Mehreen is currently in the second year of her MBChB in medicine at Leeds University. Read about her experiences of applying to medical school, her work experience international placement in Tanzania and her tips for aspiring medical students.
Looking for medical work experience on a once-in-a-lifetime trip? Learn more about our Tanzania 2018 programme with Gap Medics!
How did you find the application process for medical school? Any tips for future medical students?
The first time I applied, I got rejected. I was lucky because I received really in-depth feedback about how to improve my personal statement.
In particular, the universities seemed to be looking for some evidence of the following: commitment to any roles (such as a sports team, a long-term volunteering role, etc), motivation to do medicine (why you wanted to go down that career path), extracurricular involvements (sports, music, drama, volunteering, helping organise events) and any roles of responsibility (e.g. school president, sports captain).
The key, I think, was not to try and include as many different things as possible, but to try and show that you got the most out of whatever you did – don’t list everything you did, take time to talk about what you took from each experience.
How did your international placement prepare you for medical school?
You get to see and do a lot of things while on placement that you wouldn’t ordinarily get to do as a pre-medical student in countries like the UK, US etc.
The first time I ever saw surgery, the first time I watched someone give birth and the first time I took a history from a patient were all whilst I was on placement. This really helped to prepare me for medical school.
Also, you get to witness first-hand the effect of conditions such as HIV/AIDS and TB that are more prevalent in developing countries – you wouldn’t get to see this in the UK.
Tell us about some of the procedures you saw at the hospital whilst on international placement. Why did they stand out to you?
I watched a fair few natural births – something that even now, at medical school, puts a lot of students off! I liked seeing how “normal” and intervention-free it was, in comparison to the procedures we saw in theatre, such as ectopic pregnancies and C-sections.
It was fascinating to see how skillful the doctors were and how quickly they were able to sort things out if the situation was complicated.
Did you find the international placement experience valuable in helping you decide whether medicine was right for you?
It was invaluable! Getting to experience the clinical side of things and witnessing some extreme cases didn’t put me off at all – it just made me realise that I wanted to continue in this career and help patients like them.
Any advice for students who are hoping to apply to medical school?
I was always really worried that I hadn’t done enough extracurricular stuff, like D of E, or school presidency, or sports. Again, the key for both personal statements and interviews is just to try and show that each experience was valuable to you.
At interview, it’s best to just keep calm – most medical school interviews aren’t big and scary any more, a lot of schools are moving towards a less formal “chat”. Just relax, be yourself and show that you really, really are interested in medicine, even the most gory, gruesome and unappealing bits!