I am currently an FY2 and this is a little about my journey into medicine which started about a decade ago (that does make me feel very old).
I have been state school educated from nursery through to high school. I didn’t know about any other type of schooling, nor did I think it really made a difference. I have always been academic and enjoyed a wide range of subjects, in particular maths and science. Through my early high school years I was infatuated with crime novels and TV programmes and thought I would go into forensic science or join MI5.
However, aged 15 I was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, a benign brain tumour on the hearing nerve in the brain, which changed my view on my career. I had such wonderful treatment by the most caring staff and this inspired me to go into medicine. I realised it was a very well respected career that could change peoples lives which appealed to me. This also provided a great opening sentence on my personal statement!
It was a difficult time having 3 months off school and returning with only 2 months to sit GCSEs. However, I think with resilience, determination and sheer desire everyone can be successful. I was able to choose my A levels tailored to medicine and I studied Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Economics and further maths. I went to a selective college for sixth form and the emphasis on UCAS applications, interviews and UCAT/BMAT was immediately evident.
I undertook 6 months of weekly volunteering at a residential home. This provided a useful experience in understanding the difficulties facing an ageing population and the need for the NHS to adapt accordingly. I was able to see first hand the impact progressive conditions such as Alzheimers can have on patients and their relatives. I built up relationships with the staff and residents of the home which was beneficial to gain insight into their views on social care within the community.
I was unable to organise hospital experience but completed two weeks shadowing at a GP practice. I think it was a valuable experience as the majority of healthcare is managed in the community. The diversity and variety of conditions seen in general practice is a great introduction to medicine. I witnessed many patients visiting the GP at their most vulnerable times which highlighted the delicate and intricate nature of the doctor-patient relationship. However, from my limited exposure to the NHS I realised I prefer hospital medicine from the team working, acutely unwell patients and faster turnover.
The preparation for the UCAT and BMAT began at the start of college. I think there are definitely ways to prepare for both, particularly the UCAT whereby it is strongly linked to pattern recognition and logical thinking which comes with practice. I found using the books very useful to familiarise myself with the questions and working with friends also preparing for the exam to help gain perspective. The BMAT exam was a little tougher to prepare for and I initially struggled with the essay section. The breadth of topics that could be essay titles was daunting, however, on practicing a few essays it became evident that they often followed similar themes.
I was asked to consider many things prior to applying; work life balance, long hours, constant exams and other lucrative careers. This ranged from my economics teacher encouraging me to pursue a career in investment banking which he predicted I could be successful in and more financially rewarding. Friends who initially considered applying to medicine and then decided against it due to the continual long hours, weekends and exams. However, this provided a great opportunity to try and understand what a career in medicine will and can entail.
I had interviews at Barts and UCL. My UCL interview was on the day BMAT scores were released and therefore they were aware of my score and I wasn’t. This was daunting as the interview focused heavily on the essay section of the BMAT. I was didn’t get a place however I was offered a guaranteed interview for the following year if I took a gap year. My interview at Barts and The London felt far more relaxed, and this may be because I had some interview experience. We were sent an article prior to interview to be discussed which was a great opportunity to delve further into medical ethics. I was offered and accepted a place at Barts where I studied for 6 years.