Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

10 Minutes with ...

31 May 2017
This year marks 10 years since the publication of the first RCSI Student Medical Journal; an annual journal written and compiled by RCSI students.


To celebrate this milestone, we speak to the alumnus behind its inception, Dr Gavin Falk (Medicine, Class of 2008)...

SMJ just celebrated its 10th edition, why and how did you start SMJ?

I conceived of the idea to start a student-run medical journal because I was frustrated with my perception of student research not being taken seriously, and felt we needed our own outlet to showcase our research productivity. I drew up a plan for the journal and then made an appointment to see the then Dean (now CEO), Professor Cathal Kelly. I enthusiastically pitched the idea for a student-run journal to him, took a deep breath, and asked him for €20,000 to get it running...without blinking he said yes, and I immediately regretted not asking for more!

The journal would not exist without the hard work and perseverance of some very close friends: Dr Tom Fahey, Clara Boyd, Erik Pearson, Amy Bagatto, Laura Cullen, Kristl Dorschner and Brian Corley were all involved in reviewing, writing, rewriting, editing and making the deadlines for the first edition.

Which SMJ paper do you remember best? ... and why?

Looking through the table of contents now, ten years on, I can remember something (some good, some bad) about almost every article! I think the article on Abraham Colles written by Erik Pearson and I stands out for personal reasons. Erik and I frequently and competitively studied anatomy together over oatmeal in Bewley's and are now both paediatric surgeons. As research for the article we were granted access to the special collections and archives in the RCSI library, which includes a box of Colles' artefacts. This includes his medical degree, personal letters and a number of his books - fascinating artefacts that I am sure most students don't even know exist.

Read their article on Abraham Colles here.

Tell us a little about what you have been up to since graduation:

I graduated from RCSI in 2008 and then completed my internship in Beaumont. I had a previous career in finance prior to medicine and so was facing postgraduate training a little older than most of my peers. In order to complete surgical training as quickly as possible, I decided to apply to the US, and with the help of my mentor Prof Paddy Broe I secured a general surgery residency position at the Cleveland Clinic. I spent five intense years of residency there and during that time fell in love with the sub-specialty of paediatric surgery fellowship.

Paediatric surgery is a competitive fellowship, especially as an IMG (International Medical Graduate), but ultimately I secured a fellowship place in Nicklaus Children's Hospital, Miami, Florida. I completed two years there before taking my current position as a paediatric surgeon in Kalispell, Montana where we are establishing the state's first Children's Hospital.

Gavin Falk

A hard day at work in Paeds!

Has your involvement in SMJ had an impact on your career?

Indirectly it has had a huge impact on my career. The SMJ marked the beginning of my own academic writing and publishing career. It taught me about preparing a manuscript and the peer review process, and I continued writing throughout my residency. I never took any dedicated time off for basic science research but jumped on every case report or clinical project that I could manage. The research that I published was undoubtedly influential in helping to secure a fellowship position in paediatric surgery.

And finally, any standout memories from your years at RCSI?

Outside of the clinical experiences, playing Hospital Cup Rugby, the 2005 Rugby Tour to New Zealand and the chance to run the Boston Marathon with a team of RCSI students are my standout memories.

I am forever indebted to the College for affording me the chance to pursue the best job in the world (paediatric surgery) and for the many friends, colleagues and relationships I made as a student.

Thank you Dr Falk!

You can read this year's SMJ at www.rcsismj.com or, if you would like your own hard copy, please email your name and postal address to alumni@rcsi.ie.