“I really like exercise and I think a lot of people could enjoy it also if they thought it was more inclusive or if they knew what to do” – Tom Dawson, Physiology Tutor at Portobello Institute.
Physical exercise and activity have always been passions of Tom Dawson, physiology tutor at Portobello Institute. His journey to adopting physiology as a career was winding and he hopes to inspire future students and pass on those positive educational experiences.
“When I was going through school, I always thought I would do physiotherapy. But I had a teacher who told me I should do a science degree and figure out the specifics after. So that’s what I did,” he said.
Tom obtained a degree in Physiology from University College Dublin. While a lot of people from his class went on to further study medicine or pivot into business, Tom still had his eyes set on physiology. However, the next step on his path came in an unexpected way.
“My folks own a pub at home. I was working there one day and these people, who were over on holiday, told me to look up Loughborough University.”
Loughborough is a university based in Leicestershire in the UK. Tom took the suggestion of the friendly tourists. They had an MSc in Exercise as Medicine.
Tom enrolled in the university and earned his master’s in 2020. While he had always had a passion for physiology, he says studying at Loughborough helped him realize where exactly he wanted his career to go.
“The job I’ve come into now, is it something I always wanted to do? I guess it is, but I didn’t know it was a thing.
“As a population, we are not as active as we should be, we are certainly not as active as we could be. How do you change that?”
This is the question that shapes most of Tom’s work. In addition to his new role at Portobello, Tom also works for ExWell Medical as a Clinical Exercise Coordinator.
ExWell was set up by All-Star football for the Dublin Senior footballers, Dr. Noel McCaffrey. The clinic has over 600 patients across Dublin and beyond.
“The rationale behind ExWell Medical is that a large proportion of the disability and unwellness that comes with any long-term illness is caused by becoming deconditioned. At ExWell we can improve or reverse this with appropriate exercise, thereby greatly enhancing a person’s quality of life.”
Tom has spent 13 months with the non-profit clinic, joining as an intern in November 2020 before rising to his current position. His experience both academically and professionally is something Tom hopes will enhance the learning of his students.
“I’m excited to see if I can make a difference for students and help people out. I have done sports coaching with various teams over the years, and I want to see if I can transfer that to Portobello students.
“I want to make sure that everyone gets the best learning experience that they can. I want to have an open teaching environment. Try to get the students to think more for themselves and understand concepts rather than just learning things off. That will set a good foundation for their future careers.”