The musings of a final year medical student

Friday, 20 December 2013

I have an interview!

I have an interview in just over a month at Liverpool Medical school. Over the moon! I'll let you know how  it goes and what I'm doing for prep later on.

Asking 'Why?'

I am OBSESSED with asking why. I question practically everything I do, from whether I put on make up in the morning to whether I apply to medical school or pursue theatre. But many of our day to day actions are done without any thought whatsoever.

I feel that everyone has a point of where one thinks it is suitable to question a particular matter regarding oneself, and past that point we never think twice. This leads me onto my question, why do we sometimes not ask why? Is it partially due to fear of some sort? From my own personal experience, asking why to certain decisions has left me feeling very emotional, confused, angry and blinking tired. I can feel bitter afterwards, leeching out my feelings in an aggressive way to my loved ones. Sometimes I have a sudden moment of panic over a decision I made earlier, sending me into a frenzy of thoughts. Other times, upon the realisation of something, I am disheartened in the knowledge that it will take me a long time to solve the issue at present. I don't like this feeling, and I'm sure others have felt this way from time to time. So (ashamedly) I try to avoid it. The uncomfortable truths I sometimes lead my life by make me feel bad and inferior. But I've always been the type of person that promotes a 'carpe diem' mentality, so I certainly don't want to waste my time crying over spilt milk if there's the off chance I'll be run over by a bus 5 minutes later.

I do find it fascinating how we all have our own definitive, what I would call, 'boundaries of conscious thought'. Take Caitlin Moran. I love the strident feminist's journalism; she promotes values to women that are liberating and promote positive mental health. Yet she's a smoker. She is an intelligent woman, no doubt, who is fully aware of the implications from her longstanding habit. I'm sure she has thought many a time about quitting but all the same decides to continue. It's very bizarre, almost ironic how she can promote positive mental health as she undermines her own physical health. I'd probably say smoking is just beyond her 'boundary of conscious thought', she likes to smoke and therefore she believes there is no need to question (or justify) her decision.

Sometimes it is too uncomfortable to question our actions because the thought of changing scares us. Nobody likes to be ostracised by family, friends or society due to difference in opinion or lifestyle. It's can be rather embarrassing to be different sometimes, and so in order to relinquish our angst over matters it is much more comfortable not to even think about them at all. I speak from personal experience. I was a vegetarian for 6 years and vegan for two; now I am an omnivore again. It's upsetting to see people whom you thought loved you to then demean you and put you down, especially when you believe you're just trying to do your best as a human being. Then, to change my mind again after so many years, I was afraid of being labelled a hypocrite.

I don't believe people should be afraid to ask why. Think of Nelson Mandela, Women's right to vote, the recent EU animal testing ban on cosmetics. Even if you feel like a minnow fish in a very big pond, your opinions and therefore your actions do matter. Great things have happened because people had the audacity to probe further and rather than turning away; they peered closer with a bloody big magnifying glass. Audacity isn't necessarily a dirty word, but a great one. I'm not trying to infer that we should all become brazen activists - even if you take the time to ask why do you never to unload the dishwasher and insist it's someone else's problem (guilty here). Realisation and questioning leads to informed decisions and works out best for all parties. Simple as.

Let's not overlook one very important factor: reasoning. There's no point asking why if you still are naive in believing the bigoted opinions instilled into you by your peers, not to mention if you allow your current prejudices justify your discrimination. It's not about finding excuses, but seeing things for what they really are. Do your opinions have evidence? How do you think people react when you behave that way?  Is it only the select few who benefit (if any) from small minded thinking?

For me, I worry a lot about the environment, what foods really are healthy for humans, particularly the plant based diet versus the omnivorous one, why do I drink alcohol to excess sometimes, why do I want to be thin, why do I care about people's perception of me. There are many more but it would take far too long to list all of them. Maybe I'll find the answers one day. Maybe there are no true answers.


Sunday, 8 December 2013


Last week I got a rejection from Cardiff to study Undergraduate Medicine, and I’m still smiling.

I know that for many people rejection can be truly heart braking, particularly for some medical applicants who receive rejections from all universities. Many feel devalued and worthless. But I didn’t, and I still don’t. Why?

I have a certain way of dealing with life, whereby I simply try to look at things purely as they are, in an emotionally detached state. So, when I got the news via UCAS track, I asked myself the following questions:

Does this mean I won’t get into medical school this year?
Does this mean I won’t get into any medical school at all?
Does this mean I will never become a doctor?
Does this mean I am stupid or incompetent?
Does this mean I shouldn’t be a doctor?
Does this mean I should give up?
Will being upset about this rejection further my progress into becoming a doctor one day?

The answer to all of these questions is a big fat NO. If you really want something, you will make it happen. One day I will be a doctor. I’m not trying to be arrogant or big headed, but the true path into medicine, or whatever one’s goal is, is determination. This is the sole ingredient to success (a little of luck is helpful, too). Sobbing over Cardiff won’t change the situation or help it in anyway.

I’m still going to be a doctor one day. That’s the big picture, and that’s all that concerns me.

The Work-Life Balance

The above phrase is commonly associated with doctors’ lifestyles. With unsociable working hours and schedules, having to deal with tricky patients, not to mention tricky colleagues, it’s not surprising that the rates of alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide are higher than most professions. Yet it’s not just doctors who struggle to ascertain such a meticulous equilibrium.

You can blame it on whatever you like, whether that be technology or over population, however it does appear to me that our day to day lifestyle is much more crammed full and intense than perhaps it used to be. Consequently, the effects of this are shown as our health deteriorates. It’s not exactly a new phenomenon, but more of a prevalent one in our society, to the extent that it’s becoming a new genre of malaise. We are aware that many common diseases are heavily affected, if not caused, due to stress. Stress. What a horrible word. A little is supposed to be good; it gives us drive, propelling us to move forward and get the job done.

I bring up the topic of the work-life balance because it is something I am currently struggling with, but probably not from the angle you’re guessing. It’s not that I’m overworking myself; in fact it is the opposite. I feel apprehensive about devoting days to revision as I used to. The idea of cramming in solitary fills me with dread. I like to be around people, but it’s not exactly easy arranging group study sessions due to the geography of where I live. I fear falling into the trap I got myself into during my AS year at sixth form; I was entirely devoted to my studies and my medical application preparations up until March 2013. By then, I’d had enough. I had the confidence of straight As in my January exams, and foolishly calculated in my head that I should greatly reduce the revision quantity. Overall, I ended up with AAABB at AS, which I know isn’t bad, but it was below my potential and has weakened my medical application. The experience made me think of what my years to come of being a medical student will be like. Those years are infamously described as being hellish in study but fabulous with regard to the social scene. Work hard play hard is the motto of every medical student. But am I to expect intense revision 7 days a week? Is this what I’m setting myself up for? To study medicine, is it really a prerequisite to love or at least tolerate submitting yourself to hours of monotonous revision? Don’t get me wrong, I love learning, and I love libraries. I practically live in my sixth form library during my frees. But I like variety. I like having time in the day to fit in some exercise, like a nice long run, some revision, some classroom learning, some piano playing, some socialising, reading something stimulating, and time to cook myself a proper meal. I don’t want to be a machine.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can resolve my current working issues, and the following are my resolutions:
1-    Get grade eight piano scales done and out of the way before going to sixth form in the morning
2-    Make sure I go and exercise before sixth form to put me into an energised, productive mood
3-    Make a commitment to do a minimum of 1 hour revision a day. This seems like very little, but I’d rather be consistent than dread waking up on a Sunday knowing that I have a full day of textbooks ahead of me.
4-    Prepare food the night before so I actually like what I am eating at sixth form!
5-    Curfew. Staying up till midnight on a school night is NOT okay. 10pm, lights off.
6-    No work or revision on a Sunday. By having a day of pure fun I think it will motivate me work harder in the week, and refresh me so that I don’t resent getting up at 6am the next day.


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Day in the life

Just for fun, I thought I'd give an insight into a typical day in the life of me at sixth form:

6.15 am wake up, stretch, have breakfast and get dressed (I always shower the night before to save time in the mornings!
7.00am Piano scales and arpeggios plus sight reading
8.00am heat up some soup for lunch
8.15am get on the bus
9.00am French lecture
10.35am Biology lecture
12.10pm Lunch
12:55pm STEM meeting
2:55pm go to work to photocopy medical notes at a GP surgery
4.20pm take the bus home
5.00pm Piano
6.00pm Revision/homework
7.00pm Dinner
8.00pm Revision/homework
10.00pm Bed!

As you can see, even on the days when I have relatively few lessons, there's always plenty of other things that I get up to!

The back-up plan

As I mentioned in my last post, I've had my doubts about whether I will be able to get into medical school. So, I've decided that I'm going to plan out how I'm going to secure my place at medical school next year, should I be unsuccessful. However, my plan of action depends on results day. Here are my ideas:

Circumstance 1: 
- No offers from medical schools
- Offer to study Biomedical sciences at Newcastle, conditional to AAB
- Results on results day: AAB (ex. General Studies)
In this case, it would be pointless to reapply to medical school as my grades are too low to get in anywhere. It would equally be a waste of time to go back to sixth form and retake, as generally medical schools only take A levels achieved in the typical 2-year time frame, rather than in 3 years. Therefore, I will take the offer at Newcastle, in the hope of transfer into the medical school. After 1st year, Newcastle offer Biomed students to apply to transfer into the medical programme, provided that they have a UKCAT score and 75% in year 1 exams.

Circumstance 2:
- No offers from medical schools
- Offer to study Biomedical sciences at Newcastle, conditional to AAB
- Results on results day: AAA and no place received through clearing
The plan here would be to reapply and take a gap year. During the summer holidays I can revise UKCAT, as well as having more time in October to revise for the BMAT. I can refine the personal statement and use the feedback from medical schools to find out why I was unsuccessful the previous year. From now until results day I am continuing my volunteering at an Residential home for the elderly, and am reapplying for work experience in Gloucestershire hospitals. I will also take up a volunteering scheme at a hospice or a school for disabled children. I will get a part time job during my gap year as a health care assistant. I will go back to college and do an A level in mathematics or philosophy so that I am continuing my academic development.  I will take up ballroom dancing again. I will also audition for local theatre productions in my area, as theatre is one of my greatest passions. And if I have any extra time I will carry on my post grade eight piano work by completing a diploma. With the money from my job I will go away and do some health care aid in an LEDC. Hopefully these changes will strengthen my application.

If you are unsuccessful in gaining a place at medical school 1st time around, don't be discouraged. I know many talented students who haven't gained places at medical school, one of whom achieved A*A*A* at A level and didn't get a single offer.

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