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Saturday, 23 June, 2001, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
'Laughter is better than medicine'
Dr James Ruzicka
Dr James Ruzicka: Swapping medicine for comedy career
Doctors often complain that morale in the medical profession is at an all-time low.

They say they have to work long hours under stressful conditions in a poorly-funded and badly-resourced NHS, while holding the barricades against an increasingly disillusioned public.

BBC News Online talks to one doctor who has decided to follow his dreams and leave the stresses of medicine behind him for a life on the stage.


Playing gigs, doing stand-up routines, and producing films, Jimmy Razor is a regular face on the London comedy scene.

But few of his audience are probably aware that the man performing in front of them is actually Dr James Ruzicka a fully-qualified anaesthetist.

But two years ago at the age of just 30, Dr Ruzicka decided to turn his back on a promising medical career and concentrate instead on a career of the heart - the arts.


I had this vision of getting older and then wishing I had done this

Dr James Ruzicka

Although he still takes a couple of locum shifts a month to keep his medical skills up to date and pay some of the bills, Dr Ruzicka is firmly set on making his comedy pay.

Comedy lure

All through his medical career he felt the irresistible lure of comedy.

During his three years at Cambridge and then three at Charing Cross Hospital, Dr Ruzicka managed to performed regularly at the Edinburgh festival, where he took plays and shows.

But after he qualified, he found his time for creative work was being squeezed and all his time taken up either by his medicine or asleep recovering from incredibly long hospital shifts.

"After I qualified there was never any time to do any writing and because I was performing my comedy as part of a double act with another doctor we never had any time to do any acts as one of us was always working."

So after five years of full-time medicine he decided to follow his dreams.

"I had this vision of getting older and then wishing I had done this.

"Some people said to me that I should become a consultant first and then concentrate on my comedy, but this seemed like the right time to make the break.

"I thought I would go crazy and bored if I didn't give it a try.

"Like a lot of juniors I was a bit teed off with medicine.

"The hardest thing for me was drawing a line, but making the break from medicine has left me feeling a lot more fulfilled."

Reactions

But he said he had received mixed messages from other medical colleagues about his change of career.

"Some of the hospitals are thrilled I am a media type, but the other half lose interest in me as a doctor as soon as I mention medicine is not my only career.

"It is surprising how many people assume that medicine is so great that they can't understand why anybody does not want to do it 24/7."

But Dr Ruzicka is realistic about the vagaries of life on the stage. He knows that if his burgeoning comedy career stalls and the bills start mounting up that he can always fall back on his medicine.

"At the moment I am really enjoying my comedy and writing and I know that I have my old career that I can go back to if I need to and they are always short of anaesthetists.

"Actually I have found that since I have stopped doing medicine full-time that I am actually enjoying it a lot more when I do my locum shifts, although I think if the comedy and writing take off I would prefer to do that full-time.

"I am glad that I have my career to fall back on, but if Hollywood comes knocking then I would certainly not be saying that I would prefer to be working in a dingy hospital."

But for now he is enjoying the challenge of giving his artistic talents full rein.

He has even found the time to start writing a fictional novel - what else, but a medical techno-thriller.

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See also:

31 May 01 | Health
Senior doctors' NHS warning
01 Jun 01 | Vote2001
GPs ready to quit NHS
04 Mar 01 | Health
Doctors: The future generations
04 Jun 01 | Health
Medical schools' staff warning
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