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December 2008 -Developing the Persona....

It gives me great pleasure to present a guest Train of Thought offered by Phil Munoz, currently in Barcelona. I have sought guest pieces before but Phil is the first to accept the challenge. Thanks Phil.


"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page" ~St. Augustine (354-430AD)

I have read the ANZSRS web-site, with great interest, on a monthly basis and have been able to stay in touch with the goings on back in Australia. Some time ago now, Kevin asked me if I would like to provide a guest Train of Thought so here goes…….

4 years and 3 months ago, I packed my bags, as a respiratory research scientist, and ventured to the other side of the World, heading for Barcelona in Spain. I had been there before with family, but only for holidays. This time I was here to live and to work. A new and very different experience!

I was in the Netherlands last week and, while there, I began to wonder what makes us Aussies so special in the world, such great travellers? Is it our fantastic game of AFL? Is it our meat pies? I personally believe we Aussies have an inherent adventurous attitude and a sense of yearning to discover the unknown beyond our shores. Out of all my Aussie friends I would say at least 80% have spent a month or more travelling abroad. Indeed, this also applies to our professional aspirations, with a healthy proportion of young Aussies heading overseas to expand their knowledge and experience.

During my masters classes, here in Barcelona, I had many a heated debate with colleagues, on a diverse range of topics from lung caner screening through to respiratory biomarkers. Being in a class which comprised doctors and scientists from 6 different countries, ensured there was always a wide range of, and often very different, viewpoints on the table. This was a great learning environment. Exposure to these different viewpoints and approaches leads to an understanding of the diversity of ideas and needs that are out there. For example Spain tackles its respiratory problems in very different ways, depending on the Region involved. You may agree or disagree with these different ideas and approaches, however, to rationalise why one viewpoint may be better than another is at the heart of healthy advancement and of being a real scientist. Here in Spain, and more broadly in Europe, I have learned that each country has its own, and often different way, of dealing with the same problem.

We are very fortunate, as Aussies and Kiwis, that we have a rich ethnic diversity seen in only a few countries in our world. We, the offspring of migrants, whether newly arrived or here since day dot, have a great opportunity to travel to the countries of our forebears. Through this travelling, we bring back experiences, languages and knowledge from diverse places. We develop a deeper understanding of different cultures and this enhances our interactions with others, at home and at work.

Living and working abroad also heightens our appreciation of our own culture. We belong to a very well structured Society, one which meets the needs of Australasian Respiratory Scientists. It has taken this trip away, and time in another system, to make me really appreciate the professionalism and high standard the ANZSRS gives to its members. I have discovered I was spending time "looking at the forest" rather than appreciating the individual trees.

There are trains all over the World and the train I would like you to board can provide the trip of a lifetime. Find a way to get on board and give respiratory science abroad a go! For some it may be easier than for others, of course, but the rewards are great. It is always easier to stay in our "comfort zone" but that brings few rewards in comparison.

The networks and friendships that have been made whilst working abroad are absolutely priceless and have enriched my experience hugely. You cannot know what is on the next page until you turn it. I, for one, am grateful for the opportunity to turn the page, indeed many pages. So go on, get out there, see and work the world!!!!

In the meantime, another couple of Tapas plates please!

Hasta la Proxima,

Phillip Munoz

December, 2008




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