Interview with Mr Gavin Spence

Interview with Mr Gavin Spence

Posted on: 17-01-2018


Mr Gavin Spence, Consultant Paediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children


What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

I guess the fact that many of my patients have rare conditions which means you have to work out a lot of the treatment from first principles.


What have you learnt from the children you have helped?

In this job you learn something from every case you treat. You also learn that children and their families have an amazing capacity to cope with adversity which is quite humbling.


What is the most difficult condition you have had to treat and why?

I would say the complex foot deformities we treat by circular external fixation are the most technically challenging.


What advice would you give to someone who wants to work within paediatrics?

If you are thinking about it, make contact with your local unit and get some experience – it’s very different to the rest of orthopaedics! Those of us who do it can’t imagine doing anything else, but it’s definitely not for everyone.


What are the main differences between treating adults and children?

There are loads of differences, but the main one is that children just want to get back to playing which makes them very easy to work with. They usually don’t see themselves as “patients” at all. Paediatric practice gets bad press because of the fear of dealing with difficult parents – in fact most parents just want you to take them and their child seriously, and if you do that, you will find a very appreciative audience.


What progress would you like to still see made within this field?

“Smart” methods of deformity correction are just around the corner, given the ease of imaging, 3D modelling, and 3D printing. I think we will see a big change in this area very soon.


What career achievements are you most proud of?

Pride isn’t really something I’m comfortable with. Humility is a more valuable trait, especially in a surgeon. I’ve had some fabulous trainers and colleagues, if I can repay that debt by doing some decent training, I’ll be happy (but not proud!)


You were the first recipient of ORUK’s research grants, how did this funding help shape your future?

Without ORUK’s support I would not have been able to complete my research degree and learn first-hand how scientists go about their business. That was a very important lesson for a clinician. It also taught me about the importance of working in collaborative teams, and set up a relationship with ORUK I’m really glad continues today!


Why should trainees attend your Paediatric Orthopaedic revision course?

I think we have created a successful course by listening to what candidates want, and having access to an enthusiastic faculty as well as interesting clinical cases. There’s usually a waiting list for the course so we must be doing something right!


If you had to choose an alternative job what would it be and why?

A jazz musician, I’m completely obsessed with it. Mind you, Art Themen is a world-class jazz musician AND an orthopaedic surgeon (or was before he retired)…so maybe I could do both! To be honest, Art is in a different class though.


If stranded on a desert island which 3 items could you not be without?

My trumpet because I’d have a decent amount of time to practise for a change. If I’m on my own I’ll need a piano too. Don’t know about the third item….I suppose a boat is out of the question? Don’t think the isolation would work for me!


What might our readers be surprised to know about you?

I actually failed the paediatric orthopaedic station at my FRCS(Orth) exam, but did well enough on the other stations to compensate and pass. The questions were unfair though….

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