From TV dramas to medicine, why I applied to medical school.

Why do you want to become a doctor?

The classic interview question you get faced with when you start your journey applying to medical school. For such a simple question, the answer is usually hard to articulate. We all have the passion to study medicine inside of us but how did that fire start in the first place?

Of course, many of us do it because we want to help people get better, some of us because we’ve been at the receiving end of medical care and inspired by the tireless work the doctors carried out, some of us for the money…

Why I applied to medical school

It’s time for some honesty, my mum has Crohn’s so I’ve been exposed to hospitals for my entire life – but looking back, I never considered being a doctor until I was around 11/12 years old. This was the answer I gave at my medical school interviews, and it’s all true, but deep down I knew there was another reason…

Every week, without fail, I tuned into BBC1 at 8pm on Monday and BBC2 on Saturday to watch the medical TV dramas Holby City and Casualty, the latter being my favourite show of all time. Life as a doctor seemed so exciting; bringing patients that had been blown up in gas explosions from the brink of death to sat up talking in just 50 minutes! I idolised those doctor-actors on screen and I tried to be like them in real life. They say TV influences the mind of children. And until writing this, I never really believed that it could have such an impact on the psyche of a developing person – but it definitely impacted me!

Back to reality

10 years on, I’m in my 4th year of medical school and unfortunately don’t have time to tune into my favourite TV shows anymore. The influence it had on me never went away, though I’m no longer interested in emergency medicine or cardiology and have since shifted my interests to infectious disease.

I feel when  I applied to medical school we were all so stressed out trying to make ourselves seem ‘convincing yet stand out’ that we forget the true reasons we go into this profession. I wouldn’t have dared say my true inspiration to study medicine in my interviews, what sort of impression would that give?

There’s a lot more to medicine than dramatic CPR…

The interview

When I applied to university, I got interviews for all of my chosen medical schools (and weirdly enough, an offer for Law at Liverpool, passing an interview I never even attended!) Each interview I had was in the multiple mini interview (MMI) style, where you basically sat 7 mini-interviews, lasting at ~7 minutes each.

And you know what? All that stress I put into writing the perfect answer for “why do you want to be a doctor?” went down the pan. I was only asked it once at Newcastle as an icebreaker question! They find out why you’ve applied to medical school in other ways: role-play stations allowed me to show how my empathy; ethics, to see where my moral compass points; reflection, taking a step back and appreciating what I’ve done well (or not so well!); and last but not least, having to build a giraffe out of little blocks and talk about whistleblowing (thanks Nottingham!)

This was my experience. I can’t say how the other 40 medical schools work, so there’s always that chance that you could be asked!

Upon reflection…

As I bring this article/self-reflection to a close, I would advise you to not stress about justifying your passion. You know deep inside that you want this so use the interviews to show it in whatever way they ask you.

Be that caring, thoughtful, and selfless person everyone knows you are – you can do it!

In summary:

      • Sometimes it’s difficult to put your finger on what your exact motivations to study medicine are. This is something many students experience.
      • Everyone’s motivations to study medicine are unique and different, what’re yours? And why?


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