I studied Biomedical Sciences as my undergraduate degree at Newcastle University and then remained there for another year to do a Masters of Research in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine.
Like a lot of students, I actually studied Biomedical Sciences knowing from the very beginning that I wanted to do Medicine eventually! I only received one interview when I applied during my A levels (which was an absolute disaster), so decided to go ahead and pursue a degree instead of taking a year out.
I applied for Medicine during my final year of Biomed and still had no luck. So, I decided to do my masters – regenerative medicine was something that had always interested me, yet my knowledge of the area was quite limited, so I was keen to learn more about it.
I know it’s often said that you can’t really prepare for the admissions tests, but honestly, you can. I’m pretty certain that the reason why my previous applications for medical school were unsuccessful was due to my low UCAT scores. So, just before starting my Masters, I went on a UCAT course that helped me to understand how to approach the questions, which definitely helped!
I actually did most of my medical shadowing whilst I was studying my A levels. During my undergraduate and masters degree, I did some volunteering – my advice is to make sure you do any kind of work that’s in a caring environment. Not only does it prepare you a little bit for what you might come across during your time at Medical School, but it’s also really rewarding!
Before I started my masters, I did some volunteering abroad as a teacher in a rural area of Cambodia – I’d already had quite a lot of experience with older people, but had not been exposed to working around children, and actually used to be quite intimidated by them!
Working abroad helped develop my confidence as I was thrown into a very unfamiliar environment, and it gave me something to talk about during my interview! I also made sure to speak to some medical students about their interview experiences and asked them for any tips.
I applied a total of three times (the third being my successful), whereas some of my course mates applied just the one time and were offered a place. What’s the secret to obtaining a place? Honestly, it’s a mystery! It really varies on how you perform, especially compared to other applicants.
I’ve told a number of students interested in doing Medicine that one year you could be amongst some of the best applicants, whereas another year, you could be average, BUT don’t let this put you off! I was SO close to giving up and withdrawing my application before hearing back from my interview with Warwick because I was convinced that I wasn’t going to be offered a place (good thing I didn’t go through with it in the end!) So, I’d say DON’T GIVE UP!
I’m currently at the University of Warwick, which was my first choice. Warwick appealed to me not only because it is graduate entry only, but it also has a lot more graduate places compared to other Medical Schools. When picking a Medical School, be sure to do plenty of research, such as typical entry offers for the previous year, intake, location, options for accommodation and so on. Also, go to open days. It’s one thing to see photographs, but seeing the university and the surrounding area in real life can be very different.
One of the great things at Warwick is the structure of the course – we are taught by systems (so, GI, Cardiovascular, Musculoskeletal and so on). We learn all about the anatomy (which is reinforced with some incredible plastinated specimens), the physiology, the pharmacology and everything else that’s relevant, which really helps to bring everything together. Warwick also uses an integrated approach for teaching – the majority of content is delivered using lectures, but we also have Case-Based Learning (similar to PBL) which is a great way to see the clinical side of what we’re studying.
Warwick also exposes us to the clinical setting quite early on – within a few weeks of starting we were learning how to take a history and carrying out different examinations. During my Christmas break, I did some work experience in a hospital near home, which was quite different from when I was an A level student – I truly came to appreciate what was being said by the doctors and nurses and was actually able to understand what the surgeons were doing (plus being allowed to scrub up to have a closer look was a bonus!)
Definitely the workload – I won’t lie, graduate medicine is hard work! I’m lucky that I generally understand the concepts quickly, but I’m sure pretty much everyone was quite shocked at the sheer volume of the content we were being taught, and how quickly we progress from one concept to another (I am currently writing this during a revision break – it’s hard to believe that I started Medical School eight months ago – its zoomed by!)
I often find myself too tired to go out or anything along those lines, but that isn’t to say that I’ve ruled going out completely! So, my friends and I usually spend our evenings just chatting, sometimes playing a few games (Cards Against Humanity is a favourite), or we might wander over to one of the bars on campus for food. I also play on the medics hockey team – admittedly, I’m not very good, but then again I’ve never been any good at sports. I’d definitely recommend joining societies and sports teams, as it’s a great way to meet other people in your year and get to know some of the older years.
The course is definitely one of those that you have to keep learning as you go along – it’s really important to keep on top of your work and re-visiting the lecture content, but obviously you have to keep things balanced and enjoy yourself as well.
This keeps changing for me! When I first started, I was really interested in going into Oncology, maybe even Paediatric Oncology – although the Paediatric concept was dropped fairly rapidly. Recently I’ve become really interested in infectious diseases (if my former undergraduate self heard this, she’d think I’d gone mad!). The thing is, I’m still only a first-year and chances are I’m going to keep changing my mind during my studies (I went through at least eight different career paths before settling on Medicine during my school years!)
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