More than Medicine
Jonathan Fitzsimon interviews doctors who have incorporated interesting, adventurous and unusual aspects into their clinical careers.
Constantin Jabarin is an A&E doctor in Bristol. He is also the Chief Medical Officer for the Castle Combe Circuit for motor sports and the Medical Director for the Bath half marathon.
Jonathan Fitzsimon: I know that motor sport is a personal passion of yours but how did you get involved at Castle Combe?
Constantin Jabarin: I was watching the Monaco Grand Prix on TV. The camera was moving down the starting grid giving a fantastic view of all the cars and drivers just before the race began. A few steps in front of the camera, walking all the way down the grid, I could see a man with “Doctor” across the back of his jacket. All I could think was, “How do I get to be him!”
JF: We’ll come back to your role in motor sport and events medicine. Tell me about your route into emergency medicine?
CJ: My father was a psychiatrist but right from my early teens I wanted to be a paediatrician. I went to medical school in Cardiff and started my training there and then in Exeter. I had a rotation in the Children’s Emergency Department (ED) and I loved the hands on element of emergency medicine. I decided to retrain via adult orthopaedics and general medicine before settling in the adult ED.
JF: So how and when did you get involved with events medicine?
CJ: Well I had helped out at a couple of equestrian and cross country events and when I was asked to run the medical cover for the Bath Half Marathon in 2003, I jumped at the opportunity. I went to the pre-race planning meeting with my eyes closed to be honest. I thought that we would get told to expect a few collapsed runners and then go home. I was amazed at the professional, slick planning that went into the meeting. I suggested that I could bring more of a medical team along with me. I brought four A&E doctors and five nurses to supplement the St John’s ambulance team. I was prepared with IV fluids, nebulisers, glucose, cardiac drugs and analgesia and we needed the lot. That day we dealt with exhaustion, chest pain, breathing problems and hypoglycaemia.
JF: I take it that this experience left you wanting to remain involved?
CJ: Absolutely. From then on, I have been the medical director, responsible for coordinating the efforts of my medical team and the St John’s Ambulance volunteers – over 200 staff are involved each year. I always try to involve a new doctor and nurse in the team each year but the core is an experienced group ready to deal with any eventuality. We had to deal with a cardiac arrest one year and I am delighted to say that he survived. With over 12 000 participants in the half marathon we attend to hundreds of people on the day and I think that they receive fantastic care.
JF: How did this lead to getting involved at Castle Combe?
CJ: I met Dr Jerry Nolan, former chair of the Resus Council in 2004 when he was also the CMO at Castle Combe. He asked me to go along as a race track doctor. I love motor sport, so being involved there is a dream job for me and by 2009 Dr Nolan had too many other commitments and I was able to take over as CMO.
JF: How about walking down the Formula 1 starting Grid?
CJ: In 2008 I asked to be a trackside Doctor at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix. Compared to the Bath half marathon the work load is much less. I was one of 40 doctors, all of whom are specialist registrars or consultants. I’ve been invited back every year and I am getting closer but I am still waiting to be the one walking down the middle of the starting grid!
JF: Have you been involved in any other events?
CJ: I work at the T4 festival in Weston-Super-Mare, providing medical support to over 40 000 music fans. Being able to take my son to Silverstone and getting VIP passes for the T4 festival for my daughters tends to let me off the hook at home when I am at the Castle Combe track on other weekends.
JF: You clearly love this addition to your work in hospital. What advice would you give to junior doctors planning out their own careers now?
CJ: Firstly, you need to ask yourself, “What is important to me?” Is it work, family, your hobbies or a combination of different things? Once you have this clear in your mind then you can choose a career that fits around your first answer. When you make your career choices, talk to lots of people, take lots of advice but ultimately make your own decisions.
JF: How about getting involved in events medicine?
CJ: Ideally you should have a genuine interest in what you are doing. Do not let inexperience stop you from getting involved in something that you have a passion for. Drive, desire and interest will always get you noticed, whereas specialist skills can be learnt and honed along the way.