Orthopaedic surgeon tops the Vitality Active Rewards for Doctors leaderboard in 2019


In the first quarter of 2019, Dr Marcel Straub won a R5 000 Incredible Connection voucher for being top of the Vitality Active Rewards for Doctors leaderboard. By May, he was still ranked first in the Top Procedural Specialists category.

In mid-May 2019, Dr Straub and his 28-year-old son, Roland, made their way to the start of the KAP sani2c three-day mountain biking stage race. The race starts at the majestic mountains of Sani Pass in the Southern Drakensberg and finishes at the shores of the warm Indian Ocean at Scottburgh Beach on KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast. “We do 80 km of long and arduous riding each day – and we love it!” explains Dr Straub. “The second sani2c day is particularly special as we wake up at 04:30 to ride through the mighty Umkomaas Valley with spectacular views - early morning mist allowing.”

Last December, Dr Straub completed the Desert Dash in Namibia. 24 hours of endurance cycling, mainly on gravel roads, takes riders from Windhoek to Swakopmund, and covers 370 km in six stages. “And, in 2017 and 2018, Roland and I completed the Trans Baviaans 24-hour mountain bike marathon from Willowmore in the heart of the Eastern Cape’s Karoo to the world-renowned surfing haven, Jeffrey’s Bay. It’s really a night race, as we start in the Karoo at 23:00 and see in the sunrise in the most spectacular surroundings", explains Dr Straub.

“I urge my medical colleagues to join Vitality Active Rewards for Doctors”

Dr Straub joined Vitality Active Rewards for Doctors a couple of years ago. “At the time, I had bought a Garmin fitness watch and realised that I could link it to the Discovery app to access Vitality and earn rewards for all the cycling training that I was doing anyway.”

“I urge all of my medical colleagues to join Vitality Active Rewards for Doctors. No matter what our area of speciality is, most of us work long hours and experience ongoing fatigue. That makes doctors – ironically the people who make others healthier - vulnerable to living unhealthy lifestyles and picking up toxic habits that get us through the day. There is an abuse of caffeine, alcohol and other substances – all while living inactive lifestyles. Vitality Active Rewards for Doctors recognises this and is designed to encourage us, and reward us for living healthier lifestyles to achieve our weekly, personalised physical activity goals,” adds Dr Straub. “When doctors on Vitality Active Rewards for Doctors achieve their weekly fitness goals, the programme rewards them with Vitality reward points, which they can spend on a range of rewards." Accessed through the Discovery mobile app, Vitality Active Rewards for Doctors is exclusively available to doctors who have registered their practices with Discovery Health, regardless of whether or not they have any qualifying Discovery products. To register for Vitality Active Rewards for Doctors, simply download the Discovery app and activate Vitality Active Rewards.

200 km of weekend cycling to work and back

Dr Straub cycles for four hours on Saturdays and Sundays, and tries to do a 45-minute ride on his Wattbike at home, where he has an indoor gym. The 60-year-old has lived his passion for cycling from an early age. “I started long-distance cycling in my school days and in high school, I cycled from Pretoria to Cape Town. This cemented my love for the sport.”

Cycling took a back seat when he first went into private practice in 1994 and ran practices in Benoni and Kempton Park while living in Pretoria. “Most doctors experience the same dynamic. My workload was just too high. You’re up at 05:00 and home by 21:00. For three years, I was inactive, unhealthy and stuck in a rut. I gained weight and was chronically tired. Then, a friend who is a general surgeon, asked me to do the Cape Argus Cycle Tour with him. That got me cycling again and into training early mornings at the gym. I also closed the Kempton practice. For many years, I cycled to work in Benoni and back, every Saturday and Sunday - a 100 km return trip each day.” He also completed eight Cape Argus Cycle Tours and three 947 Cycle Challenges in this time. He adds, “Then, ten years ago, I switched from road to mountain biking as I felt our roads were becoming increasingly unsafe after my cycling buddy was knocked down. Fortunately, he wasn’t seriously injured.”

Motivated to be an example of healthy living to his children, who are also doctors

Dr Straub, his wife Helen, their son Roland and daughter Isolde are all avid cyclists, and they plan many family getaways around the sport each year. “My father set such a good example of healthy living, says Dr Straub. “He was still windsurfing at age 75, as he really looked after himself. So it’s so important to me that I also set a healthy example for my children to follow, because it’s so easy to fall into unhealthy living when you work in medicine.”

Roland and Isolde are also doctors. Roland has just completed his community service and is awaiting a post at a state hospital, and Isolde is completing her community service in Kimberly. Both are Discovery Health Medical Scheme members and submit their training data towards earning weekly Vitality Active Rewards goals.

“One of the pleasures of mountain biking is that it allows you to see areas you don’t usually see; the most beautiful places in South Africa become accessible to you on a mountain bike. My training is also about socialising with friends my age who train with me, and it's about the mental fitness and relaxation that comes with being up early, breathing in the fresh morning air, seeing the sunrise, and being in nature. We cycle through plots in Pretoria East where I live, many of which have wild game on them. It’s important to make fitness efforts consistent at any age, but especially at my age. If you stop training - say over winter - it takes a while to get back to your previous fitness levels. Training in nature is hugely motivating all year round.”

Finding a work-life balance as a cyclist and orthopaedic surgeon

Dr Straub takes every opportunity to advise his patients on healthy living habits to complement their medical treatment. “In my practice, I see mainly older patients, many of whom are obese men. My advice to them is to cut out sugar in their daily diet. We know that weight loss and a change of diet can go far in treating illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes. Unfortunately, doctors also experience how difficult it is to motivate patients to change ingrained lifestyle habits that could be harming them. Being a doctor who walks the health talk goes a long way in convincing patients of the benefits of healthy living.”

“All orthopaedic surgeons have relatively high stress levels. I mainly do hip and knee replacements and shoulder surgeries at my practice at Life Faerie Glen Hospital in Pretoria,” says Dr Straub. “I feel so much better when I eat a healthy, balanced diet. For me, that means cutting out sugar and junk food entirely, and limiting my alcohol intake to weekends only. This, plus getting eight hours of sleep a night and exercising, is what sustains my medical work. I am grateful to be healthy, but it has nothing to do with luck. I work hard at it.”

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