I’ve always wanted to be able to do or deal with anything and as a doctor you tend only to become experienced with the patients within your speciality. The idea of being asked for on a plane or to help if someone’s injured outside of hospital genuinely scared me!
It was this reason that made me choose to ‘try’ working in an emergency department. I came out to Australia for the climate, the outdoor active lifestyle and to work in emergency in order to be a better doctor…not because working in emergency was what I wanted to do long-term. After 3 months my first supervisor asked me what I wanted to do “anaesthetics or paediatric surgery” was still my answer until he highlighted how obvious it was that I loved connecting with people.
In emergency I get to build a rapport with every patient I see in order to better their health, with a decent dose of problem-solving and an incredible team of emergency staff to work with. I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else now.
Do More came about when I found my ‘why’ (credit to Simon Sinek for the phrasing). Working in Intensive Care on a ward round with Professor Levett, who I later learned was the president of the Perioperative Exercise Testing and Training Society (POETTS). With each patient she asked me, “What’s their exercise tolerance?” I’d look to the unconscious patient with the ventilator attached, a combination of drugs running through their veins to keep their heart pumping, and think, “I didn’t ask” (they couldn’t answer!). As the ward round progressed, Prof. Levett highlighted just how important the patient’s physical fitness was if they were to survive their admission. I went and found her afterwards, with a new sense of purpose and enthusiasm, wanting to be involved in anything to do with physical activity.
I started reading research about the benefits of physical activity to arm me with knowledge when I read a 2016 BMJ-published systematic review. The message was clear that we didn’t need people to do ‘x’ amount of exercise, a particular type or for a particular intensity but just that we need to Do More. Improvements in exercise intensity and quantity have greatest impact at the lower end of the scale.
That night I started a mind-map with ‘Do More’ in the middle, I was going to create projects, campaigns, phone apps, research…anything that would help people Do More physical activity.
At the end of 2019 I was awarded a Junior Medical Officer of the Year award for ‘a significant contribution to the activities and positive culture of Central Coast Local Health District’.
Outside of work, I share my enthusiasm out over the central coast community when I spend my time meeting ‘Providers’ on the coast: yoga teachers, gym owners, personal trainers, kayak hire shop owners, exercise physiologists and physiotherapists…the list is long. Inside of work however, my colleagues are fortunate or unfortunate enough (I’m not sure yet!) to see me regularly turning up in gym kit from the last activity and raving about how great it is!
My friends and colleagues at work in Gosford and Wyong Emergency Departments have been unbelievably supportive. They share their stories of difficulties and triumphs with exercise and we organise activities together for anyone that can make it.
I was given the award to support what I’m doing, in and out of work. Thank you team!
Simply: I know it’s good for me.
When I’m stuck between the decision to move and the decision not to, I know I’ll be better for exercise.
I used to spend entire days in bed, questioning the point of it all, and when I look back on those miserable days, I never felt better for staying there. I never found the answer and I’m pretty sure I never will (I’d be talking about that if I knew!) but the times that I got myself up and out – on a run or to the gym, or even just a brisk walk outside of the house, I would ALWAYS feel better.
The days that getting out of bed feels like the hardest task or making it to the exercise class feels impossible, I move with faith that I’ll be better for it. If I can instill that faith in others, whether it be through sharing research or getting people to experience it, I’m sure we’ll have a more active coast.
After seeing the value exercise had in my own life and then being shown by an intensive care consultant the much greater impact it can have, I was set on trying to help people to exercise more. The research that amazed me the most, and there’s a lot of amazing research around the benefits of physical activity, showed that it was the lower end of the exercise scale that made the greatest difference. I gave seminars to handfuls of junior doctors (and anyone that would listen) about the diverse benefits and the fact that you don’t have to be exercising for hours every day to reap them…this is where the message emerged “you don’t have to become an athlete, just Do More”
I was taking my own advice and with that already found a benefit for those around me. Whether they were joining me for a workout or just finding the motivation to get moving, Doctor Do More quickly became the role model I aspire to be.
Do More is about improving health and happiness through physical activity. My own experience with exercise and research into the effects on health assures me of the relationship between the two.
The goal is as simple as increasing the amount of physical activity we do; confident this will improve health.
When I talk about health, I often worry my audience start to fall asleep. Health is our physical and mental state, to me that’s everything. It’s how you feel and how your body functions. It’s with this in mind that when I say about the positive impact of physical activity on health I don’t just mean reducing the risk of heart disease or cancer (which it does), nor do I mean it’s impact solely on mental health (which is huge). People that are more active and healthier. Physical activity improves quality of life.
Improving access and engagement with physical activity will be no small job, but knowing the powerful benefit this will have keeps me focussed on helping people to Do More.
I wouldn’t want to spoil any surprises
2020 marks the end of a trial period for me. In 2019 I started work in the Emergency Department and I started Do More, not sure if I could make something of either experience. I’ve looked back overwhelmed with how amazing both ventures have been.
In 2020 I want to accelerate the Do More search engine from a pilot project to the valuable platform it can be. With funding from local grants (I hope) and sponsorship from well-being focussed businesses I’ll look to upgrade the website making it more intuitive, easier to use, and much more accessible.
In 2020 I’m hoping to reach more of the community. I’ll be giving seminars and workshops on the benefits of exercise and how we can participate more as an individual, family or a collective.
In 2020, I’ll continue doing what I love most – keeping happy and healthy through a variety of activity. I’m looking forward to meeting new providers and catching up with the familiar ones too. I’ll showcase as much of the activities on the coast as I can and hope to do so with as many people as possible.
In 2020, I’ll be fundraising for Cancer Council NSW. I’ll be dancing with the brilliant Lauren Miller and, in the lead up to our show in May, I’ll be raising as much money as possible to support those affected by Cancer. Visit https://stars.cancercouncil.com.au/fundraisers/ashbowden/stars-of-central-coast to donate
Wyong Emergency Department
A short while ago, Ash joined our team on the Central Coast, and introduced us to an amazing campaign for more compassion and connection in healthcare. Today, the first batch of badges arrived for Wyong ED. More info @ www.hellomynameis.org.uk
You are a joy to work with and I am 100% backing you in all that you do – absolutely LOVE what you are doing for the Coast/health and wellbeing and your passion is highly contagious.
All Ability Yoga
I am writing on behalf of the Central Coast community, to highlight the marvellous ignition of service provided by Dr. Ash Bowden who of his own back, mapped numerous options for accessible movement for people of all ages and abilities on his website
Dr. Bowden is a mover and shaker passionate about the ongoing health and wellbeing of people from all age groups, he is a dedicated health professional, someone who goes above and beyond his capacity to provide results.
Troy & Kasey Paul
The Collective Gym