One of the great things about working at Charterhouse Medical is meeting and working with our ED doctors, and finding out more about their passions and interests outside of the hospital setting.
I met Dr Jon Cohen when we agreed to catch up to complete the paperwork for his latest locum. As we were chatting over a coffee, it turned out he has been an avid surfer over the years and has used the opportunity to travel the country to visit the best surf areas, while picking up some locum work in the area on side. On top of that he was about to launch his own business.
Drawing upon his vast experience as an Emergency Medicine doctor, Jon has established his company Better Surf Marketplace, whose aim is to get innovative products into the hands of the surfers and ocean users that need them most. These products are geared towards making the ocean a more enjoyable and safer place to be. Jon has combined his extensive medical knowledge with his passion for surfing and has a long-term goal to deliver medical education to both surfers and travellers.
How did the idea of Better Surf Marketplace come about?
I’m pretty much always on the go – my work as an emergency doctor keeps me on the move. I usually just take half time gigs as my main job, lump all the shifts together and then fill in at other hospitals in coastal towns around the traps.
I realised just how many of the spots I was surfing had seen fatal attacks in the past 10 years, or even just big shark sightings in the past few weeks and it started to play on my mind a bit.
I had a basic design concept come to me pretty much straight away, and then sharks, haemorrhagic shock and tourniquets became a bit of an obsession for me over the next few months.
It became clear that there was a bit of a niche open for providing medical education to surfers and travellers.
What designs are you working on at the moment?
The idea that started me on this path was “The SET” – The Surfer’s Emergency Tourniquet (tight bands used to control bleeding by completely stopping the blood flow to a wound). I wanted to have a model that was in the $50 range, so basically everyone could have the power to save their own life, or the life of someone they’re surfing with. I’ve also come up with a second design that’ll cost a bit more but might suit some people better. We’re focused on getting some working prototypes built and the three main things they each need to do, to be better than anything else on the market, is be unobtrusive, easy and quick to deploy, and be 100% reliable.
Because this has taken longer than I was hoping, I wanted to make the best existing products available to surfers who want to be able to save a life in the case of shark attack.
I’m currently working on getting a line of ultra-high quality First Aid Kits – Calm As…first aid kits for surfers - designed for surfers and adventure sport travellers. The main thing about these kits is that they’re stocked with products that are tried, tested and heavily curated by myself and a couple of other experienced emergency doctors. The second thing is that they’re coming in primo quality, custom designed bags that suit each of our intended users’ needs in terms of portability and extra storage sections.
What is your long-term goal with Better Surf Marketplace?
I really just want this to be a way of getting reliable medical information, that’s pertinent to surfers and adventure sport enthusiasts, in an easily digestible, approachable and maybe even entertaining way.
Down the track, I’d love to try to formalise an education program for medics at surf camps, and maybe even start some sort of an accreditation system for surf camps to increase the level of medical competence surf travellers can expect when they fork out big bucks on their week in paradise.
What advice would you give to those who are planning surf trips in remote areas?
I think the main thing when it comes to surf trip advice comes down to planning and understanding the dangers. Medical problems on a surf trip can be broken down into these main categories:
Pre-existing conditions – if you’re a diabetic, on blood thinners, have a dodgy knee – anything that could pose a problem to you while away from access to medicine and medical advice, just make sure you’ve got enough of your meds, supplies, etc., and importantly insurance and a medical summary for your treating doctors in hospital in case things go really pear-shaped.
Local diseases you’ll be exposed to – Vaccines for Hep A / Typhoid, Yellow Fever, preventive meds and supplies for things like Malaria, Dengue, HIV (yes, condoms). Hopefully we will be able to provide some general advice in upcoming vids and posts, but really this is where seeing a GP in a good travel clinic before you go is worthwhile. Know before you go.
Surf Carnage – a basic kit to sort out all of the common things like reef rash, urchin spines, fin chops, tweaked ankles and shoulders. If you’ve got a medical background it can be comforting to have a more comprehensive kit such as a tourniquet, knowing how to improvise a pelvic binder, or having some basic airway tools can be the difference between a mate’s life and death.
Para-surf carnage – sunburn, dehydration, next level alcohol or polysubstance intoxication, jock rot, gastro, or even a common flu – all of these can have serious consequences in a remote setting.
If you can think about what you might need in those 4 broad categories, you should have most bases covered.
At the end of the day, when we’re in remote areas doing potentially dangerous things, we need to be able to provide the first aid that’s going to give us enough time to make it to a big hospital where most of the life-saving operations and procedures, like a massive transfusion, can take place.
I’ve been in the ED a few times waiting for the ambulance to bring in really sick people they’ve called ahead for, only to have them die en route. These deaths aren’t always preventable, but in those situations every link in the “chain of survival” is more important than the one that follows.
Dr Cohen’s business continues to grow and he recently spoke at the Big Wave Risk Assessment Group (BWRAG) summit at the end of April (2019) about his Calm As…first aid kits for surfers kit and on general water safety. For more information on his products and story please visit https://bettersurf.com.au/
Jon’s venture was born from his passion of surfing and is a great example of where some flexibly in your working life can lead you. If you feel like you could benefit, as Jon has, in working flexible hours, whether as a locum or on a reduced hours permanent contract, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Charterhouse Medical to see how we can help.
Adam Pia | 02 9641 2489 | firstname.lastname@example.org