Dr Rose Drew is an anaesthetic registrar in the UK but is currently on a two year career break working for the British Antarctic Survey Medical Unit (BASMU) as the medical officer for Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. She studied the Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in 2009.
I have extremely fond and positive memories of my three months spent in London studying for the Diploma in Tropical Medicine. The Diploma formed part of a year out that I took from NHS training to work as an expedition medic. I found studying full time again surprisingly enjoyable which was in part due the enthusiasm of the School’s lecturers and demonstrators. Being surrounded by such an eclectic and keen group of students was also great. As we were all only in London for a short amount of time, we really made an effort as a group to experience what we could of the Capital.
I remember being astounded and impressed by the experience that people on the course already had working in developing areas of the world and yet the interest they showed in my limited experience working as an expedition medic was humbling. I have been fascinated to learn what my fellow students have gone onto do since we went our separate ways and to see people make the most of the possible opportunities within the sphere of medicine around the world. After the Diploma I went onto do a couple more expeditions on the Amazon and in Honduras before starting my anaesthetic training in the UK.
I came to learn of the job with the British Antarctic Survey shortly after starting my anaesthetic training – it is fair to say that I wasn’t quite finished with working in remote environments. I started the job with BASMU in May 2012. The two year post starts with a six month training period in Plymouth, UK where doctors are trained up in specialities like dentistry, radiology, anaesthetics, orthopaedics and other areas depending on their previous speciality experience.
The 18 month post at Rothera has been made up of two Southern summer seasons with a seven month winter sandwiched in between. Rothera varies from having around 100 scientists and support staff in summer to just 18 of us overwintering. The marine team dive year round at Rothera and we are one of the few bases on Antarctica to have a hyperbaric chamber. Medically, the workload is light with minor injuries and dental issues making up the majority of what I see. Having said that, the potential for major injury is present and I have had to deal with a couple of significant orthopaedic trauma cases requiring medical evacuation whilst I have been here. I spend the rest of my time training colleagues, studying for a distance learning Masters in Remote Healthcare with Plymouth University and getting involved with a whole range of non-medical jobs around the station.
Antarctic isn’t an obvious location to go for anyone with an interest in tropical medicine but the experience of working as a lone practitioner in a remote environment, with the limited available resources, makes it comparable, in some respects, to the jobs that some of my fellow Diploma students went on to do. In addition, the travel routes that people come down to Antarctic through have provided me with more tropical medicine mysteries than I envisaged. One of the most unique factors of this job has been living so closely with my patients for such a long time.
I am coming to the end of my time in the Antarctic with just a couple of months left. It has been an incredible, enhancing experience and one that I feel very fortunate to have done.
To read more about Rose’s adventures in the Antarctic visit her blog.