Top 5 Reasons Why GUM is the Specialty for You

12th December 2016

According to recent research, a whopping 90% of people regret their career choice. I have never regretted choosing a career in GUM (genitourinary medicine). It's an exciting, interesting, academic and innovative specialty.

I have had the privilege to be the BASHH Doctors in Training (DiT) rep for the last 2 years. This role includes representing GUM trainees nationally, organising DiT workshops, disseminating useful information and promoting our great specialty to the new generation of doctors.

As part of the role, I have chatted to lots of trainees around the country and overwhelmingly, they are a bunch who are passionate about their specialty.

Here are the top 5 things they love about GUM.

1. "My strengths always lay in talking to patients, and this specialty absolutely makes the most of those skills - you have the opportunity to really listen and understand people, which I love." (Richard Kennedy, Scotland trainee)

I completely agree and this is one of the main reasons I chose GUM. You have to like talking to patients in this line of medicine. It's a private issue talking about sex and it is a skill to be able to do it well.

Nadia Ahmed leading a workshop in South Africa

2. “In the last month as a GU registrar I've done sexual health clinics including sexual dysfunction and sex workers clinics, and HIV clinics from antenatal to adolescent to general adult - are there any other specialties that enable you to cover everything within medicine?" (Nadia Ahmed, London Trainee)

GUM really is that varied. Our work includes general medicine, sexually transmitted infections, HIV medicine, contraception, public health, microbiology, dermatology, sexual assault and adolescent medicine. Not an exhaustive list.

As Nadia says, we also see such a large variety of patients. Patients of all ages, sexes, sexualities and ethnicities. From the well patient with asymptomatic chlamydia, to the acutely unwell, highly complicated patient with newly diagnosed HIV and disseminated TB. I don't think many specialities can offer such variety.

3. “The development of research skills is encouraged, I have been able to undertake a BASHH PHE fellowship which has allowed me to design and lead a national project related to sexual and public health.” (Helen Wiggins, East of England trainee)

Research is strongly encouraged. I know many trainees who have taken time out of training to undertake MDs or PhDs. I got the chance to go to Madrid last week as sub-investigator for an international HIV trial. But if research is not for you there are so many other opportunities available, from teaching to working abroad. Trainees have had the opportunities as diverse as teaching adolescent HIV workshops in South Africa and supporting HIV services in Iran.

Nadia Ahmed teaching in Iran

4. “One of the best things for me about working in GUM is that I really enjoy going to work every day; not many of my friends say that about their jobs in other careers." (Emily Lord, Oxford trainee)

There's not a dull day in GUM. It’s back to variety again. One day I may be looking after unwell HIV inpatients with cryptococcal meningitis or Kaposi's sarcoma. The next day I may be doing a sexual health walk-in clinic: suspecting primary syphilis on a patient with a genital ulcer, taking a successful dark ground and seeing treponemes swim around under the microscope, giving a shot of penicillin and facilitating partner notification. Perhaps teaching the new F2 as I go. Or maybe I would be doing an HIV clinic: counselling a patient about a switch in their anti-retrovirals or talking to a serodiscordant couple who wish to have a baby.

5. Now you’ve heard their reasons, let me add one of mine. I often think sexual health clinics are like the Emergency Department. The clinics can be crazily busy with any number of patients pitching up. But the team spirit makes the clinic flow, delivers high quality patient experience and overall, makes it a fun environment to work in. One of the main reasons I love my job, is the GUM team. GUM is a true multi-disciplinary specialty. A good sexual health clinic has a dynamic workforce including everyone from reception staff to consultant.

Every day is different, interesting and fun. That's why I chose GUM.

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