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I am a GP and a professional snowboarder

Dr Gary Bartlett

I first got onto the GB snowboarding team in July 2015, when I was coming to the end of GP VTS training. I’d gone to an open trial for the GB boardercross team (boardercross is a type of snowboarding involving racing down a course against several other snowboarders), and unexpectedly got a place. So I trained with the team in Austria from October and April, and have been selected again this year. It’s a dream come true.

It was great timing as I knew I wanted another interest alongside general practice to avoid burnout, and it came along just as I was about to start life as a fully-qualified GP.

Which do you prefer, snowboarding or general practice?

I’m going to try and be as diplomatic as possible here. The two careers couldn’t be any more different. First and foremost I’m a GP which I’ve trained for ten years for and has got me where I am today – for example the salary has enabled me to buy the necessary equipment, attend the trials and have a life out in Austria. The snowboarding is a ten year career, if I get that far, and it’s great I’ve got general practice to come back to. But I would like to take snowboarding as far as I can, and compete at the Olympics if possible.

How do people react when you tell them?

Just before my trial, I was offered a full-time position at my training practice and they were really surprised when I told them I would be going away from October. At the practice meeting, everyone just sat there with their mouths open and no-one stirred for about 10 seconds – I think they thought I was joking! But everyone has been really supportive and when I’m looking for locum work, my CV looks quite attractive – the snowboarding helps me stand out and is a good talking point.

I’ve told a few patients, and they’re also really surprised – I don’t think they can understand how you can be a GP and a snowboarder at the same time. I’ve been in some local publications in Leeds so I’ve been recognised by a few patients, but they often don’t know why they recognise me until they ask.

What are you doing now you’re back in the UK?

Before leaving for training, since I’ve been back and while I was back over the Christmas break I’ve worked as a locum GP, to make sure I don’t become deskilled. Even though it’s off-season I’m still training hard. Generally I work Monday to Friday 8-6 as a locum GP and then two or three hours each evening are spent either snowboarding (I manage a couple of days a week on the indoor slopes) or in the gym. I also have to spend time on social media, trying to gain sponsorship, promoting myself and keeping the sponsors happy. But I try and make sure my weekends are for rest and to catch up with my friends.

Do you team mates ask you for medical advice?

When I’m out in Austria I’m not expected to give medical advice because I’m not covered to be a doctor there, but I often get team members coming to me with various strains and sprains. I always tell them they should go and see one of the local doctors and I can’t officially attend to them, but despite that they always come to me. I even had somebody wake me up at 1am once to look at a rash. It’s good to feel useful in the team, so I’m more than happy to give my opinion although they know it’s not official.

You can follow Dr Bartlett on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. He would like to thank his sponsors: Volkl, Ride, Glide & Slide, Bio-Synergy