17th August 2018, 8 am, my inbox pings. My UCAS has been updated. It’s my 18th birthday, but more importantly, A-level results day. The day I’ve been working towards for 2 years. The email that contains my future. Over the past few weeks, I have decided which accommodation I’ll live in at Cardiff university, taking into account its location and distance from the medical school. This is the start of my dream to become a doctor becoming a reality.
I open the email. It confirms my university place. But not at Cardiff, in Leicester, not to study medicine, to study medical genetics. This one-line changed everything. I know the envelope awaiting me at sixth form cannot contain the 3As I have coveted and worked so hard for.
6 years later I have graduated with a MBChB from the University of Leicester, with a job as a junior doctor starting in August, but how did I do it?
Transferring to medicine from biological sciences
The University of Leicester along side Plymouth, Anglia Ruskin and Newcastle, offer the opportunity for 1st year biological science students to transfer into their medical degree. Upon starting my Bachelors in September, I made the decided that was what I was going to try and do. Within the first week of university, it became clear that it was going to be no easy feat. When the optional talk about the transfer to medicine option was held, the 500-seater lecture theatre was filled. The competition would be fierce.
First year students usually have time to enjoy and settle into their new surrounds in a relatively carefree manner, as their exam results don’t contribute to their degree grade. But to be successful in transferring I knew I needed to achieve a First in my end of year results. The minimum of 75 percent average would be made up of lab reports, essays, and exams.
Additionally, I would have to re-sit the dreaded entrance exam, now known as the UCAT, get references from my personal tutor, and show my continued interest in a career as a doctor. It was going to be a busy year.
Despite the hard work I knew I was going to have to do, I thoroughly enjoyed my year of biological sciences. Whilst lab work wasn’t going to be my future, I enjoyed the sense of comradery and putting things we had learnt, like gram staining bacteria, into practice. I also felt secure in the fact that if my ambitions didn’t materialise, I would have a good degree and could apply for post graduate medicine, or a scientist training program to work within the NHS in another capacity.
I started a part time job at a care home next to my halls of residents, my first proper paid employment and something that gave me roots in Leicester, as well as some extra money to compliment my student finance. I spent my free time being involved with some of the fantastic societies the university offered. The First Aid society was filled with fantastic moulage scenarios, aided by prosthetics and a makeup artist, and thoroughly entertaining shifts such as the Leicester vs Sheffield Quidditch tournament. The Global Health society held fantastic talks from students who had completed intercalated BSc courses, as well as doctors from renowned organisations such as Doctors without Borders. All this of course helped with my application to medicine, but most importantly it enabled me to spend time with like minded people, make friends at university and remind myself that medicine was a career I wanted. It was my motivation.
During the summer I was fortunate enough to have been successful with my application, along with around 10 other students that academic year. We all started our first year of medicine that September with a bit of a boost, as the first terms curriculum was reflective, and sometimes identical to the lectures we had received the year before! We swapped lab work and sexing fruit flies for whole body dissection, and essays for multiple choice exams. It was all worth it. Finally, I was able to see in real time how all the science I had spent hours learning could be applied to help people whose physiology had failed them, and be part of the real difference that medicine makes.