Let's Talk Surgery Podcast, Surgical Crossroads: Choosing your specialty - the Rural episode

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This episode we focus on rural surgery and meet two somewhat unusual surgeons – people who do things a bit differently in a very unique setting.

Gordon McFarlane is a Consultant Surgeon in Lerwick, Shetland Islands. He graduated from Aberdeen University and continued training in general surgery in Aberdeen and Inverness. He worked for 9 years as a surgeon in Chogoria, Kenya, at a 300-bed rural church hospital. On returning to the UK, he spent 4 years on the West of Scotland Training Rotation in General Surgery, the last year of which was as a Rural Surgical Trainee with the North of Scotland Deanery. He was appointed to Gilbert Bain Hospital, Shetland in 2004. He is a Fellow of the College of Surgeons of East Central and Southern Africa, and a member of the Viking Surgeons Association. He maintains an interest in rural surgical training and surgery in Africa.

Stuart Fergusson (@sj_fergusson) is a Rural Surgical Fellow at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. He graduated MBChB from the University of Glasgow in 2006 and subsequently trained in colorectal and general surgery in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Following completion of training, he spent 5 months volunteering in a remote and rural Zambia mission hospital, and will spend August 2021 – August 2023 in a Rural Surgical Fellowship prior to taking up an appointment as a consultant surgeon with NHS Shetland. Stuart describes himself as unusual in that he has always aspired to work in a rural hospital. During his training he enjoyed every specialty he encountered, and is fascinated by the huge range of pathology he has experienced during his clinical work so far in Zambia and Shetland.

Rural surgeons work solely within Scotland in the six rural general hospitals and perform a wide range of surgery – essentially treating anything that comes to their door or stabilising for transfer if necessary. The skill set is clearly huge, and the variety of cases can be intimidating, as well as exciting. As our guests explain, their job is to provide the best solution available in that moment; it’s about being practical rather than a perfectionist, which both find very satisfying. They are also passionate about the unique opportunity to advocate for their local communities – shaping their patients’ journey in a very personal way. And of course, a huge attraction is living in some of the most beautiful parts of the world.

Rural surgery is clearly unconventional in terms of career path, and both Gordon and Stuart describe how they essentially carved out their own training programmes. Those already in the specialty have been working hard to raise its profile among general surgeons and at government level.

For trainees whose interest has been piqued by today’s episode, our guests' advice is to seek out a broad range of surgical and wider life experience. In particular look into taster weeks and travelling fellowships and explore the opportunities on offer from the Viking Surgeons Association and the Royal College of Surgeons.
If you would like to find out more about remote, rural and humanitarian healthcare then please have a look at RCSEd’s Faculty of Remote, Rural and Humanitarian Healthcare (FRRHH).

Contact Information
Visit https://www.rcsed.ac.uk/ for further information and details on becoming a member.

Email: comms@rcsed.ac.uk for any questions or topic suggestions you may have for future episodes.

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