The musings of a final year medical student

Sunday, 31 July 2016


It is nuts to think that a year ago today, on 31st July 2015 I had my operation.

Initially, I regretted my decision. The pain was immense and I felt as if I couldn't communicate with people. I did not feel well treated by the NHS staff when I was in the high dependency unit. Then there was the liquid diet. After about 2 weeks I was ravenous. 

But today I can say how glad I am for having this operation. I now have so much more confidence. I am in no pain, with the exception of the odd mild jaw ache if I have been talking a lot. I feel completely transformed by this procedure and I can't really put into words how life changing this experience has been.

Was extremely painful and stressful? Yes. But was it worth it? Yes.
The day of the operation
Immediately after the operation

6 months post bimaxiliary osteotomy
Thank you so much everyone for your love and support through this difficult process. This is my proudest accomplishment so far, and I'm so glad I'm through the other side!


Saturday, 30 July 2016


I am not a fan of the clean eating brigade. Over the past year or so, healthy 'clean' eating has exploded in a very commercial way. It's like someone put Pret a Manger on steroids and took away the meat, gluten and dairy. And the fun. 

Where did Western society's obsession over clean eating begin? Well, I suppose we have always been interested in diets that will make us look like models, ways to stop us from getting cancer and how to get better skin, hair and nails. These are some of the claims that the poster girls of clean eating have told us (Belle Gibson, Madeleine Shaw, Ella Woodward et al.).

I love food. I love variety and I care about being healthy. I think it would be really hypocritical if I became a doctor and told patients to eat healthy whilst I ate takeaways on the daily. As Margeret McCartney rightly says in her recent BMJ article: "The command to eat cleanly implies that everyone else is filthy, being careless with their bodies and lives. It comes with promises of energy boosts, glowing skin, spirituality, purity, and possibly immortality. But this nonsense is all based on a loose interpretation of facts and a desire to make the pursuit of wellbeing an obsessive, full time occupation.". 

I think it is really important that we question all of this clean eating advice that we are being served. Most of these ladies promoting clean eating are not medical professionals. Many of them are nutritionists, which is a controversial issue. You can literally buy a nutritionist qualification online for £29 (and less than 20 hours training) and then command people to follow your food mantras. Grace Victory proved this in her recent BBC documentary on clean eating. 

There are two particularly sinister sides to clean eating: profiting out of our ignorance, and indoctrinating unrealistic expectations into men and women. Clean eating is now a massive business. If you tell people that they need to cook everything in coconut oil, funnily enough the people selling it will make a lot of dollar. Secondly, a newer form of eating disorder, orthorexia, has increased in incidence. Telling someone to not eat gluten or anything refined is just one way that a person can control their eating, and then that control becomes debilitating. Of course, people can eat a gluten free diet and enjoy it and not let it take over their life. But portraying food as 'good' and 'bad' is distressing and wrong. It is triggering. 

It's great that the clean eating brigade wants us to cook more from scratch, eat more fruit and vegetables, and question where our food comes from. That is a really positive thing we can learn from them. However, it's the exclusion and the need to be 100% consistent that is my bug bear. The key to loving food and being healthy is not criticising other people's habits or our own. We shouldn't chastise refined foods. We need to do what we've always been told: eat a balanced diet. A little bit of what you fancy does you good, the key word being little, not a lot. 

If you love coconut oil, good for you. Enjoy it if you like it. If you are diagnosed with coeliac disease, yes avoid gluten because it will make you very ill if you do eat it. Buy these lovely cookbooks (if you want to), that encourage us to try new things and buy fresh ingredients. But when you read the bit about how you shouldn't eat gluten/any meat/any dairy/anything fun. Pause. Question their reasoning, and get advice from someone who knows, such as a qualified dietician, where there are much stricter guidelines on training. The Hemsley and Hemsley sisters will tell you not to eat gluten despite it saying on their website that they are not qualified nutritionists or dieticians. Now that is food for thought. 


Thursday, 28 July 2016


Recently I paid for my blog to be redesigned with a new template created by Pipdig. I had heard of the company from Saskia and Jennifer, who both use Pipdig templates as well. The quality of the designs is fantastic. The thing that also made me want to use their templates is that they come with optional free installation, which is great if you are like me and a bit of  a technophobe! 

Once you have purchased the template, it takes within 48 hours to be installed. I quickly received an email off Phil from Pipdig who kindly installed the template for me. To have Pipdig do the installation for you, you do have to share your Blogger/Wordpress login details. However, I felt I could trust Pipdig having seen how happy Saskia and Jennifer are with their blogs.

I hope you all like the new layout! I have a new found passion for this blog and I hope that other people like you will enjoy reading it.

I would 100% recommend Pipdig. 

Disclaimer: I was not asked to review this company, all views are my own!


Wednesday, 27 July 2016


I don't think I have ever felt so excited to do medicine in my life. I have been sent a preliminary timetable of what third year will be like and I cannot wait. In all honesty, first year's content felt very dry. We didn't have any patient contact in any kind of clinical setting. We practised taking histories from actors, but that isn't the same. As someone who went into medicine mainly for the social interaction aspect that the profession offers, this was very frustrating. Going into placement this year as a second year medical student was undoubtedly a steep learning curve, but now I love it. In particular, the medical wards rather than the surgical ones (hint: I've already ruled out surgery!)

For me, it always makes more sense to make resolutions at the start of each academic year, rather than calendar. I've realised that it can be really hard to stay healthy when you work a 9-5 or longer job. I never really appreciated how tiring it is when you are on your feet all day. So, I'm really looking forward to getting back in to cooking, as I think I will need to make a lot of freezable meals! I've become so much healthier this year and I don't want to go back into old habits of microwave meals and take aways. I've found it really hard to be motivated to go to the gym when I am on placement because it's so draining!

Really, I'm prepared to get my bum in to gear and work very hard. This is the time to think about electives, CV, whether to intercalate, and also get a flavour of which specialities I gravitate towards, and which ones to rule out. 

I truly feel like I am exactly where I am meant to be. I can't wait to be able to say "Hello, my name is Kate and I am a THIRD year medical student". 


Sunday, 24 July 2016


This week I was lucky enough to go to Annecy, France with my lovely family.

When we arrived I could barely believe how beautiful it was! I quite literally had to pinch myself. The water is clear and bright and the mountains are stunning.

The weather was scorching hot, and I couldn't handle it! I got heat exhaustion in the middle of the holiday and then had to spend the rest of it in the shade. 

One of the great things about Annecy is that there's a gelateria on practically every street! I had lots of pistachio ice cream, and they also did lots of vegan sorbets which my sister Lucy was delighted with.

We went up a mountain called Le Semnoz and had wonderful views looking out over to Mont Blanc

Hope you've all had a good week!


Wednesday, 13 July 2016


Throughout my second year of medical school my depression has been at its worst and now currently at its best. I've embraced that I have this problem and engaged with options I was given by my GP. My university know and so do my friends and family. Plus, I've now put it on the internet, and I hope that this shows people it isn't something you have to hide. It's been a mad year but I have learnt a lot about myself, and in turn about mental health in general. I've been privileged to hear other people's stories on my hospital placement, and also from friends in my life who have approached me about the subject. I thought I would share what I have learnt. 

 If you want to get better you have to accept you are struggling

This may sound terribly clich├ęd and like a slogan from Alcoholics Anonymous, but I can’t stress enough how important this is. Through blogging about my experience of depression, many of my friends have come to me in confidence to discuss their own mental health. Many of them initially refused to see a GP or tell their parents. I know how this feels. When I first felt that I needed help, I went and spoke to my GP without telling anyone else. He instructed me to start CBT at my sixth form, and only then did I eventually speak to my parents and my friends about it. It’s still hard to discuss it now, but 100 times easier than it once was. I feel like a weight has been lifted.  

Self-respect is so important

Speaking for myself here, self-respect plays a big role in terms of happiness and the things I worry about. I realised that all harmful thoughts I used to have about myself were stemming from not respecting myself. One example would be self-harm. If I ever felt like I wanted to do this, I could remind myself that I have to respect the functioning body I have been given, and in order to help me get better I have to respect this body and not hurt it. When applied to social situations, I stopped letting people push me around or make me feel small, because I know that I deserve respect. If ever someone said something unkind, instead of letting it bother me, I would tell myself I don’t deserve to be treated like that. I try to apply self-respect to what I eat, how often I exercise, being confident in social/work situations, and academic performance. I have realised that if I want to be happy, I have to give myself love and have standards. Know that you deserve kindness, you have rights, and you are entitled to do what you want to do with your life.

Make your happiness a priority

I’m not religious and I don’t know what the meaning of life is, but I’ve decided that all I’m really concerned about is being happy. This means that if I am feeling down, I put myself first. I try to think of ways I can improve my mood in a constructive manner. As much as I love my family, friends and boyfriend, I need to be a little bit selfish and look after myself. This is my life, and I’m not going to live it according to what other people expect of me or what they would prefer me to do. It sounds silly, but if you want to be happy you have to care about doing things you like to do that make you happy! I think that many people can develop depression through their lifestyles or through doing things that they don’t want to do. They’re living a life they didn’t necessarily choose, and so they aren’t content.  

Medications and talking therapies can work

To the average Brit, the thought of having a counsellor seems almost cringe-y, something that Americans have. We need to shake off this apprehension. I hated the idea of going on anti-depressants, but I got to a point of desperation where I was willing to try anything. I have a great GP who has listened to me attentively. I still feel uneasy about the fact I have been on Sertraline for almost a year now, but I know it has done me so much good. The combination of CBT with a psychologist at my university and the prescribed SSRI has made a massive difference. Some people wonder what the point of taking an anti-depressant is. It goes without saying that they aren’t a cure, but I think that they can reduce the severity of the symptoms one may experience. For example, I found that my sleep pattern improved loads, and I felt that my depression was less debilitating. I no longer wake up in the morning feeling completely exhausted and so low I can’t get out of bed. I don’t get so frantic and stressed when I get ready for hospital placement. 

I hope you found this interesting to read. Mental health is sadly still a taboo, and I hope that people can stop feeling ashamed about an affliction they never asked for, so that they can get the help and support they need. 


Friday, 8 July 2016


I have finished all my Summer exams! Today was the second day of a two day OSCE assessment, where we are expected to carry out examinations and techniques that we perform in hospital, such as taking blood. However, this wasn't quite an average exam; it was an exam for candidates who were borderline in their first OSCE one month ago, and I was one of those borderline candidates. 

I think it is fair to say that everyone at medical school aims for a standard of knowledge that is not attainable. I'm sure that yearning resonates with many hard working people outside of medicine, but it is particularly prevalent among my peers. 

Before I came to university I had never failed at any serious endeavour or exam I had. And yet one year in, I was resitting two written exams. "I'll never get myself in this position again", I told myself. And yet today, in my second year, I am doing extra exams because I did not get a high enough grade first time around. We have been informed by the university that it is NOT a resit, but it feels no different. It is to test that all candidates can pass well above one standard deviation of the cut score - so that students don't just scrape a pass, but have clearly exceeded the bare minimum. Yet I do truly feel like I have failed.

What I think makes these exams different is not only the standard but what your result means. For me, I can't help but conclude that if I fail a medical exam it is a sign that I will be a rubbish doctor. I know that I shouldn't think this way, but I really can't help it. The realisation that the job you have dreamed to do you are actually not good enough to pursue, or will only ever be average, feels heart breaking at times. Particularly when you feel like you have given up time you could have spent with your friends and family. To invest all that time and then have it thrown back in your face. 

I can understand that people will feel I'm overreacting. I am aware that I'm too harsh on myself, but I don't really know how to change that. I know how I should feel and should behave, but how do you really change your thought process?

Worst case scenario, I do have approved mitigating circumstances for a resit, and if that fails then I will be allowed to redo second year. We had a few people in my year who were redoing second year, so I know I wouldn't be the first.

The fear of failure is real. I hope in time I will be able to let go. I know that I don't want medicine to take over my life, but when I feel so passionate about it I can't help but feel bitter when things don't go to plan. 

© The Medic Journal | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Developed by pipdig