Global webinars are the new rock’n’roll for A&E doctor

A former medical student turned rock star has returned to his first love – and is now aiming to help improve healthcare in some of the poorest parts of the world.

Eoghan Colgan at work at Glasgow Royal Infirmary

As well as working in the A&E department at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Eoghan Colgan, 41, also runs MedReach, a Scottish company aiming to providing equal access to medical education around the globe.

The company, set up in August 2018, has just launched the Global Classroom programme, training critical care nurses anywhere in the world via fortnightly webinars.

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Colgan’s desire to improve third world healthcare stems from his days as a medical student in Belfast.

“When I decided on medicine, I knew that I wanted to work for Médecins Sans Frontières in Africa,” he said. “I felt that I needed to know medical French, so I worked in the Ivory Coast in the summer of my third year in medical school.”

Instead of helping his French, that journey in 1998 almost ended Colgan’s life. “I was working in this bush hospital and I had not been there very long before I contracted what we think was malaria, but we don’t know for sure,” he says.

“The doctor who looked after me said afterwards that he was not sure if I would survive. But I was not in intensive care or anything, just in a mud hut with a drip nailed to the wall.”

After he qualified in 2001 he was advised by tropical disease experts not to work in Africa. He moved to Glasgow, via Australia, and in 2007 quit his career as a doctor and focussed full-time on music.

Colgan played at the O2 Wireless Festival in Hyde Park and appeared at the at Q Awards nomination ceremony alongside Athlete, Hard-Fi and the Manic Street Preachers. In 2009, he performed in Dublin as part of the global celebrations to mark the 250th anniversary of Guinness.

He also met his wife Gianna, and after they were married in 2011 returned to medicine as an emergency doctor, although he still wasn’t set on a traditional medical career.

When he started exploring the courses and conferences on offer he realised the limits on accessing training. Most were expensive and required travelling.

Colgan eventually decided to bring the training to his doorstep by launching his own business, Critical Care Events, in Scotland.

“It became the new rock’n’ roll for me,” he explains. “I had years of experience in organising my own events. These training events are like gigs – you book the venue, get a line-up and you sell the tickets. I took all of that experience and applied it to organising medical events.”

Some of what emerged from Critical Care’s events was “so impactful” that he felt it should be available to a wider online audience. This grew into what is now known as MedReach, which launched formally in August 2018.

The potential impact on global healthcare training is “exciting”, he says, and has also brought his life around full circle.

“I nearly died, and didn’t get to work in Africa, and then went off into music, but still came back to medicine.

“But that pivot in direction into music allowed me to develop skills that are now helping to build a new way to support health care in Africa. Twenty years after near-death, and we’re doing something that we don’t think anyone has done before.”