The musings of a final year medical student

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Drinking Culture

I'm 18 and living in the UK - it's safe to say that in my country and within my age group, drinking culture is a massive component to the lifestyles of those around. But I've never really understood why I actually like drinking.

Now, I've only been drunk a dozen times or so, and never have I ever drank so much that I've had to be hospitalised or had violently awful hangovers. Basically, I'm not an alcohol connoisseur, a seasoned 'Lasher'.

I went through a phase when I first starting drinking whereby I loved getting drunk. To test how much of a pint I could down, what was my best shot record, and the fun of regaling the hilarious anecdotes the day after. At least the ones we remembered.

I suppose when you're going out, particularly if you're on the pull, a little bit of alcohol can feel like a necessity; a way to let tensions go and grow much for confidence. And things are always funnier when you've had a few, too. The times that me or other friends have pulled alcohol has always been consumed. Also, if you're going to a friend's party and you don't know a lot of people, it's quite a fun and entertaining way to bond.

Like most people, I started drinking before it was actually legal to do so. So, I suppose for some, the thrill of breaking the law is another thing that entices people into drinking. The same thing goes for smoking cigarettes/weed etc.

But recently, I've really started to question why people even drink. I've been on nights out and to house parties where I drank not a drop and still had an amazing time. Granted, I usually ended up holding my friends' hair as they puked, cleaning up and finding safe places for people to pass out by around 2am. That aspect wasn't fun, but the former part of the night was great.

Last week I went skiing and fully indulged in the apres-ski on offer. But on the last night, as I was at a club at 3 in the morning, I really didn't understand why I got myself drunk. 'I just wasted €20+! I could've spend that at the Duty Free', I thought to myself. What I was really enjoying was being with my friends and having a dance and being just a little bit frivolous for once.

Why do you drink?

Monday, 10 February 2014

Weekly Ethical Dilemma: Should fat children be told they're fat?

Starting this week I am starting a weekly post: the Weekly Ethical Dilemma.

Childhood obesity is a growing problem right across the globe. But does that mean we should tell children who, perhaps unbeknown to them, that they are overweight?

In my opinion, the way to overcome obesity is not by labelling it, but really by making proactive steps to increase the amount of physical activities whilst moving towards more nutritious foods. For children it is very important to make sure the meals and nutritionally balanced and have enough calories for vigorous exercise and body development, therefore even if a child is overweight they must not have their calories slashed or be forced to count calories. It's more about establishing healthy habits that will stay with them for the rest of their lives and will maintain a healthy weight.

The problem here lies in the word itself 'fat'. Being fat is not widely accepted in today's society as an attractive trait, quite the opposite. Therefore, for a child to be told that they're fat, I worry over the way that they interpret that information. Will they come to the conclusion that their body size is more important than their personality? Will they lose a feeling of self-worth by knowing that their bodies are not 'adequate'. It's your body, you can't help but take it personally. I worry that children will believe that  they don't deserve love, that they're sub-standard, that there is something wrong that they have brought upon themselves. Then, this may lead to them blaming and punishing themselves, possibly leading to mental disorders.

I feel very strongly about this topic because its something particularly close to my heart. At primary school I was teased a lot for being overweight, and it was an experience that has stayed on with me now, 10 years later, and has manifested itself in terrible ways. As previously mentioned, I later developed an eating disorder, self-harmed and suffer from depression. Through counselling, I feel convinced that by being judged due to my body size this then lead onto further health problems.

I would NEVER wish anyone to have gone through the lows that I have experienced, not even those who began my obsession with my weight and my looks.

You don't have to tell a child they're fat to make them lose weight. If you go out and exercise WITH them, make them healthy meals, snacks and drinks, then the child can develop a healthy body as well as a healthy mind.

This debate was brought to my attention when the dreadful Katie Hopkins appeared on ITV This Morning with her arch enemy, Sonia Poulton, where they argued over the merits of informing ones child that they are fat. The link is here:


Wednesday, 5 February 2014


Like many people, one of my favourite hobbies is travelling. But today I thought to myself, what opportunities will I have in the future to keep travelling?

Some of my ideas include:
Hiking pretty much anywhere scenic and beautiful: Sweden, Denmark, France (Chamonix), Austria, Yosemite (CA), Canada (any of the national parks), Alaska, New Zealand.
Skiing (anywhere)
Running marathons across the globe at famous locations (San Francisco, Syndey etc.)
Go to Coachella in CA
Go back to Laguna Beach, CA
Spend some time living in some of the lovely famous European cities, ie Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Vienna, Milan
Go to Thailand with some friends
Climb loads of famous mountains (Kilamanjaro..) 

I am currently not planning to take a gap year prior to going to university, however, given that only a third of medical applicants in the UK get offered a place I am expecting the worse and have started contemplating what I will do during that year as I reapply.
I also thought about what happens when I go to medical school. Most unis offer electives for a few weeks or so in a foreign country for medical students, and the university holidays are much longer than the school ones that I'm used to. However, the road to becoming a doctor is pretty clear cut. 5-6 years at UK medical school, followed by two years of UK hospital ward rotations as a junior doctor, and following that post-graduate UK medical training in one's chosen speciality, the shortest being 18 months to train as a GP (family doctor). It's not the same as most other 3 year degrees that can offer one year of education abroad (usually if you're studying a language), or perhaps one may decide to travel after the degree. But with the medical degree, the train of education is pretty continuous for 8 years easily, and that's a long to commit to living in one country. I then thought about how easy it would be to travel between the end of the uni degree and my Foundation Year1/2 jobs as a junior doctor. Is this commonplace for many medical degree graduates? Or would that feel too disjointed to oneself,  to leave the UK before actually feeling capable to practice medicine properly? And what about after FY1/2? Or after specialist training? Is this really feasible, or counter productive for my medical aspirations?

I always thought it would be interesting to work as doctor abroad. However, after my experience in France last year working with the charity Secours Catholique, I reconsidered. One day I was working in a help clinic, where anyone can pop in with any particular problem and ask for help from the charity. My job was to translate English into French for those who visited us that couldn't speak the language. The vast majority of people who came to see us were not natively French and had been living in France for less than a year, several homeless and several being single mothers with young children. One man that came in with a friend was from Somalia and had been in France for a week. He was called into a consultation booth and I came to join them. The man could only speak Somalian, but his friend (also Somalian) spoke a little English. So, we had a very disjointed conversation where the man spoke Somalian, his friend spoke English to me, and then I spoke French to the charity volunteer. Just by looking at this man I could see he was unwell. He had bloodshot eyes, he walked with a limp and curved back, and he looked frightened and exhausted. As the interview continued, I was asked to translate that the man was a victim of a bomb explosion back in Somalia whilst he was in his car. He had broken his leg and had shrapnel still in his arm. He had no money, food or shelter and needed to call his wife and family back home. But moreover, when he went to a nearby French hospital he was refused treatment because he had no ID and couldn't pay for the healthcare. I then thought about how I would feel working in a private healthcare system, particularly in A&E, as I have a great interest in this speciality, and to know that I was obliged to not  help people who needed care just because they weren't paying citizens. It really upset me, and at the time I felt very strongly that I would never feel right working for a private healthcare organisation. To see someone right before your eyes suffering in that way, whilst I knew how I had come to France for free (my parents paid for me) on holiday and had never paid for any healthcare in my life, to see someone who had nothing. Everyone should have the right to free healthcare.

I know that I am meant to be a doctor; there is no other profession I would rather do day in day out for the rest of my life. But part of what appeals to me in the altruistic feeling of giving my knowledge freely to others to help them when they truly need it. I suppose I never recognised that importance given that all I've known is the NHS and the fact that this is where most of my medical practice will reside. Turning medicine into an emotionless business doesn't make sense to me, because you can't put a price on the importance of good health, no matter how rich or poor you are. In addition, what I also liked about the medical profession was the ability to travel, given that many European and International countries are short staffed of doctors, and the UK medical degree being one of the most respected medical qualifications globally in terms of quality of training. But even if it was a very short term medical post abroad, I'm not sure how I would feel charging for the care that I would give to a patient, provided that it is not cosmetic.

I have often thought of being a doctor in a French ski resort, or perhaps in Sweden or Canada. Now I'm mulling things over. 

update: anaesthesia

Last week I had all my wisdom teeth out in preparation for my orthagnathic (double jaw) surgery in the Summer holidays. The surgery went fine with only a minor complication, but for the past week things haven't been rosy.

Since being more open with my depression and making the previous blogpost, I have felt very good emotionally. But physically, it hasn't been too good. So far I'm still eating a mostly liquid and some soft food diet as I can't properly open my mouth and am afraid of disturbing the stitches in my gums. The cravings have been bizarre and immense. Yesterday, I went back to sixth form, but it didn't go to well. I stuck through the 4 hours of lessons that I had that day, but my concentration was awful, I didn't take much in and I felt completely exhausted. I suppose for the past 6 days or so I've been used to sitting for hours in one attitude and not having to actually use my brain, other than for making food and watching TV. I tried to do some revision on Sunday and it completely drained me. When I got back from sixth form, I tried to stay awake but failed miserably, hitting the hay at 5.45pm and skipping dinner.  My mouth and head were both incredibly sore. I woke up at 9.30am this morning with 30 minutes till I had to leave for sixth form, feeling just as shit as I did when I went to bed and worrying if I was safe enough to drive. So I decided not to go in for the 90 minute lesson I was supposed to have, plus revision session and SU meeting.

I don't really know what the exact cause of this is, but I'm putting it down to the general anaesthetic. I wasn't actually under for that long, but longer nonetheless that was anticipated; it was for around 2 hours. Not very long. But I don't know why else I'm having such severe physical symptoms. Some of the tiredness will definitely stem from the fact that I'm just not eating enough; it's really hard to get enough nutrient-dense calories when you're living off canned soups and children's sized portions of spaghetti hoops, plus a heck of a lot of yoghurt and chocolate mousse. This does worry me because when I have the double jaw surgery I'll be on the liquid diet for a good 6-8 weeks and I don't want to waste away.

I'm finding all this incredibly frustrating because mentally I am so optimistic and motivated to move on with my life. I want to do revision, I want to start playing piano on a daily basis again. I have never wanted to go running in the abysmal English weather more in my entire life. I want to go clubbing, to the gym and hiking with my friends and go to coffee shops. I really want to through myself back into my studies. But my body is holding me back from doing all these things.
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