Satpal Bansal is one of our Senior Practice Educators (SPE’s) at the UCO. In the latest of our professional profile series he tells us a bit about his career path and recent visit to Buckingham Palace, and shares his thoughts on how the profession has evolved during his time as a practitioner.
Satpal, it was so lovely to see the pictures of you and your wife at Buckingham Place, looking suitably splendid if I may say so! How was the day for you both?
Fantastic! It was unbelievable to be there – such a great atmosphere. It was really special when Charles asked me to attend, which was in 2020. These were obviously cancelled at that time due to Covid, so we’ve had a bit of a wait!
And I saw in the pictures, you were nattering away to the Countess of Wessex?
Oh yes:) We were lucky enough to be invited by one of the ushers to meet one of the Royal party. After exquisite tea, cakes and even onion bhaji wraps, we were asked to move to where the Royal party were, and the Countess of Wessex spoke with us.
I explained that I was there on behalf of the UCO and talked about the work that we do supporting the community, patients and students. She asked about how we managed during the pandemic, how the UCO coped, and I talked about how we moved everything online at great speed, and we re-opened the clinic as soon as we could with PPE etc. I said it was a huge challenge but as a team we all pulled together.
And was the Countess of Wessex aware of osteopathy?
Yes, she seemed very familiar with it. She talked about osteopathy and how helpful it is for her own situation, and the value it could bring to people.
So, you were at the palace representing the UCO because of your huge contributions to the education of osteopaths over the years. Could we go back to when you were a student and hear what inspired you to become an osteopath?
The first time I heard about osteopathy was on the radio and it really interested me. I’d never heard of osteopathy before then, so off I went to the library (no internet back then!) to find out a bit more. I spent the day with an osteopath, who was a Regional Osteopathic Careers Officer (ROCO) and I fell in love with it then really. There was something really special about helping people in pain or needing help, coming to see the osteopath and leaving feeling better. So I applied to the BSO as was then, and here I am now!
Pictured: Then and now - Satpal Bansal and Duncan Scobie as BSO students and in recent years. They have remained good friends throughout their careers and Duncan practices in Helston, Cornwall.
Were there any particular differences in your training, compared to now?
We were lucky to watch dissection at St. Thomas Hospital and did a fair amount of lab work including experimenting on frogs! Lots of senior experienced osteopaths who taught lots of visceral work and classical osteopathy, so some differences. We studied in central London, in Suffolk Street so a great place to study and I made great long lasting friendships. We still have year group reunions and get togethers now.
What about when you graduated from the BSO? Did you have clear plans about your career?
I knew that I wanted to set up my own practice but was keen to get more experience as an associate first. I applied to a number of practices and osteopathy at that time, some 33 years ago, was a very white middle class profession, so being Asian and wearing a turban did not fit in to their practice model and was pretty obvious that I wasn’t going to be offered a position in their clinic. I’m pleased to see this has changed tremendously over the years, although there is more to do here.
Thankfully I was offered a job at osteopathic clinic in a health club, and then a few years later, set up my own practice, where I converted a house to a clinic and am still there today, busy as ever and enjoying practice life.
You’ve been teaching here at the BSO/UCO for 30 years and have supported a huge number of students and graduates, including through mentoring in your own practice. This is so valuable for students and graduates, and important for you as well?
Yes, I still find it so rewarding. It’s great to be recognised, sometimes 20-30 years down the line, seeing osteopaths at a conference, or starting working at the UCO. You might get a tap on the shoulder from a student (now graduate) that you worked with. It’s great to hear about their progress and how you might have played a small part in helping them along the way.
I’m still passionate about teaching and education – I’m learning from students and colleagues all the time. My clinical team at the UCO provide a really supportive environment for all of us, staff, students and patients, it’s an important part of my working week.
You touched upon diversity in the profession. From your perspective, how do you think this has changed in the last 30+ years?
Diversity has improved tremendously – there’s much more diversity, acceptance of different faiths, different sexual orientation, people aren’t afraid to be who they are. And I am pleased to say this is reflected in students at the UCO, which is so important.
Finally, given the time of year, do you have any advice for new graduates who have recently flown the UCO nest?
Osteopathy and osteopaths provide great support in their community and have the potential to really help people. You will be challenged by patients, and you should be prepared for this, but don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, either from friends and colleagues, from alumni, mentors, and the UCO. I still have people getting in touch at times for help and support, and I think as a community, we are caring and supportive for each other, as well as our patients and community.
It’s important to work hard but have a good work-life balance and not overdo it and burn out. Osteopathy can then provide a rewarding and successful career and your success will be when your patients walk out being in better health.