• Dominic O'Connor

Oh, how time flies when you’re having fun!

I have recently returned to Dublin from Seville after 6 months on secondment at Oncoavanze, a private clinical facility which provides oncology services to the people of Seville. The last 6 months has seen me interact and provide exercise rehabilitation services to oncology patients who have completed or are undergoing chemotherapy for a variety of cancer types. This rehabilitation service involved the use of electrical stimulation (NMES) to augment their rehab and improve muscle strength and exercise capacity, to a level where they would feel comfortable and able of taking part in voluntary exercise. In a previous post, I discussed the rewarding nature of the work I am involved in. Over my time, I met with 10 patients, with 6 completing their electrical stimulation rehabilitation. The results from this work will be written up and published so I will not discuss them here.

Everyone experiences challenges on a day to day basis. Moving to a new country has its own unique challenges, which can be daunting at first. The major one can be making friends, and this can be made even more difficult when you can barely speak the language. I initially travelled to Spain for 5 days to meet the clinical team at Oncoavanze and get to know my new city before, packing up life in Dublin and moving over. This initial visit was key as it allowed me to relax, meet and speak with new colleagues and enjoy my new city, and get to know my way around. As a rugby player, I contacted a local rugby club before arriving and I trained with my new team on this first visit. I could not have asked for a more welcoming bunch of lads. They even helped me find an apartment for my time there, and I have made some great friends for life. By integrating with locals I also got to see the “real” Seville. Considering myself a bit of a foodie, this was ideal as I asked everyone I could “where is good to eat?”. However, with a new country comes new culture. This took some getting with dinner rarely eaten before 10pm! A slight change from my 6 or 7pm dinners back home.

Making friends quickly really made a massive difference, and I rarely had a free weekend; Tapas tours, summer nights drinks, lunches, dinners, rugby matches, and even beach rugby when the season had finished. Now, it may sound like I was on holiday but work was challenging and, like I have mentioned, very rewarding. Getting a first-hand look at the running of a private oncology clinic was fascinating and meeting both oncologists and patients really meant I learnt a lot from both! It will be interesting to compare my experience in Seville with my upcoming secondment at the Beacon Hospital in Dublin.

Whilst in Seville, academic work also continued, with our mid-term review occurring in June, in Seville. This coincided with the Participatory Health Informatics conference. In addition, I was lucky to have 3 papers published during this 6 month period, a short commentary on the current use of NMES in cancer (, a systematic review which looks at the efficacy and prescription of NMES in adult cancer survivors ( and a review which discussed the use of NMES in older adults for managing the effects on inactivity ( The first two of these papers will form chapters of my thesis.

So, secondment is over (in Spain at least) until January when I will return to Seville. Now I move to the Beacon for a welcome new challenge. However, the Seville will remain in the back of my mind as it is a wonderful city and I am already excited about my return in January.

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