It is possible that over time more students and doctors will start producing innovative visual and audio teaching material. This project indicates that this would be well received by students. References Planning the Medical Workforce: Medical Workforce Standing Advisory Committee: Third Report December. 1997 Page 40. The GNU project launched in 1984. Balslev T, de Grave W S, Muijtjens A M and Scherpbier A J (2005) Comparison of text and video cases in a postgraduate problem-based learning format Medical Education; 39: 1086–1092 Buick (2007) Year 3 External SSC. Bristol University Medical School. Spickard A, Smithers J, Cordray D, Gigante J, Wofford J L. (2004) A randomised trial of an online lecture with and without audio; Medical Education 38 (7), 787–790. Hudson J. N., (2004) Computer-aided learning in the real world of medical education: does the quality of interaction with the computer affect student learning? Medical Education 38 (8), 887–895. Ellen Finkelstein and Gurdy Leete, (2006) Macromedia Flash 8 for Dummies. Wiley publishing Inc. ISBN 0764596918  
Dr Alastair Buick
over 11 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 aoqg73?1444773932
2
89

A Humble NHS?

A Recap Last week in my personal blog I reflected on humility as defined by James Ryle: God given self-assurance that eliminates the need to prove to others the worth of who you are and the rightness of what you do. Ryle suggests, from 1 Peter 5:5-7, that central to humbling ourselves is throwing our cares on to God. Every concern, care and fear being hurled on to God who is faithful and powerful enough to handle them. When we know that we are loved by Him no matter what and that He is in control no matter what, then we remove the need to prove ourselves or protect ourselves. We become humble – secure enough to allow God to be in control and to serve others. Once our eyes are lifted from ourselves we are able to see others to love and serve them. Stafford Hospital Just before writing the last post I was reading an article about the report by Robert Francis QC on the appalling treatment of patients at Stafford Hospital. One of the recurring comments made by many different people is that the pressure of targets and incentives increasingly displaces focus on compassion and patient care. When doctors, nurses and managers alike are bombarded with ever increasing and regularly changes hoops to jump through and targets to meet, no wonder their attention and efforts are dragged from patient care. I’ve seen something of the effects of this in a family member who for many years worked as a Health Visitor. In their decades of service they saw an ever increasing and ever changing string of targets and goals alongside cost cutting moves that stripped resources and personnel. Their desire to be compassionate and offer the best care possible became more and more stressful until it finally proved too much. She recently changed jobs. Now I’m not trying to attack the NHS and I am well aware that so many people receive great care. But this is not a new concern that is being bandied around with fresh vigour in the light of Stafford Hospital. What struck me is that it demonstrates on an institutional level what also seems true at a personal level. Namely, that when we are forced to operate from a place of insecurity we begin to miss the most important things. NHS services have to meet targets to receive funding to simply keep operating – there will be no patient care if there is no hospital. Oftentimes, especially as a leader, we can live with a sense that, unless we meet expectations or make people like us or recognise our worth, then we’ll have no influence to do any of the things we know we are called to do. The secret of personal humility is to recognise that we are already loved by our Father before we even move our finger; to recognise that He is control and we can throw every care on Him. A person who can live from that place of security finds, free from the need to prove themselves or their actions, can begin to simply do what they are made and called to do. They are no longer pulled in different directions by a multiplicity of cares. What about an institution? It strikes me that a similar solution is needed for the NHS. Is there a way to give security for doctors, nurses and caring professionals so that they are able to do what they are called to do without constantly watching their back? Obviously there is a need for accountability for the safety of patients and to ensure a good standard of care, but the constant need to prove worth and achievement cannot be helpful for those who are called to compassionate care. I’m not a healthcare professional. I don’t know exactly what this would look like. But I recognise in the diagnosis of struggles in the NHS, God’s diagnosis of struggles in many people’s lives. The way He designed us to live with Him is often a good basis to begin to imagine a new way for every level of society to function. So, my question is this: what would a humble NHS look like? To whom could a National Health Service throw it’s concerns and cares?  
Rev Samuel Pollard
over 8 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 riytde?1444773947
3
99

Reflection

Just as a bit of an intro, my name is Conrad Hayes, I'm a 4th year medical student studying in Staffordshire. My medical school are quite big on getting us into the habit of writing down reflections. It's something I feel I do subconsciously whilst I'm with patients or in teaching sessions, but frankly I suck at the written bit and I feel on the whole it's probably because there's nobody discussing this with us or telling me I'm an idiot for some of the things I may think/say! So I think if I'm going to attempt to complete a blog then I am going to do it in a reflective style and I do look forward to peoples feedback and discussions. I'll try to do it daily and see if that works out well, or weekly. But hopefully even if it doesn't get much response it can just be a store for me to look back on things! (Providing I keep up with it). So I'll start now, with a short reflection on my career aspirations which have been pretty much firmed up, but today I gave a presentation that I felt really galvanised me into this. So I want to do Emergency Medicine and Expedition Medicine (on the side more than as my main job). Emergency Medicine appeals to me as I love primary care and being the first to see patients, but I want to see them when they're ill and have a role in the puzzle solving, as it were, that is their issues. Possibly more to the point I want to do this in a high pressure environment where acutely ill individuals come in, and I feel (having done placements in A&E and GP and AMU) A&E is the place for me to be. Expedition Medicine on the other hand is something I accidentally stumbled upon really. In 2nd year I was part of a podcast group MedHeads that we tried to set up at my medical school. I interviewed Dr Amy Hughes of Expedition & Wilderness Medicine, a UK company, and I got really excited about the concepts she was talking about. Practicing medicine in the middle of nowhere, limited resources and sometimes only personal accumen and ingenuity to help you through. It sounded perfect! And since then I've wanted to do it, particularly being interested in Mountain Medicine and getting involved with some research groups. Today in front of my group I gave a presentation on the effects of altitude on the brain (I'm on Neurology at the moment and we had to pick a topic that interested us). I spoke for 15 minutes, a concept that usually terrifies me truth be told, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Now I've given a fair number of presentations but this was the first time I was actively excited and really happy about talking! It seems to me that if that isn't the definition of why you should go for a job, then I need to talk to a careers advisor. This experience has definitely ensured I pursue this course with every resource I have available to me! I would be interested in hearing how other people feel about their careers panning out and what got them into it so feel free to leave a comment!!  
Conrad Hayes
over 8 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 7owyf5?1444773963
3
158

Benchmarking Outpatient Referral Rates

Introduction GPs for a little while have been asked to compare each other’s outpatient referrals rates. The idea is that this peer to peer open review will help us understand each others referral patterns. For some reason and due to a natural competitive nature of human behaviour, I think we have these peer to peer figures put to us to try to get us to refer less into hospital outpatients. It’s always hard to benchmark GP surgeries but outpatient referral benchmarking is particularly poor for several reasons It's Very Difficult to Normalise Surgeries Surgeries have different mortalities morbidities ages and other confounding factors that it becomes very hard to create an algorithm to create a weighting factor to properly compare one surgery against another. There Are Several Reasons For The Referral I’ll go into more detail on this point later but there are several reasons why doctors refer patients into hospital which can range from: doctors knowing a lot about the condition and picking up subtle symptoms and signs lesser experienced doctors would have ignored; all the way to not knowing about the condition and needing some advice from an expert in the condition. We Need To Look At The Bigger Picture The biggest killer to our budget is non-elective admissions and it’s the one area where patient, commissioner and doctor converge. Patients want to keep out of hospital, it’s cheaper for the NHS and Doctors don’t like the lack of continuity when patients go in. For me I see every admission to hospital as a fail. Of course it’s more complex than this and it might be totally appropriate but if we work on this concept backwards, it will help us more. Likewise if we try to reduce outpatient referrals because we are pressurised to, they may end up in hospitalisation and cost the NHS £10,000s rather than £100s as an outpatient. We need to look at the bigger picture and refer especially if we believe that referrals will lead to less hospitalisation of patients further down the line. To put things into perspective 2 symptoms patients present which I take very seriously are palpitations in the elderly and breathlessness. Both symptoms are very real and normally lead to undiagnosed conditions which if we don’t tackle and diagnose early enough will cause patients to deteriorate and end up in hospital. Education, Education, Education When I first went into commissioning as a lead in 2006 I had this idea of getting to the bottom of why GPs refer patients to outpatients. The idea being if we knew why, we would know how to best tackle specialities. I asked my GPs to record which speciality to refer to and why they referred over a 7 month period. The reason for admission was complex but we divided them up into these categories: 2nd care input required for management of the condition. We know about the condition but have drawn the line with what we can do in primary care. An example of this is when we’ve done a 24 hour tape and found a patient has 2sec pauses and needs a pace maker. 2nd care input required for diagnosis. We think this patient has these symptoms which are related to this condition but don’t really know about the diagnosis and need help with this. An example of this is when a patient presents with diarrhoea to a gastroenterologist There could be several reasons for this and we need help from the gastroenterologist to confirm the diagnosis via a colonscopy and ogd etc. Management Advice. We know what the patient has but need help with managing the condition. For example uncontrolled heart failure or recurrent sinusitis. Consultant to Consultant Referral. As advised between consultants. Patient Choice. Sometimes the patient just wants to see the hospital doctor. The results are enclosed here in Excel and displayed below. Please click on the graph thumbnail below. Reasons For Referrals Firstly a few disclaimers and thoughts. These figures were before any GPSI ENT, Dermatology or Musculosketal services which probably would have made an impact on the figures. There are a few anomalies which may need further thought eg I’m surprised Rheumatology for 2nd input for diagnosis is so low, as frequently I have patients with high ESRs and CRPs which I need advise on diagnoses. Also audiology medicine doesn’t quite look right. The cardiology referral is probably high for management advise due to help on ECG interpretation although this is an assumption. This is just a 7 month period from a subset of 8-9 GPs. Although we were careful to explain each category and it’s meaning, more work might need to be done to clarify the findings further. In my opinion the one area where GPs need to get grips with is management advice as it’s an admission that I know what the patient has and need help on how to treat them. This graph is listed in order of management advice for this reason. So what do you do to respond to this? The most logical step is to education GPs on the left hand side of this graph and invest in your work force but more and more I see intermediary GPSI services which are the provider arm of a commissioning group led to help intercept referrals to hospital. In favour of the data most of the left hand side of the graph have been converted into a GPSI service at one point. In my area what has happened is that referrals rates have actually gone up into these services with no decline in the outgoing speciality as GPs become dis-empowered and just off load any symptoms which patients have which they would have probably had a higher threshold to refer on if these GPSI services were not available. Having said that GPSI services can have a role in the pathway and I’m not averse to their implementation, we just have to find a better way to use their services. 3 Step Plan As I’m not one to just give problems here are my 3 suggestions to help referrals. To have a more responsive Layered Outpatient Service. Setting up an 18 week target for all outpatients is strange, as symptoms and specialities need to be prioritised. For example I don’t mind waiting 20 weeks for a ENT referral on a condition which is bothering me but not life threatening but need to only have a 3 week turn over if I’m breathless with a sudden reduction in my exercise tolerance. This adds an extra layer of complexity but always in the back of my mind it’s about getting them seen sooner to prevent hospitalisation. Education, education, education It’s ironic that the first budget to be slashed in my area was education. We need to education our GPs to empower them to bring the management advice category down as this is the category which will make the biggest impact to improving health care. In essence we need to focus on working on the left hand side of this graph first. Diagnose Earlier and Refer Appropriately The worst case scenario is when GPs refer patients to the wrong speciality and it can happen frequently as symptoms blur between conditions. This leads to delayed diagnosis, delayed management and you guessed it, increased hospitalisation. The obvious example is whether patients with breathlessness is caused by heart or lung or is psychogenic. As GPs we need to work up patients appropriately and make a best choice based on the evidence in front of us. Peer to peer GP delayed referral letter analysis groups have a place in this process. Conclusion At the end of the day it's about appropriate referrals always, not just a reduction. Indeed for us to get a grip on the NHS Budgets as future Clinical Commissioners, I would expect outpatient referrals to go up at the expense of non-elective, as then you are looking at patients being seen and diagnosed earlier and kept out of hospital.  
Raza Toosy
over 8 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 113s0nw?1444773969
11
385

The Medical Book Warzone... Which book is best?

As the days are slowly getting longer, and spring looms in the near future, it can only be the deep inhale of the medical student ready to embrace the months of revision that lies ahead. Books are dusted off the shelves and Gray's anatomy wrenched open with an immense sigh of distain. But which book should we be pulling off the shelves? If you're anything like me then you're a medical book hoarder. Now let me "Google define" this geeky lexis lingo - a person who collects medical books (lots of medical books) and believes by having the book they will automatically do better!... I wish with a deep sigh! So when I do actually open the page of one, as they are usually thrown across the bed-room floor always closed, it is important to know which one really is the best to choose?!? These are all the crazy thoughts of the medical book hoarder, however, there is some sanity amongst the madness. That is to say, when you find a really good medical book and get into the topic you start to learn stuff thick and fast, and before you know it you’ll be drawing out neuronal pathways and cardiac myocyte action potentials. Yet, the trick is not picking up the shiniest and most expensive book, oh no, otherwise we would all be walking around with the 130 something pounds gray’s anatomy atlas. The trick is to pick a book that speaks to you, and one in which you can get your head around – It’s as if the books each have their own personality. Here are a list of books that I would highly recommend: Tortora – Principles of anatomy and physiology Tortora is a fantastic book for year 1 medical students, it is the only book I found that truly bridges the gap between A levels and medical students without going off on a ridiculous and confusing tangent. While it lacks subtle detail, it is impressive in how simplified it can make topics appear, and really helps build a foundation to anatomy and physiology knowledge The whole book is easy to follow and numerous pretty pictures and diagrams, which make learning a whole lot easier. Tortora scores a whopping 8/10 by the medical book hoarder Sherwood – From cells to systems Sherwood is the marmite of the medical book field, you either love this book or your hate it. For me, Sherwood used to be my bible in year two. It goes into intricate physiological detail in every area of the body. It has great explanations and really pushes your learning to a greater level than tortora in year one. The book doesn’t just regurgitate facts it really explores concepts. However: I cannot be bias, and I must say that I know a number of people who hate this book in every sense of the word. A lot of people think there is too much block text without distractions such as pictures or tables. They think the text is very waffly, not getting straight to the point and sometimes discusses very advanced concepts that do not appear relevant The truth be told, if you want to study from Sherwood you need to a very good attention span and be prepared to put in the long-hours of work so it’s not for everyone. Nonetheless, if you manage to put the effort in, you will reap the rewards! Sherwood scores a fair 5-6/10 by the medical book hoarder Moore & Dalley – Clinical anatomy At first glance Moore & Dalley can be an absolute mindfield with an array of pastel colours that all amalgamate into one! It’s also full of table after table of muscle and blood vessels with complicated diagrams mixed throughout. This is not a medical book for the faint hearted, and if your foundation of anatomy is a little shakey you’ll fall further down the rabbit hole than Alice ever did. That being said, for those who have mastered the simplistic anatomy of tortora and spent hours pondering anatomy flash cards, this may be the book for you. Moore & Dalley does not skimp on the detail and thus if you’re willing to learn the ins and out of the muscles of the neck then look no further. Its sections are actually broken down nicely into superficial and deep structures and then into muscles, vessels, nerves and lymph, with big sections on organs. This is a book for any budding surgeon! Moore & Dalley scores a 6/10 by the medical book hoarder Macleod’s clinical examination Clinical examination is something that involves practical skills and seeing patients, using your hands to manipulate the body in ways you never realised you could. Many people will argue that the day of the examination book is over, and it’s all about learning while on the job and leaving the theory on the book shelf. I would like to oppose this theory, with claims that a little understanding of theory can hugely improve your clinical practice. Macleod’s takes you through basic history and examination skills within each of the main specialties, discussing examination sequences and giving detailed explanations surrounding examination findings. It is a book that you can truly relate to what you have seen or what you will see on the wards. My personal opinion is that preparation is the key, and macleod’s is the ultimate book to give you that added confidence become you tackle clinical medicine on the wards Macleod’s clinical examination scores a 7/10 by the medical book hoarder Oxford textbook of clinical pathology When it comes to learning pathology there are a whole host of medical books on the market from underwood to robbins. Each book has its own price range and delves into varying degrees of complexity. Robbins is expensive and a complex of mix of cellular biology and pathophysiological mechanisms. Underwood is cheap, but lacking in certain areas and quite difficult to understand certain topics. The Oxford textbook of clinical pathology trumps them all. The book is fantastic for any second year or third year attempting to learn pathology and classify disease. It is the only book that I have found that neatly categories diseases in a way in which you can follow, helping you to understand complications of certain diseases, while providing you with an insight into pathology. After reading this book you’ll be sure to be able to classify all the glomerulonephritis’s while having at least some hang of the pink and purples of the histological slide. Oxford textbook of clinical pathology scores a 8/10 by the medical book hoarder Medical Pharmacology at glance Pharmacology is the arch nemesis of the Peninsula student (well maybe if we discount anatomy!!), hours of time is spent avoiding the topic followed immediately by hours of complaining we are never taught any of it. Truth be told, we are taught pharmacology, it just comes in drips and drabs. By the time we’ve learnt the whole of the clotting cascade and the intrinsic mechanisms of the P450 pathway, were back on to ICE’ing the hell out of patients and forget what we learned in less than a day. Medical pharmacology at a glance however, is the saviour of the day. I am not usually a fan of the at a glance books. I find that they are just a book of facts in a completely random order that don’t really help unless you’re an expert in the subject. The pharmacology version is different: It goes into just the right amount of detail without throwing you off the cliff with discussion about bioavailability and complex half-life curves relating to titration and renal function. This book has the essential drugs, it has the essential facts, and it is the essential length, meaning you don’t have to spend ours reading just to learn a few facts! In my opinion, this is one of those books that deserves the mantel piece! Medical Pharmacology at a glance scores a whopping 9/10 by the medical book hoarder. Anatomy colouring book This is the last book in our discussion, but by far the greatest. After the passing comments about this book by my housemates, limited to the sluggish boy description of “it’s terrible” or “its S**t”, I feel I need to hold my own and defend this books corner. If your description of a good book is one which is engaging, interesting, fun, interaction, and actually useful to your medical learning then this book has it all. While it may be a colouring book and allows your autistic side to run wild, the book actually covers a lot of in depth anatomy with some superb pictures that would rival any of the big anatomical textbooks. There is knowledge I have gained from this book that I still reel off during the question time onslaught of surgery. Without a doubt my one piece of advice to all 1st and 2nd years would be BUY THIS BOOK and you will not regret it! Anatomy colouring book scores a tremendous 10/10 by the medical book hoarder Let the inner GEEK run free and get buying:)!!  
Benjamin Norton
over 8 years ago
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1763

A medical mystery for Mother's Day...

I'd like to tell you a curious story. Jane was a 52 year old woman in need of a kidney transplant. Thankfully she had three loving sons who were all very happy to give her one of theirs. So Jane's doctors performed tests to find out which of the three boys would be the best match, but the results surprised everyone. In the words of Jeremy Kyle, the DNA test showed that Jane was not the mother of two of the boys... Hang on, said Jane, child birth is not something you easily forget. They're definitely mine. And she was right. It turns out Jane was a chimera. Chimerism is the existence of two genetically different cell lines in one organism. This can arise for a number of reasons- it can be iatrogenic, like when someone has an organ transplant, or it can be naturally occurring. In Jane's case, it began in her mum's womb, with two eggs that had been fertilised by different sperm creating two embryos. Ordinarily, they would develop into two non-identical twins. However in Jane's case the two balls of cells fused early in development creating one person with both cell lines. Thus when doctors did the first tissue typing tests on Jane, just by chance they had only sampled the 'yellow' cell line which was responsible for one of her sons. When they went back again they found the 'pink' cell line which had given rise to the other two boys. This particular type of human chimerism is thought to be pretty rare- there are only 30 case reports in the literature. (Though remarkably both House and CSI's Gil Grissom have encountered cases.) What happens far more frequently is fetal microchimerism- which occurs in pregnant women when cells cross the placenta from baby to mum. This is awesome because we used to think the placenta was this barrier which prevented any cells crossing over. Now we've found both cells and free floating DNA cross the placenta, and that the cells can hang around for decades after the baby was born. Why? As is often the case in medicine we're not sure but one theory is that the fetal cells might have healing properties for mum. In pregnant mice who've had a heart attack, fetal cells can travel to the mum's heart where the develop into new heart muscle to repair the damage. Whilst we're still in the early stages of understanding why this happens, we already have a practical application. In the United States today, a pregnant woman can have a blood test which isn't looking for abnormalities in her DNA but in that of her fetus. The DNA test isn't conclusive enough to be used to diagnose genetic conditions, but it is a good screening test for certain trisomies including Down's syndrome. Now, we started with a curious tale, so lets close with a curious fact, and one that's appropriate for Mother's Day: This exchange of cells across the placenta is a two way process. So you may well have some of your mum's cells rushing through your veins right now. In my case they're probably the ones that tell me to put on sensible shoes and put that boy down... (FYI: This is a story I originally posted on my own blog)  
Dr Catherine Carver
over 8 years ago
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A review of 'Research Skills for Medical Students'.

This is a review of 'Research Skills for Medical Students' 1st Edition (Allen, AK – 2012 Sage: London ISBN 9780857256010) Themes – Research Skills, Critical Analysis Medical Students Thesis – Research and critical analysis are important skills as highlighted by Tomorrow’s Doctors Detailed Review Allen, drawing on many years’ experience as a researcher and lecturer in the Institute of Education, at Cardiff University has bridged the gap in Research methodology literature targeted at medical students. Pushing away from comparative texts somewhat dry and unengaging tones, this book encourages student interaction, empowering the student from start to finish. Not so much a book as a helpful hand guiding the student through the pitfalls and benefits of research and critical analysis from start to finish. Part of the Learning Matters Medical Education series, in which each book relates to an outcome of Tomorrow’s Doctors, this book is written from the a lecturers standpoint, guiding students through making sense of research, judging research quality, how to carry out research personally, writing research articles and how to get writings published. All of these are now imperative skills in what is a very competitive medical employment market. This concise book, through its clarity, forcefulness, correct and direct use of potentially new words to the reader, Allen manages to fully develop the books objectives, using expert narrative skills. With Allen’s interest in Global health, it is little wonder why this books exposition is clear and impartial, Allen consistently refers back to the Tomorrows doctors guidelines at the beginning of each chapter, enabling students to link the purpose of that chapter to the grander scheme. This enables Allen to argue the relevance of each chapter to the student before they have disregarded it. Openly declared as a book aimed at medical students (and Foundation trainees where appropriate) the authors style remains formal, but with parent like undertones. It is written to encapsulate and involve the student reader personally, with Allen frequently using ‘you’ as if directly speaking to the reader, and useful and appropriate activities that engage the reader in the research process, in an easy to use student friendly format. This book is an excellent guide for all undergraduate health students, not limited to medical students, and I thank Ann K Allen for imparting her knowledge in such a useful and interactive way.' This was original published on medical educator.  
Thomas Lemon
over 8 years ago
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157

My first (and second) week of Obstetrics & Gynaecology

Looking back on this past fortnight, I feel my tutor has been determined to engage me in absolutely everything, and I think it's worked. Whilst not a full blown ob/gyn enthusiast, I have to say I was surprised to admit today that I am enjoying myself. This leads me on to what this reflection is actually on. The preconceptions we hold about what we do, the people we see and the impact it has on us. What I will write about, I am writing about partly because I have had instances where this has happened recently and I have felt fairly guilty, and partly because I want to know if this happens to everyone else (or if I'm just one insensitive individual!!) Now this isn't going to be a very long draft of wisdom that will be quoted by people when I'm long gone, mainly because the phrase 'never judge a book by it's cover,' has been around for god knows how long, but I do feel it's surprising the extent to which I had dismissed that saying, which I had only just realised today. I am fairly certain, that whilst it's not talked about much, most people decide how they're going to speak to other people (keep in mind this is mostly going to be a subconscious process) and act around them when they see them and interact. I am also fairly certain that doctors do this with patients and that this isn't probably innocent and maybe it does impact on the delivery of care. You see a person with bedraggled hair, poor dental hygiene, clothes that look like they haven't been washed, for example, and all the associations that come with that flood into your brain, whether they are false or accurate. Or an individual with an Omega watch, designer clothing with everything in pristine condition. I am willing to bet those two descriptions conjured completely different images of person in your head. More than just the physical image though, there were different lifestyles and choices in life. And would they get different approaches? Maybe. I'm not sure if we are able to switch off the instant preconceptions, but we have to hide them as whilst they may be accurate, there's an equal chance they may be inaccurate! I can tell it's certainly difficult sometimes, yet people manage in the name of professionalism. I think I'm rambling, so I'll end this piece with this: I just wonder if people can tell what you think about them. In an environment where you have to treat everyone equally and preconceptions must be overcome, can the patients see some reaction in the faces of staff that translates for a split second everything that pops into the mind? There may well be a social study on it somewhere, I may look if I get time and if I find one I shall post it. I'd be interested to hear others experiences or thoughts on this topic too!  
Conrad Hayes
over 8 years ago
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The Finals Hour

Last June I was sitting the most terrifying exams of my life to date. The last medical school exams, what we all called our "finals" even though the official line was just "fourth year exams". I felt like the hours of revision, the practical work on wards and in the skills lab, would all be wasted - there was no way I was prepared! The following 2 or 3 weeks (I forget exactly how long) seemed to drag, my fate hanging over my head like a finely balanced sword. One slight stumble and that was it, four years of medical school wasted. I would have to cut my exchange programme short, I'd have to spend all summer revising, I'd fail the resits, I'd be thrown out. Oh, I may as well give up now - I'm not good enough for this! Melodramatic? Yes. Truly how I felt? Definitely. I spent hours tormenting myself, planning how I'd break the news to my parents, deciding on a backup plan if - or when, as I believed - it all went South. I plumped for TEFL in some far flung, exotic clime where I could forget my old life and pretend it never happened. Definitely well thought out. On results day I was with a friend, sat on the pavement outside a library in Japan at midnight, nervously waiting for the results to go online. Email notification: technical problems, results released ASAP. Email notification: Results online! Email notification: Passed. Oh thank god, the world is beautiful again. My life plans can go on unchanged. I have passed! Remembering that time now, I still feel the rush of relief, the overflowing joy, the amazement. It was enough, I was prepared. The hours of worry, the back-up plan, all unnecessary. But will that change my feelings in the future, when I'm waiting for the results of professional exams? Will I be more calm, relaxed, confident even? Oh no, of course I won't. That's just not how it works!  
Molly Gorman
over 8 years ago
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271

Full Disclosure

I read a BBC article today about a doctor who had filmed examinations of women for voyeuristic purposes. One quote in particular stood out: "We had the challenge of identifying and locating a large number of women and explaining to them that their examinations had been secretly recorded by Bains for the purpose of his sexual gratification. It was horrendous. They were unaware that they were victims and this dated back over a three-year period." At least 30 women have been contacted to be told they were victims of someone's perversion. Until they were told, they had no idea they were victims. Only upon being told will they feel disgust and violation, not to mention distrust over future consultations. It reminded me of a discussion recently on here where a student was telling us about an experience where they saw a patient with horrific stitching and scarring after surgery. The doctor told the patient that it all looked like it was healing fine, then after the patient left, commented to the student that the stitching was some of the worst they'd ever seen. Was the doctor lying or being compassionate? Should the police tell the perverted doctor's victims, or leave them in peaceful ignorance? As I patient - I think I'd just rather not know, but I believe many doctors would argue that full disclosure is essential, especially in light of the Francis Report. I would be interested in medics' views, from ethical, procedural and "real-world" points of view.  
Jeremy Walker
over 8 years ago
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Worst Medical Experience Ever

Worst experience ever? - this is pretty difficult as I've worked in some of the poorest countries in the world and seen some things that should never happen like children dying of dehydration and malaria. But this recent experience was definitely the worst. It was midnight and I was trying to get my 16 month old to sleep having woken up after vomiting in his cot. Despite paracetamol, ibuprofen, stripping to nappy, damp sponging and having the window open he went rigid and started fitting. It only lasted a minute or two yet felt like an eternity as he was unable to breathe and became progressively blue as my mind raced ahead to brain damage or some other horrible sequalae. The fitting stopped and my mind turned to whether I was going to have to start CPR. I lay him on the floor and put my ear to his chest and was glad to hear a strong heartbeat but he was floppy with a compromised airway so I quickly got him in the recovery position. The ambulance arrived in 8 minutes and after some oxygen and some observations he was strapped in and ready to go. He had been unconscious for about 15 minutes but was starting to come round, much to my relief. The ambulance crew were great and their quick response made all the difference but then they took nearly half an hour to get to A&E in the middle of the night because they took the most awkward route imaginable. I don't know if it was a deliberate delaying tactic or just a lack of local knowledge but even without a blue light I could have done it in half the time! Why do ambulances not have GPS - ideally with local traffic info built in? We arrived in A&E and were ushered to a miserable receptionist who took our details and told us to have a seat. I noticed above her head that the wait time was 3.5 hours, though we did see a junior nurse who took his observations again. Not long after the screen changed to a 5 hour wait and a bit later to a 6 hour wait! I am glad to say that by about 3 hours my little man was back to his usual self (as evidenced by his attempts at destroying the department) and so after getting the nurse to repeat his obs (all normal) we decided to take him home, knowing we had a few more hours to wait for the doctor, and that the doctor was now unlikely to do anything as he was now well. I tell the story in such detail in part for catharsis, in part to share my brief insight into being on the other side of the consultation, but also because it illustrated a number of system failures. It was a horrible experience but made a lot worse by those system failures. And I couldn't help but feel even more sorry for those around me who didn't have the medical experience that I had to contextualise it all. Sickness, in ourselves or our loved ones, is bad enough without the system making it worse. I had 3 hours of walking around the department with my son in my arms which gave me plenty of time to observe what was going on around me and consider whether it could be improved. I did of course not have access to all areas and so couldn't see what was happening behind the scenes so things may have been busier than I was aware of. Also it was only one evening so not necessarily representative. There were about 15 children in the department and for the 3 hours we were there only a handful of new patients that arrived so no obvious reason for the increasing delay. As I walked around it was clear to me that at least half of the children didn't need to be there. Some were fast asleep on the benches, arguably suggesting they didn't need emergency treatment. One lad had a minor head injury that just needed a clean and some advice. Whilst I didn't ask anyone what was wrong with people talk and so you hear what some of the problems were. Some were definately far more appropriate for general practice. So how could things have been improved and could technology have helped as well? One thing that struck me is that the 'triage' nurse would have been much better as a senior doctor. Not necessarily a consultant but certainly someone with the experience to make decisions. Had this been the case I think a good number could have been sent home very quickly, maybe with some basic treatment or maybe just with advice. Even if it was more complex it may have been that an urgent outpatient in a few days time would have been a much more satisfactory way of dealing with the problem. Even in our case where immediate discharge wouldn't have been appropriate a senior doctor could have made a quick assessment and said "let's observe him for a couple of hours and then repeat is obs - if he is well, the obs are normal and you are happy then you can go home". This would have made the world of difference to us. So where does the technology come in? I've already mentioned Sat Nav for the ambulance but there are a number of other points where technology could have played a part in improving patient experience. Starting with the ambulance if they had access to real time data on hospital A&E waiting times they may have been able to divert us to a hospital with a much shorter time. This is even more important for adult hospitals were the turnover of patients is much higher. Such information could help staff and patients make more informed decisions. The ambulance took us to hospital which was probably appropriate for us but not for everyone. Unfortunately many of the other services like GP out of hours are not always prepared to accept such patients and again the ambulance crews need to know where is available and what access and waiting times they have. Walk-in patients are often also totally inappropriate and an easy method of redirection would be beneficial for all concerned. But this requires change and may even require such radical ideas as paying for transport to take patients to alternative locations if they are more appropraite. The reasons patient's choose A&E when other services would be far more appropriate are many and complex. It can be about transport and convenience and past experiences and many other things. It is likely that at least some of it is that patients often struggle to get an appointment to see their own GP within a reasonable time frame or just that their impression is that it will be difficult to get an appointment so they don't even try. But imagine a system where the waiting times for appointments for all GPs and out of hours services were readily available to hospitals, ambulances, NHS direct etc. Even better imagine that authorised people could book appointments directly, even when the practice was closed. How many patients would be happy to avoid a long wait in A&E if they had the reassurance of a GP appointment the next day? And the technology already exists to do some of this and it wouldn't be that hard to adapt current technology to provide this functionality. Yet it still doesn't happen. I have my theories as to why but this is enough for one post. In case you were wondering my son appears to have made a full recovery with no obvious ongoing problems. I think I have recovered and then he makes the same breathing noises he made just before the fit and I am transported back to that fateful night. I think it will take time for the feelings to fade.  
Dr Damian Williams
over 8 years ago
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My Top 5 Tips to Use Social Media to Improve your Medical Education

Introduction Hello and welcome! I am finally back to blogging after having a brief hiatus in order to take my final exams. Whilst the trauma is still fresh in my mind, I would like to share with you the top 5 social media tips that helped me through the dark days of undergraduate medicine. Some of you may have already read my old essay on 'How Medical Students should interact with Social Media Networking Sites' and this document deals with some of the problems with professionalism surrounding the use of social media. This blog will not cover such issues, but will instead focus on how you can use social media to benefit your learning/ revision processes. Top Tip 1: YouTube For those of you who are unaware, YouTube is a video-sharing website. Sometimes the site is overlooked as a 'social media' resource but if you consider the simple definition of Social Networking Sites as 'those with user led content,' you can quickly see how YouTube definitely falls into the social media category. It wasn't until I got to University that I realised the potency of YouTube as an educational tool. It has a use at every stage of medical education and it is FREE. If you are still in your pre-clinical training then there are a wealth of videos that depict cellular processes and 3D anatomy - very useful content for the visual learner. For the clinical student, there are a number of OSCE demonstration videos that may be useful in honing your examination skills. There are also a number of presentations on clinical topics that have been uploaded, however, YouTube has no quality control measures for these videos (to my knowledge) so it may be best to subscribe to a more official source if you like to use podcasts/ uploaded presentations for your revision. Another reason YouTube comes in as my number 1 top tip is because I find it difficult to procrastinate whilst using the site. Sure, you can start looking up music and videos that have nothing to do with medicine but personally I find that having a little bit of music on in the background helps me work for longer periods, which is a definite bonus during the revision period. On the other hand, there are many that find YouTube difficult to harness due to the draw of funny videos and favourite Vloggers (Video Bloggers) that can distract the unwary from revision for hours on end. At the end of the day, YouTube was created for funny videos (predominantly of cats it seems) and not for medical education, and this should be kept in mind if you choose to use it as a tool for your learning. Top Tip 2: Facebook Yes, the dreaded Facebook comes in at number two for me. Facebook is by far and away my largest source of procrastination when it comes to writing / working / revising or learning. It is a true devil in disguise, however, there are some very useful features for those who like to work in groups during their revision... For example, during the last six months I have organised a small revision group through Facebook. We set up a 'private page' and each week I would post what topics would be covered in the weeks session. Due to the nature of Facebook, people were obviously able to reply to my posts with suggestions for future topics etc. We were also able to upload photos of useful resources that one or more of us had seen in a tutorial in which the other students hadn't been able to attend. And most importantly, we were able to upload revision notes for each other via the Facebook 'files' tab. This last feature was invaluable for sharing basic notes between a few close colleagues. However, for proper file sharing I strongly recommend the file sharing service 'Dropbox,' which provides free storage for your documents and the ability to access files from any computer or device with internet. Coming back to Facebook, my final thoughts are: if you don't like group work or seeing what your colleagues are doing via their statuses or private messages then it probably isn't a useful resource for you. If you have the motivation (unlike myself) to freeze your Facebook account I can imagine you would end up procrastinating far less (or you'll start procrastinating on something else entirely!). Top Tip 3: Twitter Twitter is a microblogging site. This means that users upload microblogs or 'Tweets' containing useful information they have found on the internet or read in other people's tweets. Twitter's utility as an educational resource is directly related to the 'type' of people you follow. For example, I use Twitter primarily to connect with other people interested in social media, art & medicine and medical education. This means my home screen on twitter is full of people posting about these topics, which I find useful. Alternatively, I could have used my Twitter account to 'follow' all the same friends I 'follow' on Facebook. This would have meant my Twitter home page would have felt like a fast-paced, less detailed version of my Facebook feed just with more hashtags and acronyms - not very useful for finding educational resources. With this in mind, consider setting up two twitter accounts to tease apart the useful tweets about the latest clinical podcast from the useless tweets about what your second cousin once removed just had for lunch. A friend suggested to me that if you really get into twitter it is also possible to use one account and 'group' your followers so that you can see different 'types' of tweets at different times. This seems like a good way to filter the information you are reading, as long as you can figure out how to set up the filters in the first place. Like all Social Media Sites, Twitter gets its fair share of bad press re. online professionalism and its tendency to lure users into hours of procrastination. So again, use with caution. Top Tip 4: Meducation It would not be right to write this blog and not include Meducation in the line-up. Meducation is the first website that I have personally come across where users (students, doctors etc) upload and share information (i.e. the very soul of what social networking is about) that is principally about medicine and nothing else. I'm sure there may be other similar sites out there, but the execution of this site is marvellous and that is what has set it apart from its competitors and lead to its rapid growth (especially over the last two years, whilst i've been aware of the site). When I say 'execution,' I mean the user interface (which is clean and simple), the free resources (giving a taste of the quality of material) and the premium resources (which lecture on a variety of interesting clinical topics rather than sticking to the bread and butter topics 24/7). One of my favourite features of Meducation is the ability to ask 'Questions' to other users. These questions are usually asked by people wishing to improve niche knowledge and so being able to answer a question always feels like a great achievement. Both the questions and answers are mostly always interesting, however the odd question does slip through the net where it appears the person asking the question might have skipped the 'quick google search' phase of working through a tough topic. Meducation harnesses social networking in an environment almost free from professionalism and procrastination issues. Therefore, I cannot critique the site from this angle. Instead, I have decided to highlight the 'Exam Room' feature of the website. The 'Exam Room' lets the user take a 'mock exam' using what I can only assume is a database of questions crafted by the Meducation team themselves (+/- submissions from their user base). However, it is in my opinion that this feature is not up to scratch with the level and volume of questions provided by the competitors in this niche market. I feel wrong making this criticism whilst blogging on Meducation and therefore I will not list or link the competitors I am thinking of here, but they will be available via my unaffiliated blog (Occipital Designs). I hope the Meducation team realise that I make this observation because I feel that with a little work their question database could be improved to the point where it is even better than other sites AND there would also be all the other resources Meducation has to offer. This would make Meducation a truly phenomenal resource. Top Tip 5: Blogging Blogging itself is very useful. Perhaps not necessarily for the learning / revision process but for honing the reflective process. Reflective writing is a large component of undergrad medical education and is disliked by many students for a number of reasons, not least of which is because many find some difficulty in putting their thoughts and feelings on to paper and would much prefer to write with the stiffness and stasis of academic prose. Blogging is great practice for breaking away from essay-writing mode and if you write about something you enjoy you will quickly find you are easily incorporating your own personal thoughts and feelings into your writing (as I have done throughout this blog). This is a very organic form of reflection and I believe it can greatly improve your writing when you come to write those inevitable reflective reports. Conclusion Thanks for reading this blog. I hope I have at least highlighted some yet unharnessed aspects of the sites and resources people already commonly use. Please stay tuned in the next week or two for more on social media in medicine. I am working together with a colleague to produce 'Guidelines for Social Media in Medicine,' in light of the recent material on the subject by the General Medical Council. Please feel free to comment below if you feel you have a Top Tip that I haven't included! LARF Twitter Occipital Designs My Blog As always, any views expressed here are mine alone and are not representative of any organisation. A Worthy Cause... Also, on a separate note: check out Anatomy For Life - a charity medical art auction raising money for organ donation. Main Site Facebook Twitter  
Dr. Luke Farmery
over 8 years ago
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Anatomy For Life: Calling all Bio / Medically Minded Artists and Students

Introduction Hello and welcome. If you are one of the few who have been following my blog since last year then you may be aware of a certain promise that has yet to be fulfilled... That promise is of a new set of schematic images similar to my Arterial Schematic that seems to have gained some popularity on Meducation. The truth of the matter is that I have actually been working on a separate project since finishing my finals. This separate project has involved making the website and doing some of the design work for 'Anatomy For Life,' an exciting medically-related charity art auction and exhibition. The event is due to be held in Brighton (venue TBC) during National Transplant week (8-14th July) to help raise money for organ donation and body donation via the charity; 'Live Life Then Give Life'. Where you come in... The exciting thing about the Anatomy For Life (AFL) art auction is that we are looking for everyone and anyone to donate. It doesn't matter if you get usually get paid £1,000 per drawing or if you haven't picked up a paintbrush since school. Each and every donation will be displayed on a level playing field, giving the unique opportunity for amateurs to pitch up against the professional medical illustrators out there and vice versa! As long as the artwork donated fits the criteria below you have free reign: Artwork submitted must be (at least loosely) associated with the 'Anatomy' theme. Artwork submitted must be on roughly A6 card (4"x6"). The AFL team recommend a paper weight of 250gsm or above. Create your artwork using any art media you choose on/with the A6 card. Sign the BACK of your masterpiece, but not the front* Donations should be received by the 17th June 2013 *The AFL team will be exhibiting the art work shown and running the auction anonymously. Artists will not be attributed to their donations until after the event via our online gallery. Once you have completed you artwork(s) you should fill out our downloadable information form and provide us with your name, a short bio about you and what inspired your donated artwork. You can also let us know if you want the AFL team to e-mail you a certificate in recognition of your contribution! Some Context... Organ donation is the act of donating ones organs or tissues to help save someone else's life after your own passing. One person can donate enough organs to save several peoples lives, which in the minds of many is a truly admirable feat! Body donation usually refers to the act of donating ones own body to medical education, so that students may continue to learn the real-life anatomy that forms part of becoming a competent doctor or surgeon. Organ donation is currently on the rise in the U.K thanks to the fantastic work of the Organ Donor Register and the charities that support organ donation such as 'Live Life Then Give Life'. However, the U.K still has one of the highest family-refusal rates in Europe for organ donation. It is hoped that by raising awareness of the benefits of organ donation this refusal rate can be reduced either by more people being registered organ donors or by families having more access to information about the topic. We really want to hear from you... If you have something you think might benefit our project please do let us know! Go To Our Main Website Donate Artwork to Us! Tweet to Us on Twitter Like Us on Facebook Thats all folks, LARF  
Dr. Luke Farmery
about 8 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 8mqjwi?1444774048
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3896

An amazing incident

It's been a while since I've added any thoughts to this blog. In that time I have finished my Obs/Gynae placement, I have spent a week on labour ward, and done my first week of my 4th year surgical placement. All the while cramming in revision between various activities and general staying alive measures. This, I feel, is how most people who are sitting their final written exams are spending their time, so I don't feel so alone. I just want to bring to the attention one amazing incident that happened on my labour ward week. I was on a night shift, there wasn't a lot going on. Absolutely everyone was knackered, the registrar who'd been on nights for the past week was just chatting to me. I have never seen someone look so tired. The emergency alarm went off and a lady had a cord prolapse, which is an obstetric emergency with a high foetal mortality rate. Now I think it's amazing that the doctor went from nearly falling asleep to switched on 'surgical-mode' in an instant, successfully performed the C-section, delivering the baby in about a minute, then went back to being absolutely knackered and let the SHO close up the wound. It just really impressed me and I felt it was something worth sharing. Actually I was incredibly surprised that I enjoyed Obs/Gynae. Women's health was a placement I was dreading, it was my last major knowledge gap and I didn't have a clue what it was going to be like. If my tutor for the block does read this, thank you for all your help and getting me involved in everything. I would encourage other students who are going into it and feeling any level of apprehension to just throw yourselves into it and give 110% effort. It is a great placement for practicing transferable skills (this is important to remember, especially if you don't have any desire to go into it you CAN transfer and practice skills from elsewhere!) and getting heavily involved in patient care. Also I'd like to point out the Mother and Baby were fine :)  
Conrad Hayes
about 8 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 4ktnps?1444774050
4
196

Poo transplants

When is it medically advisable to eat some one else's poo? When you need a poo transplant. Poo transplants could be the solution to one of the biggest problems facing the NHS today- the bacterial infection Clostridium difficile. C.diff, as it's known to its friends, infects about 18,000 people in England and Wales every year and is involved in the deaths of about 2000 people. C.diff typically arises due to imbalances in the normal gut bacteria. The gut is like a city, a city with about 100 trillion bacterial residents happily munching away on a banquet of bowel contents. The average person has about 1000 different types of bacteria in their gut, and about 3% of healthy adults have C.diff in that mix. The C.diff doesn't cause them any problems because its numbers are kept in check by the other gut bacteria. However treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics such as clindamycin, cephalosporins, ciprofloxacin and co-amoxiclav, can disrupt this happy community- killing off vast swathes of bacteria but crucially not the C.diff. Given free rein the C.diff multiplies rapidly and produces toxins which damage the gut. In some people this causes mild diarrhoea and abdominal pain, in others it can lead to torrential diarrhoea, perforation of the colon and death. Traditional treatment includes stopping any broad spectrum antibiotics and possibly prescribing antibiotics which target the C.diff such as metronidazole or vancomycin. However with antibiotic use comes the risk of resistance. Moreover our current approach isn't entirely effective and about 22% of patients treated suffer a recurrence. This can result in a cycle of illness and hospital admission which is costly to the patient and the hospital. So it's time to start thinking outside of the box. Cue the poo transplant. The thinking goes like this- if the cause of the problem is disruption to the normal community of gut bacteria, why not just pop those bacteria back in to crowd out the C.diff? Simples. Practically, the first step is to identify a donor, usually a close relative of the patient, and screen them for a range of infectious diseases and parasites. It's also advisable to make sure they haven't recently consumed anything the intended recipient is allergic to, before asking them to make their "donation". You then pop it in a household blender and blitz it down, adding saline or milk to achieve a slurry consistency. Next you need to strain your concoction to remove large materials- one medic in the UK uses coffee filters. Top tip. Then you're ready to administer it- about 25ml from above (e.g. via nasogastric tube), or 250ml from below. Now, its important to note that poo transplants are still an experimental treatment. To date only small case studies have been carried out, but with 200 total reported cases, an average cure rate of 96% and no serious adverse events reported to date, it's worth carrying out a large trial to assess it thoroughly. Poo transplants- arguably the ideal treatment for a cash strapped NHS. It's cheap, plentiful and it seems to work. Now to convince people to consume someone else's poo... Bottoms up! FYI: This was first posted on my own blog. Image Courtesy of Marcus007 at de.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons  
Dr Catherine Carver
about 8 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 1f9109k?1444774063
2
2679

Criticizing the NHS - Can students do this productively?

In this month’s SBMJ (May 2013) a GP called Dr Michael Ingram has written a very good article highlighting some of the problems with the modern NHS’s administrative systems, especially relating to the huge amount of GP time wasted on following up after administrative errors and failings. I personally think that it is important for people working within the NHS to write articles like this because without them then many of us would be unaware of these problems or would feel less confident in voicing our own similar thoughts. The NHS is a fantastic idea and does provide an excellent service compared to many other health care systems around the world, but there is always room for improvement – especially on the administrative side! The issues raised by Dr Ingram were: Histology specimens being analysed but reports not being sent to the GP on time or with the correct information. Histology reports not being discussed with patient’s directly when they try and contact the hospital to find out the results and instead being referred to their GP, who experiences the problem stated above. GP’s are being left to deal with patient’s problems that have nothing to do with the GP and their job and have everything to do with an inefficient NHS bureaucracy. These problems and complaints often taking up to a third of a GP’s working day and thereby reducing the time they can spend actually treating patients. Having to arrange new outpatient appointments for patients when their appointment letters went missing or when appointments were never made etc. Even getting outpatient appointments in the first place and how these are often delayed well after the recommended 6 week wait. Patients who attend outpatient appointments often have to consult their GP to get a prescription that the hospital consultant has recommended, so that the GP bares the cost and not the hospital. My only issue with this article is that Dr Ingram highlights a number of problems with the NHS systems but then does not offer a single solution/idea on how these systems could be improved. When medical students are taught to write articles for publication it is drummed into us that we should always finish the discussion section with a conclusion and recommendations for further work/ implications for practice. I was just thinking that if doctors, medical students, nurses and NHS staff want to complain about the NHS’s failings then at least suggest some ways of improving these problems at the same time. This then turns what is essentially a complaint/rant into helpful, potentially productive criticism. If you (the staff) have noticed that these problems exist then you have also probably given some thought to why the problem exists, so why not just say/write how you think the issue could be resolved? If your grievances and solutions are documented and available then someone in the NHS administration might take your idea up and actually put it into practice, potentially reducing the problem (a disgustingly idealist thought I know). A number of times I have been told during medical school lectures and at key note speeches at conferences that medical students are a valuable resource to the NHS administration because we visit different hospitals, we wander around the whole hospital, we get exposed to the good and bad practice and we do not have any particular loyalty to any one department and can therefore objective observations. So, I was thinking it might be interesting to ask as many medical students as possible for their thoughts on how to improve the systems within the NHS. So I implore any of you reading this blog: write your own blog about short comings that you have noticed, make a recommendation for how to improve it and then maybe leave a link in the comments below this blog. If we start taking more of an interest in the NHS around us and start documenting where improvements could be made then maybe we could together work to create a more efficient and effective NHS. So I briefly just sat down and had a think earlier today about a few potential solutions for the problems highlighted in Dr Ingram’s article. A community pathology team that handles all of the GP’s pathology specimens and referrals. A “patient pathway co-ordinator” could be employed as additional administrative staff by GP surgeries to chase up all of the appointments and missing information that is currently using up a lot of the GP’s time and thereby freeing them to see more patients. I am sure this role is already carried out by admin staff in GP practices but perhaps in an ad hoc way, rather than that being their entire job. Do the majority of GP practices get access to the hospitals computer systems? Surely, if GPs had access to the hospital systems this would mean a greater efficiency for booking outpatient appointments and for allowing GPs to follow up test results etc. In the few outpatient departments I have come across outpatient appointments are often made by the administration team and then sent by letter to the patients, with the patient not being given a choice of when is good for them. Would it not be more efficient for the administrative staff to send the patients a number of appointment options for the patient to select one appropriate for them? Eliyahu M. Goldratt was a business consultant who revolutionized manufacturing efficiency a few years ago. He wrote a number of books on his theories that are very interesting and easy to read because he tries to explain most of his points using a narrative – “The Goal” and “Critical Chain” being just tow. His business theories focussed on finding the bottle neck in an industrial process, because if that is the rate limiting step in the manufacturing process then it is the most essential part for improving efficiency of the whole process. Currently, most GPs refer patients to outpatient appointments at hospitals and this can often take weeks or months. The outpatient appointments are a bottle neck in the process of getting patients the care they require. Therefore, focussing attention on how outpatient appointments are co-ordinated and run would improve the efficiency in the “patient pathway” as a whole. a. Run more outpatient clinics. b. Pay consultants overtime to do more clinics, potentially in the evenings or at weekends. While a lot may not want to do this, a few may volunteer and help to reduce the back log on the waiting lists. c. Have more patients seen by nurse specialists so that more time is freed up for the consultants to see the more urgent or serious patients. d. An obvious, yet expensive solution, hire more consultants to help with the ever increasing workload. e. Change the outpatient system so that it becomes more of an assembly line system with one doctor and a team of nurses handling the “new patient” appointments and another team handling the “old patient” follow up appointments rather than having them all mixed together at the same time. I am sure that there are many criticisms of the points I have written above and I would be interested to hear them. I would also love to hear any other solutions for the problems mentioned above. Final thought for today … Why shouldn’t medical students make criticisms of inefficiencies and point them out to the relevant administrator? If anyone else is interested in how the NHS as a whole is run then there is a new organisation called the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management that is keen to recruit interested student members (www.fmlm.ac.uk).  
jacob matthews
about 8 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 w5wmg1?1444774074
16
742

Exam Survival Guide

1. Sleep (I realize I’m posting this at 12:30 am…) (http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleep_tips.htm) I know there’s a popular perception of sleep deprivation going hand in hand with working hard or succeeding academically. However, that is only true if you’re working very last minute, and don’t care about retaining the information–you basically just want to get through your upcoming test/assignment. I would like to clarify that, although learning about 10 months of material in 2 weeks is overwhelming, it is NOT last minute because whatever you’re working on right now, you’ll have to remember in 2 weeks for your exam. Besides the exam, if you’re studying medicine, you need to remember most of these things for the rest of your life. In order to retain that information, you need to stay alert, well rested and motivated. Prolonged sleep deprivation can make you feel very ‘CBA’ very fast. 2. Stay Energized Sleep is only one factor in staying motivated and alert; another is staying energized¬–in a healthy way. Simply put: if you feel well, you’ll work well. Eat well: difficult, I know, when you’ve got so little time to spare; but as much as you can, try to eat more whole foods (aka things that don’t come in wrappers or have their own commercial) and keep a balanced diet (too much of anything is usually not good). Everyone snacks while they’re doing exams, but try to find a vice that won’t put you in a sugar coma (some good examples include berries and other fruits, nuts, carrots with hummus to dip in, granola bars, etc). Note: drinking tea is also an excellent way to stay energized! Stay active: Again, I know something like this is difficult to keep up in normal everyday life, let alone during exam stress. Even if it is just for 15-20 minutes, some cardio (note: the more strenuous the workout in a short period of time, the more benefit you’ll get) is a fantastic ‘eye-opener’ (I learned that phrase while learning how to take an alcohol history and now I really like it)! No one wants to go for a run in the morning, but after you get past the first 2-3 minutes of wanting to collapse, your body starts to feel really grateful. This is the BEST way to stimulate your senses and wake yourself up. I promise it’s better than any energy drink or cup of coffee you could have. Take small breaks: SMALL breaks!!! About 10 minutes. Every once in a while, you need to get up and walk around to give yourself a break, have some fresh air, grab a snack, but try not to get carried away; try to avoid having a short attention span. 3. Make Lists I cannot stress enough how counterproductive it is to overwhelm yourself with the amount of work you have. Whether you think about it or not, that pile is not going anywhere. Thinking about it won’t wish it away. Stop psyching yourself out and just get on with it– step by step. Making a list of objectives you need to accomplish that day or week is a great way to start; then, cross them out as you go along (such a satisfying feeling). Being able to visualize your progress will be a great motivator. Remember: it is important to be systematic with your studying approach; if you jump around between modules because they’re boring you’re just going to confuse yourself and make it hard to remember things when that exam comes Note: I have a white board in my room where I write my objectives for the week. Some days it motivates, some days it I want to throw it out the window (but I can't reach the latch)… 4. Practice Questions Practice questions are excellent for monitoring your progress; they’re also excellent at scaring you. Do not fear! This is a good thing, because now you know what you’re missing, go back and read up on what you forgot to take a look at, and come back and do the questions later. Then give yourself a sticker for getting it right ? Practice questions are also great for last minute studying too because they can help you do what I call “backwards studying”–which is what I just described: figuring out what you need to learn based on what the questions look like. 5. Be realistic Set realistic goals for yourself; most importantly, set realistic daily goals for yourself so that when you get all or most or even some of them done you can go to sleep with a level of satisfaction. Also, you need to pick your battles. Example: if you suck at neuro, then one module’s loss is another’s gain. Don’t spend too much time trying to get through one thing, just keep moving forward, and come back to it later 6. ‘Do not disturb’ Facebook, twitter, instagram, youtube, whatsapp, texting, pinterest, meme websites, so many fantastic ways to kill your time… Do yourself a favor, save them for your breaks. If someone is dying or on fire, they will most likely call you, not text you or write on your wall; you do not need to check your phone that often unless you're expecting something time sensitive. 7.Don’t Compare Everyone studying in your program is going to be stressed about things; do NOT let it rub off on you. You know those moments when you hear a peer or a prof/tutor describing something you have never even heard of, then you start panicking? Yeah, don’t do that. It happens to everyone. Instead of worrying so much, just go read about it! Simple solution right? What else are you going to do? Plus, a lot of the time other students seem to know more than they need to about certain things (which I can tell you right now, doesn’t always mean they’re doing better than you; knowing random, very specific factoids doesn’t mean they can bring it in clinic. Everyone can pull a Hermione and know a book inside out, but this is not necessarily the hallmark of a good doctor), what’s it to you? Worry about yourself, be confident in your abilities, and don’t trouble yourself with comparing to other people 8.Practice for Practicals Everyone is afraid of practical exams, like the OSCE (at any rest station you're likely to find me with my head in my hands trying to stabilize my breathing pattern and trying not to cry). The best way to be ready is to practice and practice and practice and practice. It’s like learning to drive a car. At first you’re too aware of your foot on the gas, the position of your hand on the wheel, etc; but, after driving for a little while, these things become subconscious. In the same way, when you walk into a station, you could be so worried about how you’ll do your introduction and gain consent, and remembering to wash your hands, and getting equipment and and and and and; the anxiety affects your confidence and your competence. If you practice enough, then no matter what they throw at you, you will get most of the points because the process will be second nature to you. Practice on your roommates, friends, family members, patients with a doctor's help...when appropriate... Even your stuffed animals if you're really desperate. DO NOT leave practicing for these practicals to the last minute; and if you do, make sure you go through every thing over and over again until you’re explaining examinations in your sleep. NOTE: When I'm practicing for OSCE alone, I record myself over and over again and play it back to myself and criticize it, and then practice againn. 9.Consistency You don’t necessarily have to study in the same place every day; however, it is always good to have some level of routine. Some examples include: waking up/sleeping at the same time everyday, going for a run at the same time every day, having the same study routine, etc. Repetition is a good way to keep your brain focused on new activities because, like I said before, the more you repeat things, the more they become second nature to you. Hope these tips are of some use to you; if not, feel free to sound off in the comments some alternate ways to get through exams. Remember that while exams are stressful, this is the time where you build your character and find out what you’re truly capable of. When you drop your pen after that final exam, you want to feel satisfied and relieved, not regretful. Happy Studying ?  
Mary
about 8 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 1nuvntv?1444774080
2
891

Obesity Part 1 – Fat Kid in a Fat Society

Introduction to Obesity One of my favourite past-times is to sit in a bar, restaurant, café or coffee shop and people watch. I am sure many of you reading this also enjoying doing this too. People are fascinating and it is intriguing to observe: what they do; how they act; what they wear and what they look like. My family and I have always observed those around us and discussed interesting points about others that we have noticed. When I first came up to visit Birmingham University my family all sat in a coffee shop in the centre of Birmingham and noticed that on average the people walking past us looked much slimmer than what we were used to seeing back in south Wales. Now, when I go home it is more painfully obvious than ever that the people in my home region are much, much heavier than they should be and are noticeably bigger than they used to be even a short number of years ago. This change in the population around me is what first made me seriously think about obesity, as a major problem affecting the world today. Nowadays obesity is all around us! It is noticeable, it is spreading and it should worry us all. Not just for our own individual health but also for the health of our society. Obesity affects everything from the social dynamic of families, to relationships at school or work, to how much the NHS costs to run. Obesity is a massive problem and if we as a society don’t start getting to grips with it, then it will have huge implications for all of us! I am currently in my 5th year at medical school. While I have been here I have taken a keen interest in obesity. The physiology, the psychology, the anatomy, the statistics and the wider affects on society of obesity have all been covered in curriculum lectures and extra curriculum lectures. I have taken part in additional modules on these subjects and sort out many experts in this field while on hospital placements. Obesity is fascinating for some many reasons and I thought that it would be a great topic to write some blogs about and hopefully start some discussions. Warning For my first blog on the topic of obesity I quickly want to write a bit about myself and my battle with weight. Everyone’s favourite topic is themselves, but I like to think that’s not why I have written this and I hope it doesn’t come across as a narcissistic ramble. I don’t intend to try and make myself come off well or suggest that I have all the answers (because I know very well that I don’t) and I hope it doesn’t come across like that. I want to write a bit of an autobiography because I wish to demonstrate how easy it is to go from a chunky kid to a technically obese teenager to a relatively fat adult without really realising what was happening. Chunky Child to Fat adult While planning this blog I realised that my Meducation profile picture was taken when I was at my all time fattest. At the graduation ceremony at the end of my 3rd year at university after completing my intercalation I was over 19 stones. At 6 foot 2” this gave me a BMI of >33 which is clinically obese. I had a neck circumference of >18”, a chest circumference of 48”, a waist of >40”, a seat of >52” and a thigh circumference of >28” per leg. Why do I know all of these rather obscure measurements? Partly because I am quite obsessive but mainly because I had to go to buy a tailor made suit because I could no longer buy a suit from a shop that I could fit into and still be able to move in. The only options left to me where massive black tent-suits or to go to a tailors. After the graduation I sat down at my computer (whilst eating a block of cheese) and compared my face from the graduation photos to pictures I had taken at the start of university and the difference in shape and size was amazingly obvious. I had got fat! I realised that if I had a patient who was my age and looked like me with my measurements then I would tell him to lose weight for the good of his health. So, I decided that finally enough was enough and I that I should do something about it. Before I describe how I got on with the weight management I will quickly tell the back story of how I came to be this size. I have always been a big guy. I come from a big family. I have big bones. I had “puppy fat”. I was surrounded by people who ate too much, ate rubbish and were over weight themselves, so I didn’t always feel that there was anything wrong with carrying a bit of tub around the middle. When I went to comprehensive school at age 12 I had a 36” waist. I thought I carried the weight quite well because I was always tall and had big ribs I could sort of hide the soft belly. Soon after arriving at the new school I had put on more weight and for the first time in my life I started to get bullied for being fat! And I didn’t like it. It made me really self-aware and knocked my confidence. Luckily, we started being taught rugby in PE lessons and I soon found that being bigger, heavier and stronger than everyone else was a massive advantage. I soon got my own back on the bullies… there is nowhere to hide on a rugby field! This helped me gain my confidence and I realised that the only way to stop the bullying was to confront the bullies and to remake myself in such a way as that they would be unable to bully me. I decided to take up rugby and to start getting fit. I joined a local club, starting playing regularly, joined a gym and was soon looking less tubby. Reflecting (good medical jargon, check) on my life now I can see that my PE teachers saved me. By getting me hooked on rugby they helped get me into many other sports and physical activity in general and without their initial support I think my life would have gone very differently. Rugby was my saviour and also later on a bit of a curse. As I grew up I got bigger and bigger but also sportier. I started putting muscle on my shoulders, chest and legs which I was convinced hid how fat I actually was. I developed a body shape that was large but solid. I was convinced that although I was still carrying lots of excess weight I no longer looked tubby-fat. When I was 14 my PE teachers introduced me to athletics. They soon realised that I was built for shot putt and discuss throwing and after some initial success at small school competitions I joined a club and took it up seriously. At this age I had a waist of about 38” but was doing about 3-4 hours of exercise almost everyday, what with rugby, running, gym, swimming and athletics – in and out of school. My weight had by now increased to roughly 15 stones and my BMI was over 30. I was physically fit and succeeding at sport but still carrying quite a lot of fat. I no longer thought of myself as fat but I knew that other people did. Between the ages of 14 and 18 I started to be picked for regional teams in rugby and for international athletic competitions for Wales. My sporting career was going very well but the downside of this was that I was doing sports that benefited from me being heavier. So the better I got the heavier I wanted to become. I got to the stage where I was eating almost every hour and doing my best to put on weight. At the time I thought that I was putting on muscle and being a huge, toned sports machine. It took me a while to realise that actually my muscles weren't getting any bigger but my waist was! By the time I had completed my A-levels I was for the first time over 18 stones and had a waste of nearly 40”. So, at this point I was doing everything that I had been told that would make me more adapted for my sport and I was succeeding but without noticing it I was actually putting on lots of useless excess weight that in the long term was not good for me! During my first year of university I gave up athletics and decided that I no longer needed to be as heavy for my sports. This decision combined with living away from home, cooking for myself and walking over an hour a day to and from Uni soon began to bear fruit. By the summer of my first year at Uni, aged 19, I had for the first time in my life managed to control my weight. When I came to Uni I was 18 stone. After that first year I was down to 14 stone – a weight I had not been since I was 14 years old! I had played rugby for the Medical school during my first year but as a 2nd row/back row substitute. These positions needed me to be fit and not necessarily all that heavy and this helped me lose the weight. During my second year I began to start as a 2nd row and was soon asked to help out in the front row. I enjoyed playing these positions and again realised that I was pretty good at it and that extra weight would make me even better. So between 2nd year and the end of 3rd year I had put on nearly 5 stone in weight and this put me back to where I started at my graduation at the end of 3rd year. The ironic and sad thing is about all this that the fatter, less “good looking” and unhealthier I became, the better I was adapted for the sports I had chosen. It had never occurred to me that being good at competitive sports might actually be bad for my health. The Change and life lessons learnt At the beginning of my 4th year I had realised that I was fatter than I should be and had started to pick up a number of niggly injuries from playing these tough, body destroying positions in rugby. I decided that I would start to take the rugby less seriously and aim to stay fit and healthy rather than be good at a competitive sport. With this new attitude to life I resolved to lose weight. Over the course of the year there were a number of ups and downs. I firstly went back to all the men’s health magazines that I had stock piled over the years and started to work out where I was going wrong with my health. After a little investigation it became apparent that going running and working out in the gym was not enough to become healthy. If you want to be slim and healthy then your diet is far more important than what physical activity you do. My diet used to be almost entirely based on red meat and carbs: steak, mince, bacon, rice and pasta. Over the year I changed my diet to involve far more vegetables, more fibre, more fruit, more salad and way less meat! The result was that by Christmas 2012 I was finally back below 18 stones. The diet had started to have benefits. Then came exams! By the end of exams in April 2013 I had gone back up 19 stones and a waist of >40”. I was still spending nearly 2 hours a day doing weights in the gym and running or cycling 3 times a week. Even with all this exercise and a new self- awareness of my size, a terrible diet over the 3 week exam period had meant that I gained a lot of fat. After exams I went travelling in China for 3 weeks. While I was there I ate only local food and lots of coffee. Did not each lunch and was walking around exploring for over 6 hours a day. When I got back I was 17.5 stone, about 106kg. My waist had shrunk back down to 36” and I could fit into clothes I had not worn in years. This sudden weight loss was not explained by traveller’s diarrhoea or any increased activity above normal. What made me lose weight was eating a fairly healthy diet and eating far less calories than I normally would. I know this sounds like common sense but I had always read and believed that if you exercised enough then you could lose weight without having to decrease your calorie intake too much. I have always hated the sensation of being hungry and have always eaten regular to avoid this awful gnawing sensation. I had almost become hunger-phobic, always eating when given the opportunity just in case I might feel hungry later and not because I actually needed to eat. The time in China made me realise that actually I don’t NEED to eat that regularly and I don’t NEED to eat that much. I can survive perfectly ably without regular sustenance and have more than enough fat stores to live my life fully without needing to each too much. My eating had just become a habit, a WANT and completely unnecessary. After being home for a month I have had some ups and downs trying to put my new plans into action. Not eating works really easily in a foreign country, where it’s hot, you are busy and you don’t have a house full of food or relatives that want to feed you. I have managed to maintain my weight around 17.5 stones and kept my waist within 36” trousers. I am counting that as a success so far. The plan from now on is to get my weight down to under 16.5 stones because I believe that as this weight I will not be carrying too much excess weight and my BMI will be as close to “not obese” as it is likely to get without going on a starvation diet. I intend to achieve this goal by maintain my level of physical activity – at least 6 hours of gym work a week, 2 cardio sessions, tennis, squash, cycling, swimming and golf as the whim takes me. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, I intend to survive off far fewer calories with a diet based on bran flakes, salad, fruit, nuts, chicken and milk. I am hoping that this very simple plan will work! Conclusion Writing this short(-ish) autobiography was quite cathartic and I would really recommend it for other people who are trying to remake themselves. Its helped me put my thoughts in order. Over the years I wanted to lose weight because I wanted to look better. This desire has now matured into a drive to be not just slimmer but healthier; I no longer want to be slimmer just for the looks but also to reduce the pressure on my joints, to reduce the pressure on my cardiovascular system, to reduce my risks of being fat when I am older, to hopefully reduce the risk of dying prematurely and to some extent to make life cheaper – eating loads of meat to prevent hunger is expensive! I hope this blog has been mildly interesting, but also informative of just how easy it is for even a health conscious, sporty individual to become fat in our society. I also wanted to document how difficult it is to lose weight and maintain that new lower weight for any prolonged length of time. At some point I would like to do a blog on the best methods for weight loss but that may have to wait until I have found what works for me and if I do actually manage to achieve my goals. Would be a bit hypercritical to write such a blog while still having a BMI yo-yoing around 32 I feel! Thought for the day 1 - Gaining wait is easy, becoming fat is easy, losing fat is also technically easy! The hard part is developing AND then maintaining a healthy mental attitude towards your weight. The human body has evolved to survive starvation. We are almost perfectly made to build up high density fat stores just in case next year’s crops fail and we have to go a few months on broth. I will say it again – We are designed to survive hard conditions! The problem with the modern world and with modern society is that we no longer have to fight to survive. For the first time in human history food is no longer scarce… it is in fact incredibly abundant and cheap (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Z74og9HbTM). It is no surprise that when a human body is allowed to eat want and how much it craves and then do as little activity as possible, that it puts on fat very quickly. This has to be one of the major ironies of our age – When the human race has evolved society enough that we no longer need to have fat stores in case of disaster, that we are now the fattest humans have ever been! 2 – The best bit of advice I was ever given is this: “Diets ALWAYS fail! No matter what the diet or how determined you are, if you diet then within 2 years you will be the same weight or heavier than you are now. The only way to a healthy body is through a healthy LIFESTYLE CHANGE! You have to make changes that you are prepared to keep for a long time.”  
jacob matthews
about 8 years ago