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The Quack Guide

yellow-duckShiv Chopra is a member of Wesleyan Medical Sickness' Advisory Board. He is currently in his first year as a Core Surgical Trainee in London, working at the National hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery.

As if that wasn't enough, Shiv is also the owner and creator of 'The Quack Guide', the UK's first and only independent guide to foundation hospitals for students and junior doctors.

In this interview, he talks about the challenges of building a successful medical career while still finding time to run a successful not-for-profit business.

What is Quack?

In 2007 the way junior doctors were recruited changed from a local recruitment scheme to a national one. This meant final year students had to rank all regions of the country in order of preference without any knowledge of the hospitals and surrounding areas.

The fear in the back of every medic's mind was that they could end up working in a hospital they had never been to before and with no family and friends nearby. Recognising these concerns, I tabled a motion to the national BMA conference to hold an expo or provide more information on all hospital sites, but this was not possible. So, together with a few friends from other medical schools, we created our own guide - The Quack Guide - a free magazine sent to all medical schools in the UK. Two years later we went online and have just launched our new site.

It is officially endorsed and supported by the medical school heads and foundation schools, and is written by junior doctors with first-hand experience of the areas they are living in, providing testimonials and advice about living and working in the area and much more.

It is a non-profit website and is free for all students and junior doctors to use.

What has made it so successful?

Having great relationships with every foundation school manager, the UKFPO (United Kingdom Foundation Programme Office) and doctors across the UK, has been vital, as has making sure our information is up to date.

It allows Quack to provide a hassle-free way to find out about a foundation hospital and its surroundings, meaning students don't have to spend hours researching, which is not idea when you have finals looming.

And, of course, we wouldn't be so successful without the dedicated team of Quack-a-holics!

What are the challenges of running a not-for-profit business?

The biggest challenge is finding the right balance to keep my sanity. I'm currently a core surgical trainee and I have to complete DOPs, CEXs, TABs and many other three letter abbreviated assessments throughout the year to stay above water. Alongside all of this is my family, extra-curricular activities and Quack. There aren't enough hours in the day!

Last year I recruited people to help with Quack and was inundated with CVs from keen photographers to doctors who just wanted to express their views. The finance of the company is a real challenge too, especially as I want to keep the company free for people to use. This has been at a cost and I have had to invest a lot of my personal junior doctor wage into updating and promoting the site. I hope that through sponsorship and partnerships with interested companies I can maintain a free Quack guide in the future.

What advice would you give other doctors who would like to pursue their own business initiatives?

1. Do your homework
2. Speak to people who have set up their own business
3. Form a team of people who can help in all areas of the business from the website to marketing
4. Be committed to the project for the long term. Businesses need to be constantly refreshed and updated so you need to be willing to commit the hours needed for a successful venture.

What non-medical skills do you need to run your own business and what has helped you fine tune yours?

1. Haggle for the best process
2. Some basic accounting skills and being good with spreadsheets is vital
3. Go on a web design course or teach yourself so you are not always paying someone for the basic things you can do
4. Network with everyone to know your market, potential sponsors and competitors
5. Be prepared to fine tune your knowledge the hard way – through trial and error and learning from mistakes. There is no book on this.

What has the whole experience taught you?

There is no 'I' in team and no success without 'U'.

What are your future plans for 'Quack'?

To have coverage of all hospitals, not just foundations training Trusts, and even information on working at sites around the world and advice on speciality training. I'd also like to create a mobile 'app' and produce some Quack merchandise.

What are your greatest ambitions?

I'd like Quack to be the 'Lonely Planet' of guides for medical staff and to keep helping my fellow peers through initiatives such as Quack. I'd also like to see Arsenal win the Champions' League in my lifetime!

Visit Quack at www.thequackguide.com

For more information or for specialist financial advice contact Wesleyan Medical Sickness on 0808 100 1884 or visit the website at www.wesleyan.co.uk/doctors.