GP interview - A GP with a special interest in sport

A passion for sport is integral to Dr Marwan Al-Dawoud's medical career and led to a role at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

How has your love of sport influenced your career?

From a young age, I've been involved in sport at a range of levels, probably peaking at trials for the Scottish national rugby team at college.

Unfortunately, I broke my collar-bone three days before the trials running the 200m sprint for school, but from that experience, I developed a passion for sport education and excelled at PE at A-level.

I went on to develop an early interest in sports medicine during my time at medical school and when it came to applying for junior medical jobs, my selections were based on how they would best suit a career in sports medicine.

I decided the most appropriate training would be general practice, as it offers a wide range of technical exposure, breadth of knowledge and advanced communication skills. With recent evolutions in health systems, primary care is a sphere of change and innovation and one to which I wanted to contribute.

During GP training, I took a distance-learning Diploma in Sports Medicine, a challenge when balanced with on-call work and night shifts.

I spent the best part of three years shadowing doctors at sports arenas, from amateur to professional level, and eventually, my persistence paid off and I was offered a job with the Wigan Warriors Academy team.

From this, I developed an understanding of the environment and worked my way up the ladder.

In your current role, what are your special interests?

I am chief medical officer for Sale Sharks rugby club, which involves being at the club a couple of times a week to deal with illness and injury among the players and covering matches.

There's good banter with players and staff, but it can be a highly charged environment, depending on how well we are doing in the league.

I am also medical officer for the England rugby league team, a pleasurable commitment during tours and competitions.

I work as a sessional GP and as a GPSI in musculoskeletal medicine at the local hospital.

Outside direct patient care, I founded and run a national blood donation campaign that aims to encourage people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to become regular blood donors.

The Imam Hussain Blood Donation Campaign has received lots of media attention and I often do interviews about it on TV and radio.

Do you participate in sports?

Without regular sport, I'd be lost, so I always make time to go to the gym. I've kept in touch with university team-mates and we play football often, so they keep me on my toes.

I love anything outdoors and try to squeeze in mountain biking and rock climbing when I can, but with the birth of my little boy last month, this is becoming more of a dream than a reality.

What prompted you to spend a year working in Africa?

My wife and I were keen to get out of the rat race in the UK and wanted to do some exploring, as well as broadening our horizons across the developing medical world.

As a doctor-dentist couple, we set sail for east and southern Africa, working in largely remote and rural areas. Although seeing patients was interesting, in the grand scheme of things, it would make little difference, so our main focus was on improving services and education.

We ran teaching programmes for the non-medically qualified 'clinical officers' who run the primary and secondary care systems. We gained a wealth of experience and feel whatever we provided was small in comparison to how we benefited.

What was it like working at the 2012 Olympic Games?

It was inspiring to lead the medical team at St James' Park, Newcastle, for the football at London 2012.

The highlight has to be the quarter final, Brazil versus Honduras, in front of a 42,000-strong crowd. It is a memory I will cherish forever.

Tell us about your research

I'm passionate about advances in medicine, particularly sports medicine. Consultants I worked for saw this enthusiasm and offered me involvement in sport-specific research. Since then, I have been creating research opportunities.

One achievement I'm particularly proud of is winning the GP trainee prize for musculoskeletal medicine from Arthritis Research UK.

Arthritis can be a devastating experience and steals quality of life from one in six people in the UK. Arthritis Research UK is the only UK charity dedicated to funding research into the cause, treatment and cure of all forms of arthritis.

How do you hope to develop your career in future?

I have been involved in prospective, undergraduate and postgraduate medical education, and this is another branch I'd like to develop.

National Arthritis Week

During Arthritis Research UK's National Arthritis Week, 7-13 October, the charity is calling on GPs to signpost free patient information to people living with arthritis and musculoskeletal pain. Resources are available at www.nationalarthritisweek.org.uk

GPs can also find the latest information and research on the management of musculoskeletal conditions in primary care at www.arthritisresearchuk.org/gpresources

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