Am I the right person to apply?
Like a lot of disadvantaged students, I never thought I would (or could) be a doctor. My parents weren’t doctors, I didn’t go to a well-off school with a careers team (I was lucky to have one guy to look at my UCAS statement between 200 A-level students) and most of my peers were gearing up to apply for degrees/apprenticeships they didn’t really want to do, in the hopes to have a chance at the few decent jobs that ‘people like us were supposed to do’.
I will be forever indebted to the young woman who showed me that, actually, not only was applying to medical school totally doable, you can even have a decent chance at getting in.
She was a 3rd-year medical student from Newcastle University; An angel, delivered from on high (or in this case north of the river) to explain what on God’s Green Earth the application process was. She was well informed, but most importantly, she cut right through the endless waffle that comes with all university admissions processes. For perhaps the first time, I felt truly enabled to shoot for the stars, without worrying about landing in the trees.
I just had to keep going.
From then on, I started to really engage with the help that was out there for kids who wanted to shove themselves into the medical world. It wasn’t easy, but with each taster lecture, mock interview and UCAT prep session, I became more resolute that medicine was my vocation. Sure, sometimes it felt like I was taking on an insurmountable burden, that I would never be able to make it. Yet, I just kept on going.
As everyone is, I was terrified by the UCAT, but I did well enough, and I kept going. I thought I’d bombed the interviews, but I managed to get 2 offers, so I kept going. At the end of it all, I thought my A-level exams were a write-off, but I’d manage to reach my conditional offer. I’d finally got there. I was in. The feeling was exhilarating.
My time at medical school
For the last three years, I’ve been using that same ‘just keep going’ drive to help me carve out my own path in this profession. All the way along though, I’ve never forgotten where I came from, nor the people who helped me along the way. It’s not just that I applied to medicine from South Shields, it’s that the way I practice medicine is informed from South Shields. The people I have loved and grew up with follow me into every consultation room, in their own way. Since starting university, I’ve worked in widening participation (WP) in medicine. The term WP is very loose and jargonized, but it effectively means that I’ve been doing the same thing as that young woman who showed me how to spread my wings and fight to get where I am today.
I spend a lot of time working with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, doing my very best to show them that just because they grew up on a council estate, doesn’t mean they can’t be a cardiothoracic surgeon or anaesthetists. Through my work I’ve realised that much as I discovered when applying to med school, the work we do to end inequality in medical education is as boundless as we wish it to be. All it takes for you to get involved is that same drive we all use to push into medicine to begin with.
What I’m really trying to hammer home is if you’re just a poor A-Level student, with dreams of stethoscopes and caffeinated ward rounds, but absolutely no foot in the game and plenty holding you back, then for Christ’s sake grab hold of that dream and don’t let go! I did, and it worked. Always remember there are and will always be people out there fighting your corner, trying to help you at every turn. When you eventually get into a med school – and with enough perseverance and graft, you will – spare a thought for all those who helped you, and maybe help a few others along their journey too. Just keep going.
- Just keep going!
- As a student applying to medicine, throw yourself into medicine and learn as much as you can about the career
- There are more and more widening participation opportunities out there. Get involved! (either as a medical student or an applying student).