A Spanish doctor in Antarctica - Adrián Castellote

Adrián Castellote, from Spain, is not like any other family doctor, he is an adventurer, an explorer, and his resumé proves it. After finishing his medical studies and before starting his “Residency” period, he embarked on a three year world trip. Years later, Adrián is semFYC’s representative in WONCA Europe’s Network, EURIPA – the organisation for doctors from rural and remote areas in Europe. He is now embarking on a working trip on a sailing expedition to Antarctica.

Here, semFYC, the Spanish organisation for Family Doctors, interviews Adrián.

Hello Adrián, we know that you are very busy preparing your next expedition to Antarctica. Why do you find remote medicine interesting?
I think it’s because the remote area - very often directly related to the rural environment - presents a set of peculiarities in which family doctors and nurses have to learn how to take very different sort of decisions from those that would sometimes be taken in a urban or semi-urban environment. This seems interesting to me, first because I like to live in places a little far away, on a personal level it motivates me, and also because we can be very useful.

After returning from your world trip you talked a lot about your experiences, in the media. Do you plan to broadcast your new trip to the Antarctica in a similar way?
When I went around the world between 2009 and 2012 I kept a blog of the places I was going and the experiences I lived, my thoughts, emotions ... I did it mainly thinking of my family and friends. I have never been very active on social networks, I do not even have Twitter. During this new trip, I will be most of the time without internet connection, but I do have the intention of describing the experience. We’ll be about 60 people and I’ll be the only doctor. Being in charge of this small human community makes me feel responsible and makes me think that it may be interesting to reflect my medical experiences on the boat.

What else can you tell us about this new adventure?
It is a training expedition for those people who want to learn how to navigate in difficult situations and in isolated places. The company that organises it is called Bark Europa and it is a Dutch company that restored the boat a few years ago. My role will be mainly medical, to ensure that the health of the entire expedition is under control and participate in all expeditions on the Antarctic coast.

Who are the people who will come with you?
Most of the 60 people who will travel with me have a rather playful motivation for the trip, although it is true that many of them are also scientists, biologists or students of climate change and the ocean. It will be interesting to see how they work and analyse the changes in the ocean’s fauna and the geology of the sites that we are finding. Most of the landscapes and coasts that we see will be uninhabited, but there will be camps of other scientific research teams.

How will this experience differ from that of the daily work of a rural doctor or a doctor in a remote area?
I think that mainly I will not have a nursing partner and that the possibilities for evacuation will be limited. When you are on land the possibilities for assistance are greater than when you are at sea. I will have to be especially cautious and I will have to take advantage of the opportunities of communication with medical teams on the ground.

What are you hoping to learn?
I think I will learn a lot. Both as a family doctor and as a person. I would like to talk with people and know their stories. The possibility of combining medicine with travel, photography, writing and doing it with total independence motivates me a lot. I also believe that I will learn to cope with high levels of responsibility in the face of potentially dramatic conditions.

How can we track your trip?
From the website of the company that organises the trip, you can where the ship is at all times.