Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Which Medical School?

Well it's a new cycle for 2012 medical applicants. I have a received a few messages about which medical schools to apply to. I can't remember if I have done a post on how to pick your unis so I'll just do another one just in case.

1. Get your priorities straight.

What do I mean by priorities? Each person has a different priority. If you're an international student like me: usually location is a huge point. So ask yourself: "what do I care about?" Location? Course structure? Teaching standards? Size of the university? Union? Night life? And so on...

2. Research. Research. Research.

Do as much research as you can to learn about the course structure for each university. Research about the city. Research cost of living. Some cities will cost more to live in than others. London for example is a very expensive place to live in. Finance is a huge thing especially for international students. This is something you should discuss with parents if they are going to be your main sponsors. If you will be on loan, again you need to make sure you spend your money wisely and try to be economic. You don't want to end up in money trouble after your first few years of uni. Also research the location of the university. Is it a campus university (e.g. Nottingham) or is it a uni within the city (e.g. Manchester)?

3. Course Structure.

For medicine, some universities have a PBL system, Traditional, or Integrated (Lectures with PBL). So how do you learn best? Do you like to have small tutoring sessions and learn best from those? Do you like to sit in a large lecture hall with hundreds of other students? Do you want to sit in a lecture hall and then apply your knowledge in a small group? Again, every person is different. By figuring out your learning style - you can already narrow down your universities.

3.1. Course Structure - Dissection.

Also some universities still have full body cadaver dissections and some have gone to prosection where you only get a section of the cadaver to dissect. What would you prefer? Some people don't care and some do. It's all down to personal choice. If you definitely want full body dissection that will literally shoot you down to a handful of universities. If you don't mind well you still got loads of unis to pick from.

3.2. Clinical Exposure.

Now some people see early clinical exposure as a very important aspect to their learning. Some people may not want such early clinical exposure. Some unis throw you out into the medical world in first year and integrate a lot of clinical experience into the course. Some universities keep it traditional and mainly keep you to the learning aspects and keep you away from patients until after 2nd/3rd year. This is something where you will have to do a lot of research on if this is important to you. Some prospectus/websites for the uni will not mention this so speaking to students from the uni of interest will be helpful.

4. Location.

Do you want to study in a big city like London? Or do you prefer to study in a smaller city such as St Andrews? Personally I chose against studying in London or big cities in general because of the distractions. Big cities = more distractions. I get distracted easily and will find excuses to not do my work. At the same time I don't want to be in an isolated area with nothing to do as I would lose my mind. I wanted to find a place with just enough distractions to keep me sane but not too many distractions that I won't get my work done. Best for you to go visit the universities to get a first hand experience of the city and university. I was quite fortunate to be able to travel the UK to visit all the unis I was interested in. Before I went I already had a rough idea which 4 schools I was going to apply to, but after visiting - my list was COMPLETELY different. You will know when you find the right school for you. You get a weird feeling and sense belonging. You gotta be able to picture yourself in that city for 5+ years. 5 years is a LONG time so you must make sure you will enjoy yourself there.

5. Entrance Requirement.

Some universities require higher grades than others. Your grades is something you can't really change or influence. You will probably have a ballpark idea on what grades you will achieve by the end of the year so look for reasonable unis that you know you will be a competitive applicant. It's nice to dream to go to certain universities but if you don't have the grades for it, you could end up wasting 1 of your 4 choices. Marks isn't everything to get into medicine. Everyone applying will be smart. They use marks as a cut-off and if you don't make the cut-off...well they won't even look at your extra curricular activities that make you seem unique. Also now with the UKCAT, more and more unis are putting more importance on it and using it to cut out applicants as medicine is such a popular course. Admissions need a way to cut down the number so they will use the UKCAT. So look up what are the cut-off marks for each university. Again like your grades, no point in applying to a uni where your UKCAT score is well below what is stated as they will cut you out without looking at your application. If UKCAT didn't go so well, there are still unis that do not look at UKCAT. I believe Birmingham and Liverpool don't use the UKCAT. Some schools need the BMAT so they will not look at UKCAT. Please do your research and look at the entrance requirements.

So this is a pretty rough list of what you should definitely keep in mind when choosing your universities. It takes a lot of research and priority setting. Location and Course Structure will probably be your best two filters to narrow down your list. If you're an international applicant, make sure you check if the university is international friendly. Some universities may not accept your high school diploma/standards. Remember choosing which uni to go to should be YOUR choice and YOUR decision. Yes of course if your parents are helping you out with money, they have a bit of say, but again you have to make sure you will be happy at the university and will enjoy the teaching. So select your unis carefully and take your time with it. Think it through and try and get some opinions as well. By the way I quite enjoyed this website: UnionView. It's a website which has a review of almost all the unis in the UK. So take a look at it if you don't get the chance to visit the uni.

Good luck with your application and I truly hope this has helped.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


To those who got their A-level results today and gotten into medicine - congratulations! Now you all can relax and prepare yourselves for freshers. It is going to be amazing. Even I'm excited for Freshers and I'm in 3rd year! Few more weeks and you will officially be medical students. When you start your first lecture - it will suddenly hit you: "I am in medical school." It is a feeling you can't describe... or you can be insanely hungover...which isn't a pleasant feeling. Either way it will hit you at some point so do enjoy it. To be able to study medicine is a rare opportunity so make the most of it. Should be a fun filled 5-6 years to become a doctor.

Anyways congratulations again and enjoy your next few weeks of holiday and get ready for freshers!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

End of Week 3.

Sorry for the late update. Literally left for Canada the day after the end of my first placement, so I haven't had time to update.

Anyways. This was my final week on my first placement. I realized that the patient I was originally going to use for my SSC project/essay does not fit the criteria for the essay. Therefore, I was out hunting for another SSC patient. Decided to take a stroll to the Coronary Care Unit to see if there are any straight forward patients. We met a patient who was quite talkative and in general well enough to talk to us. He had an MI and was waiting for a bypass surgery. This time I made sure we got every single bit of info we need for this essay and all in all it was a really straight forward patient history. Did cardio, respiratory, and abdominal physical examinations. The patient was really friendly and actually didn't want us to leave because he was so bored. Kinda feel bad for some of the patients as they really do look like they are bored out of their mind. Some of them don't even get patients so you really do sympathize.

Actually before we went SSC patient hunting (on Monday) we went to theatre to look for our consultant. We literally stood there for 1.5 hour as our consultant was late and we didn't want to risk missing him so we turned up quite early. Finally caught our consultant racing through the corridor and asked to meet him on Wednesday so we could get our proformas signed off. I swear those 1.5 hours were horrendous as nurses kept asking if we were alright and if we needed anything. Swear we nearly blended into the background.

So come Wednesday, our consultant had clinic so we went to meet him at his clinic...only to find out he isn't there yet and will be an hour late. Great. I decided to talk to the SHO and nurses about bariatric surgery as I was thinking of writing up about it for my 2nd SSC essay on ethics and law. Had a really really good conversation going and I learned quite a lot. It's all down to personal opinion and it is definitely an interesting topic. So an hour later, consultant turns up...only to be in a bad-ish mood and completely ignored my partner and I. We waited til the end of his clinic to talk to him. So we gave him our proformas for him to assess how we did in placement. He took our sheets, quickly glimpse and it, and just circled "Satisfactory" for each section. My partner and I were panicking and our consultant returned the sheets to us without leaving feedback. In general it is expected for us to get an overall mark of "Good" in placement or else the medical school may think we didn't show up to placement. So out of desperation we asked if we can show him what we have been doing on placement as he hasn't watched us therefore couldn't really mark us properly. We were hoping after showing him our work he would raise our grade. He told us to meet him in between surgery on Thursday at 12:30pm.

We get there at 12pm...he apparently finished his first surgery early and had an early lunch break so he could get on with his second surgery. So we stood in for one of his surgeries which was expected to be only 2 hours. Not bad right? Wrong...midway through surgery we had a complication and the surgery ended up taking 4.5 hours. My legs were not happy with me. I think at one point I lost feeling in my quads. After surgery, our consultant was obviously annoyed, but still managed to meet us. We gave him a new proforma and he was like "Didn't I sign something like this yesterday?". We pretty much told him it's a different sheet and it requires written feedback. Somehow he fell for it and before marking us we showed him all our patient histories we took over the 3 weeks. Despite all the effort...he still gave us "Satisfactory" but in the feedback he put down that it was difficult to mark us and was sure we were "good/excellent" students but he didn't get the opportunity to watch us in the wards. At least we got some sort of reason. But to be honest, we now understand why he gave us a "Satisfactory".

So on Friday, we actually had nothing to do and it was our last day. Went in at like 10pm and my partner and I decided to get assessed on our history and examination skills. I think I did alright in it, but was told that my smiling was unprofessional. Still confused about it because if I was a patient I wouldn't want to be greeted by a doctor looking like he/she doesn't give a crap and is in a bad mood. Anyways everyone has their own opinions but it was one feedback point that I will keep in the back of my mind but definitely won't change the way I greet patients. It's not like I excessively smile and laugh/be inappropriate with my facial expression. Just want to treat the patients like a person. It was a weird one to get my head around, and still kinda bothers me. Oh well. After the assessment, we managed to leave at like 12pm and returned our lockers and bleeps. Only if I could relax the minute I got home. It was more like "need to pack. need to pack. need to pack." I don't think I sat down at all for the rest of the day as I was running all over the place trying to get things done and running some final errands before I left.

All in all my first placement as a student doctor has been enjoyable and I definitely learned loads. When I return to placements at the end of September, I will be able to take bloods and do injections/perform invasive procedures, so I'm really looking forward to that. Shame I have 2 weeks of 9-5 lectures prior to my 2nd placements. Yuck.

But finally a week into holiday I've had my chance to sleep in and relax. Now getting to writing up my first SSC essay. The brain hardly wants to work though.

Anyways sorry again for the late update. Hope everyone is enjoying their holiday! Freshers week is getting closer! :D