Interview: The rugby-playing doctor

Rugby international Dr Jamie Roberts is a newly qualified doctor aspiring to become a GP.

Which came first, your aim to be a doctor or a rugby player?

I started taking rugby seriously at the age of 15, so the ambition to become a professional rugby player came first. I was always good at science at school, as well as problem-solving and maths. Added to that was the fact I felt I could interact well with people.

Those ingredients ultimately led me to apply to study for a degree in medicine and I’m considering a
career as a GP once I retire from professional rugby.

I also obtained a degree in sports science and exercise in 2009 – it was a one-year option degree sitting alongside the full medical degree. I decided to take it as it was of great interest to me, being a professional rugby player. I graduated with my medical degree in July this year.

When and how did you realise you had a talent for rugby?

Age 15, really. I was named captain of the Cardiff Schools rugby team at that age and was selected for Wales under-16s. It was at this point I realised I had a real shot at doing well in the sport.

Tell us more about your rugby career highlights so far

I recently moved to Paris to play for Racing Metro 92, after spending five seasons with the Cardiff Blues, where we won the Amlin Cup and the EDF cup, and reached a Heineken Cup semi-final.

I grew up in Cardiff and came through the Blues Academy system, as well as representing Wales at under-16s, -18s, -19s, -21s and sevens level.

I have played for Wales 53 times, been part of two Grand Slam winning squads (2008 and 2012), reached the semi-final of a World Cup in 2011 and helped the team to win the Six Nations championship last season (2013).

I have also toured with the British Lions to South Africa (2009) and to Australia (2013), and have three Lions test caps.

How did you fit rugby around your medical training?

It was very challenging. Most days over the past four years (I did my fourth and fifth clinical years over four years, part-time, so it has been eight years in total) involved rugby training until 1-2pm and then donning the shirt and tie and making my way to the wards or theatre.

However, both Cardiff University and the Cardiff Blues were fantastic in helping me through the process. 

One advantage in studying medicine is that it has very much helped me to understand all of the injuries I have had through the years and I’m always in the team doctor’s ear, finding out about my team-mates’ injuries and necessary treatments – always learning.

What is your ambition, in terms of your medical career?

I would love to be an orthopaedic surgeon working in sports medicine, but I also aspire to be a GP, I am considering general practice very seriously.

Being a GP would give me a holistic approach to medicine and a broader spectrum, from which I could develop a special interest in orthopaedics. However, I have put my medical career on hold while I take in the sights of Paris and enjoy learning a new language.

What is your current plan?

I have just turned 27 and believe I still have at least five rugby seasons left in me; fingers crossed my body will hold out for that long.

In practice, this means I will have to resit my clinical exams at the end of my professional rugby career, do a three- to six-month placement in a UK hospital and then complete foundation years one and two.

If I do decide to go into general practice, this would be followed by my GP training. It’s quite a long way off, but I have my sights set on it.

For now, though, my immediate aims are to enjoy success with my new club in the top 14 and
the Heineken Cup.

I also have ambitions to play for Wales in the 2015 World Cup in England, so I will be striving to stay in the international set-up.

Away from rugby, I’ve signed up to be an ambassador for Voyage, a new account run by international banking group Investec, which has been involved in a number of rugby-related sponsorships.

I played in the two Investec Internationals versus England in August 2011, which were, in effect, World Cup warm-up games.

Having lived in or around Cardiff all my life, I am very much up for the challenge of embracing a new culture here in Paris, living in a new city and overall testing myself in a new environment, both on and off the rugby field.

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