So you want to be a doctor?
Do you believe that we were placed here in this world for a reason? I do!
I am hopeless with money, average at sport, absolutely cannot draw and my business acumen is seriously deficient!
The only thing and I mean the ONLY thing I am better than average at is medicine…doctoring to be precise!
I wish I had many talents to use to my advantage but I don’t. I have put all my energy, creativity, sweat, tears and soul into becoming a doctor. That is my identity and that is where I suppose I place myself in society.
Getting to this very position wasn’t without uncontrollable sobbing, pain, frustration and discouragement but now on the other side…I wouldn’t have had it any other way! I am stronger for it!
They say success doesn’t come overnight and many successful people in this world have worked extremely hard…I’m not saying that I am one of those people but I have worked extremely hard and that is the first step in preparation to becoming a doctor.
I am not sure where you are in your education but I’ll start describing my journey from secondary school. This is how things are usually done in the UK.
I am by no means showing off about my achievements…I want to be as truthful with you as possible so that you can compare your journey to mine.
I did 10 GCSE’s and achieved A’s and A* grades before entering sixth form. I picked French, Biology, Chemistry and Maths and dropped French after a year (back then we did AS levels for a year). To be selected for medical school I was told that chemistry was the only compulsory subject but I wanted to make my A Levels science-orientated so chose Biology and Maths.
I then applied for medical schools in London as this was where I wanted to stay. During my last year of A Levels, I went on a trip to Nottingham to take part in a medical-orientated weekend called MedLink. It was supposed to give us an insight into life at medical school and expose us to some patients but it didn’t really deliver that level of exposure. It was a waste of money, but we all did it to build our CV.
In the name of CV building, I volunteered at my local nursing home where I would go every weekend and help with serving food and feeding those who couldn’t feed themselves. I got to learn the role of the ‘carer’ and what responsibilities they had. I spent many hours listening to patients and learning about their stories.
This was a good topic to discuss at my interview, as it brought on many questions and interesting points to highlight about team working, leadership etc.
One summer holiday, I also helped out at my GP practice and shadowed the practice staff for a few weeks. I helped with administrative things and got to know a few of the regular patients.
Part of the application process to medical schools requires you to write a personal statement and also be given a reference from your school predicting your A level grades.
After a gruelling interview process, I waited for outcomes from the schools. Nowadays, many medical schools will expect you to sit an aptitude test before applying. There is UCAT or BMAT. UCAT stands for UK clinicial aptitude test and BMAT stands for the Biomedical Admissions Test. The latter exam, contains 3 sections testing aptitude, science and writing.
I will talk about medical interviews in more detail separately but I received a conditional offer at Barts and The London (QMUL) University in London. The conditional offer was for the grades A,A,B. This was what I had been predicted so I studied hard and got 3 A’s (there were no A* grades when I did my A Levels).
That October, I went to medical school.
Medical School was exciting but daunting! This was really happening to me and I didn’t want to mess it up! I went through 6 years in total, obtaining merits and distinctions during most of my end of year exams. This put me in the top 5% of the year and I was given the opportunity to do my intercalated BSc externally! A change of scenery is exactly what I needed!
An intercalated BSc is an extra degree that medical students do as part of their training. This is an opportunity to study a subject you have enjoyed in more detail along with undertaking some science-based or clinical-based research. Many London universities state that this is mandatory as part of the training and others state it is optional. I intercalated in Neuroscience at University College London because I LOVED neurology and thought I wanted to become a neurologist (more on that some other time!!!)
Exams were rather conveniently straight after we came back from major holidays so I would spend Christmas and Easter holidays studying. The only time I had off was summer but it was never long enough. I was pulled several ways with family wanting my attention along with school friends and university friends.
The university fees were always due at the beginning of the new year so I would find work during the summer holidays and help with fees.
During my final year, after my final exam, in just a few weeks all that hard work was paid off. On that day, when I saw ‘pass with merit’ against my name, I was elated. I will never forget that day. There was happiness of course, gratitude and relief as I thought my studying days were over!!! Nope!
A decade later, I see and hear many people wanting to pursue medicine and I honestly wish them the best of luck. I don’t paint a pretty picture for them as it isn’t and I believe that people should know the amount of sacrifice it takes.
While my friends were enjoying their university lives, having only 3 days of lectures and days off for the rest of the week, or having ‘reading week’ every 2 weeks, going on holidays together and sharing big life events with each other, I was always missing. I would apologise and tell them I had an exam or an essay to write.
Things haven’t changed much in that respect but we have all accepted it and meet when we can. I am always learning and studying for some sort of exam. For you, your journey may be similar or it may not. However, you WILL miss many significant personal/family gatherings but will have the chance to make a difference to people’s lives and strangers will put their complete trust in you with their most valuable possession, their health. What an incredibly lucky position to be in!
I want to end by encouraging you to follow your dreams, don’t doubt yourself…if you want something enough, it will be yours!