As far as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. Or at least that’s what I tell myself and everyone who asks me why I chose medicine! Growing up I idolised doctors and bought into the narrative that doctors were representative of all things good in society. As I grew older, many events reinforced the reality that academically, my strengths and interests lay in the sciences. I found that I also really liked people; I liked being around people, talking to people, and most importantly I wanted a future career which primarily serves to have a positive impact on people’s lives. I therefore chose medicine because it seemed to achieve a seamless blend of both the science and human aspects.
Before medical school I had very little personal experience of the world of medicine – none of my family members or people in close social circles were doctors. As an attempt to gain insight into whether a career in medicine would be for me, I watched many BBC documentaries about the life of doctors and what goes on behind the scenes at hospitals in the UK. I also had many discussions with my Chemistry teacher (who was also my mentor) in my sixth form college who provided me with advice and directed me to useful resources – including assisting with obtaining work experience.
When it came to choosing universities, location was a major factor for me. At the time I had spent many years of my upbringing in London and saw university as an opportunity to embark on a new personal adventure independent of my family. I visited Birmingham during the medical school open day to get a better feel of the university and the city as a whole. Birmingham appealed to me primarily because it was a relatively big city, had an ethnically diverse population, and wasn’t too far from home!
University websites were instrumental in proving information about course structure and curriculum style (e.g. lectures, coursework, PBL), entry requirements (eg GCSE/ A level grades, UKCAT, interview style), and important dates and deadlines. Deep exploration of the websites helped me stay organised and better tailor my applications according to my strengths. Right now there is a near infinite availability of resources to gain tips, advice and information about applying for medicine, studying medicine, and a career in medicine. My personal suggestions of useful resources are as follows:
• University Websites
• The Student Room Forum
• Books: Trust me I’m a Junior Doctor series, Bad Science, This Is Going To Hurt
• BBC Documentaries: Hospital, Junior Doctors
• YouTubers: Chidera Ota, Sam Forde, Nella Grace, Anas Nuur Ali, That medic, Ali Abdaal, Courtney Daniella, Nissy Tee, Ibz Mo
• Podcasts: Sharp Scratch
My one piece of advice to prospective medical students would be to feel the fear and do it anyway! When deciding to apply for medicine, it can be pretty daunting to read and hear about admission statistics, horror stories about application rejections, and all the undesirable aspects of studying medicine. Whilst some of these may be true, they by no means reflect the complete picture! So if you feel that medicine is the right choice for you, do not fixate on them. Try your best to stay positive, do not lose sight of your goal, work extremely hard, and give it everything you have! If you don’t try you’ll never know, and there’s nothing worse than settling for another course or path and wondering what could have been for the rest of your life.
My top tips for new students would be:
- Diversify your identity; by that I mean that medicine can be an all consuming degree but you should still make time to actively pursue any other interests you have.
- Do not tie your sense of self-worth to your grades.
- Studying medicine is a marathon, not a sprint. Work hard but pace yourself. Stay in tune with your physical and mental wellbeing.
- Come into medical school with an open mind and get involved.
- Do not stress out about making friends, whoever you are and wherever you are from, I can guarantee that you will find your ‘tribe’ in medical school.
- Always remember your reason for choosing to study medicine.
- Never forget that you were chosen to be here and that you deserve to be here, just like everyone else.
- Make older year friends and ask them for notes, advice, and tips on how to successfully navigate medical school.
- If you find yourself struggling, academically, socially, or otherwise, please speak to someone.
- Finally, do something fun and relaxing this summer before your big journey begins!
My favourite thing about medicine is the incredible range of people it allows you to come into contact with! From patients, healthcare professionals, lecturers and fellow students alike. Studying medicine allows you to interact with so many people from various backgrounds, learn from them and gain so many unique experiences, all of which I find very energising. I also love that it allows you to experience and be a part of many personal and ‘behind the scenes’ aspects of people’s lives that others don’t have the privilege of experiencing.
Over the years in medical school, I feel incredibly blessed to have had incredible opportunities which have helped in my personal, academic, and professional development. Last year I had the opportunity to take a year out of the mainstream medicine course and pursue a degree in International Health. Through this I designed and carried out a research project on childhood obesity, spent two months in Latin America, and graduated with a first class honours! I have also had the opportunity to be involved with the British Medical Association and their work in raising awareness and improving equality, diversity, and inclusion within medical education and the profession. This role has included speaking at two of their large-scale conferences and actively participating in their policy-making decisions.
Throughout my time at medical school, I have had a keen interest in exploring issues faced by Black students during their medical training in the UK. This passion fuelled my decision to create the African Caribbean Medical Society (ACMS). Being the first society of its kind in the medical school, ACMS set precedent for specifically representing and supporting students from an African-Caribbean background who study medicine and other healthcare-related courses at the University of Birmingham. Along with nine other committee members, I work to create events to support and educate our student members, improve equality, diversity, and inclusion in the medical school, and inspire and influence younger prospective students! Our platform continues to receive positive recognition and support from current UoB students, prospective students, and healthcare professionals alike; you can follow us on Instagram to find out more @acmsbirmingham
The biggest challenge I have had to overcome in medical school was imposter syndrome, which I particularly struggled with in my first year. I constantly felt that I wasn’t smart enough, ‘posh’ enough and just generally felt out of place - like I was in a dream that could be snatched away from me unexpectedly any point. How I managed to overcome this was speaking to my friends and family back home who reminded me that not only was I capable of succeeding in medical school, but also how passionately I wanted to study medicine and how hard I had worked to get there. As time went on I made many more friends on my course and soon discovered that many people, felt the same way, which made me realise that it was something common in many high achieving people! So I tried my best to stay positive and focused, and much to my surprise I did very well in my first year exams which was monumental in convincing me that I did deserve to be there and that I could be successful after all!
Currently, my main interests with regards to medical specialties are in paediatrics and emergency medicine. Especially after completing my intercalation degree, I am also very passionate about global healthcare development. So after graduating as doctor, I hope to get involved with a non-governmental organisation or charity, and live abroad for a few years and help to improve healthcare in a resource-poor setting in sub-Saharan Africa or Latin America. I have also always this big dream to work for the World Health Organisation, so hopefully at some point down the line that will come true too!