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Interview with Tahir Masud, our future BGS President-Elect

Tahir Masud (Tash) will take on the mantle of BGS President-Elect in November, when Eileen Burns inherits the office of BGS President from David Oliver. We asked him about his vision for the BGS.

We asked Tash: What attracted you to geriatric medicine as a specialty generally?

After I passed my MRCP in 1988, I was appointed to a three year general medical registrar rotation (pre-Calman registrar days) in Newcastle where we did six monthly rotations of different specialities. I found that the six months of Geriatric Medicine was the most intellectually rewarding and I really enjoyed working in the multidisciplinary team. I had originally considered respiratory medicine as a career but after six months of doing Geriatric Medicine I changed my mind and had no hesitation in applying to a Senior Registrar Rotation in General and Geriatric Medicine in Barts and Whipps Cross at London. It was the best career decision I ever made and have never regretted it.  I worked with some great role models in Newcastle, London and Nottingham, who continued to inspire me.     

It is said that this is a good time to be a geriatrician. You have practised geriatric medicine when it was largely a Cinderella specialty. There was a time when it was something that trainees ‘defaulted’ into, rather than being their first choice. Now the specialty has attained a certain ‘glamour’. What factors do you think, led to this improvement in image?

It has been a real pleasure and very satisfying to see Geriatric Medicine develop, as you say, from a “Cinderella” speciality in the 1980s to one of the more popular specialities now. In my view the credit goes to the early geriatricians who fought hard to develop the services that older people needed despite much negativity from other specialists at the beginning. I also feel that in the 1990s, geriatricians getting involved in acute general hospitals and doing some general internal medicine really helped in breaking down barriers, and once other specialists saw, first hand, what we had to offer, it quickly became apparent that the medical community could not cope without our particular skills. Now everyone wants a bit of us - from surgeons to oncologists, from emergency departments to the community! 

The BGS has among its strategic objectives, the development of a range of education and professional development to its members. What progress do you feel we, the BGS, are making in getting geriatric medicine into the undergraduate general medical curriculum? And do you feel we can  do more?

The BGS has had an undergraduate curriculum now for many years, which has been updated several times. This has certainly impacted on developing the curricula in most medical schools. We have done surveys of medical schools’ curricula to see how they map to the BGS curriculum, and we have fed back the gaps identified to the medical schools concerned. Subsequent surveys have shown improvements.  However  there is still some way to go in some schools and we will continue to monitor teaching of undergraduate Geriatric Medicine and offer advice and help where necessary. 

The BGS also has a great relationship with the Geriatric Medicine SAC and will continue to help deliver postgraduate training in the speciality. 

What do you believe will be the biggest challenge/s in healthcare during your presidency?

There is a lot of uncertainty at present, given the current economic situation and the ramifications of Brexit. Hopefully by the time I start my presidency in November 2018 the situation may be a bit clearer. The demographic changes in society means that we are going to have to continue to lobby the government to make sure that older people get the healthcare resources that they need. We will need to develop new ways of doing things to meet the demands, both in the acute hospitals and also in the community. I am convinced that we have the experience to help shape the changes needed and it is very heartening to see that geriatricians, both established and younger ones, are full of energy, have  innovative ideas and are playing important roles in many organisations, in delivering change.

Presently, the RCP (London) administers much of the post-graduate educational offering in geriatric medicine. Do you feel that the BGS should become more involved as an organisation, in these programmes and how can we strengthen our links with the College to achieve our strategic objectives?

It is vital that we work closely with the RCPL. There is a great need to upskill other specialities in the basics of geriatric medicine. We have already started in this process by working with and influencing curricula of other specialities such as Emergency Medicine. It is pleasing to see that geriatricians are increasingly being asked to speak and teach at different conferences and CME days and we will try and increase our influence within the RCPs. Similarly we also need to use our expertise to upskill GPs in managing frail older people and the BGS has an important future role in this.   

Another strategic objective agreed at the Trustees’ Away Day was to extend our membership among non-doctors. How do you feel we can achieve a balance between meeting this objective while, at the same time, retaining and strengthening our offering to doctors? 

Multi-disciplinary working is one of the bedrocks of our speciality and it is only a natural development to encourage more non-doctor healthcare professionals to join the Society. By doing this, hopefully we can influence the development of services for older people that meets their needs, not just from the medical perspective, but more holistically. The BGS has already helped to develop a Geriatrics curriculum for ANPs. Having more members who are nurses, physios and OTs can only enhance our speciality, although at the same time we must continue to provide education and training that meets the need for geriatricians of all grades. 

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