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After taking a year off med school to play rugby for Canada, Jim Douglas has left the field for a career in orthopedic surgery - photo by Darin Dueck
After taking a year off med school to play rugby for Canada, Jim Douglas has left the field for a career in orthopedic surgery - photo by Darin Dueck

UBC Reports | Vol. 53 | No. 5 | May 3, 2007

Rugby Champ Hangs up Cleats for Medicine

By Hilary Thomson

As a world-class rugby player, Jim Douglas knows how to perform under pressure, handle the unexpected and keep focused until the job is done. With that kind of experience, he probably won’t even break a sweat as he trains to become an orthopedic surgeon.

Douglas, who graduates with an MD this month, has played competitive rugby as a flanker (forward) since he was 12 years old in his hometown of Kelowna, B.C., and he played for UBC’s varsity team while completing a Bachelor of Human Kinetics degree.
“I’ve always been interested in biomechanics and how the body performs,” says the 30-year-old. “Medicine, and orthopedics in particular, is a logical connection to my love of sport.”

Douglas had played seven-a-side rugby at a national level since 2001, representing Canada around the world. In Beijing, where rugby is not well known, the team played in front of 200-300 soldiers “drafted” as spectators, and to a packed 45,000-seat stadium in Hong Kong. In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, they played on a grass field in the middle of the desert, to the cheers of the sultan himself.

A year after entering med school in 2002, Douglas had to make a critical decision. He had the chance to compete for Canada in the Rugby World Cup – a full-time commitment during the academic year. After some soul-searching and discussions with Faculty of Medicine advisors, he took a year out for the opportunity to wear the Rugby Canada jersey.

“The faculty was very gracious in allowing me the time off,” says Douglas. “I got great support, and now I’ve doubled my network of friends and classmates over two graduating classes.”

The team spent six weeks in Australia, and although they didn’t bring home gold, Douglas has no regrets. The remainder of the year off allowed him to complete a research project at Vancouver General Hospital that examined the amount of time residents were exposed to surgical training.

“That was a great experience. I got to know the residents, saw the positive results for patients and observed all kinds of orthopedic surgeries. It really confirmed where I wanted to be.”

Back at school in September 2004, Douglas hung up his cleats to focus on his studies. He admits one of the hardest parts of med school was walking away from national and international competition. Apart from the time commitment, he didn’t want to risk an injury that could jeopardize his mobility or dexterity.

In reflecting on his four years, Douglas talks about the high quality of teaching and guidance he received and singles out ethicist Alistair Browne, pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr. Chris Reilly and anatomy instructor Majid Doroudi as significant positive influences.

After graduation, he’ll take a brief time-out to marry Hope, a UBC research co-ordinator, and then it’s back onto the field for a five-year orthopedic residency in Lower Mainland hospitals.

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Last reviewed 03-May-2007

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