Life as a First Year Medical Student at the University of Manchester by Former Bishop Thomas Grant Student Imelda
Imelda is pictured on the far left on her A level results day in 2018.
The journey into Medicine is surely not an easy one as I remember going through the whole application process myself- the endless UCAS application process, UCAT and BMAT entrance exams, the nerve-wracking interview stage, and the final hurdle of A-Level Exams, all accompanied with a whole rollercoaster of emotions! My personal journey to where I am today surely would not have been possible without the amazing and thorough support from the teachers and staff at Bishop Thomas Grant School.
Pathways into Medicine:
Many applicants believe the only way to pursue a career in Medicine is via the traditional 5/6-year course, unaware of the various pathways into Medicine. Examples of the alternative routes include doing a foundation year, completing a science undergraduate degree, an in-year transfer, or even having an opportunity to study abroad. No two stories are the same when it comes to medical students and their journey into medicine, but remaining determined and passionate to become a future doctor is what is truly important throughout the whole process.
Life as Manchester University Student:
Being a fellow Londoner and living with my mum my entire life, moving away from home, a 5-hour drive up north to the city of Manchester was something that I was initially anxious about, as I am sure almost every first-year student would be!
However, within a few weeks of arriving at university, I soon comfortably settled in and adjusted to the independent way of living. When it comes to starting university, many students also worry about the idea of making friends; however, it is important to remember that many students feel exactly the same way, and the process of making friends is actually not as daunting as it initially seems! During my first year, I was privileged enough to have amazing flatmates and meet students from all across the world. From trying Portuguese food to joining the Sudanese society, I have truly been exposed to a variety of cultures.
Within a few weeks of arriving in Manchester, I began exploring the city. Manchester is an extremely diverse city with friendly and welcoming people, a vibrant city centre and many places to eat and engage in a variety of activities with friends. The university itself has very traditional and picturesque buildings, a buzzing student’s union, many libraries and facilities to work and study, and the staff are very encouraging and supportive. The campus also has many extra-curricular activities and societies on offer, and some of which I chose to partake in during my first year include: the ‘Medics in Primary Schools’ society which involved going to primary schools to deliver fun and interactive science lessons to Year 6 students. I also had a weekly volunteering role on a Geriatrics ward at Manchester Royal Infirmary, spending a few hours each week conversing and interacting with patients. Whatever interests, hobbies or different ways you like to relax, your university is bound to have a society that suits you, and if it does not, nothing stops you from creating and coming up with your very own society!
Life as a Medical Student:
A typical week of a first-year medical student at Manchester starts with Problem Based Learning (PBL) sessions on a Monday morning, where in groups, students work through a case based medical scenario and then collate a learning agenda that we all independently work on throughout the week. Thereafter, we come together as a group on a Friday morning to discuss, demonstrate and share our researched content. The PBL style of learning is one of the main reasons I was drawn to Manchester Medical School. This is because I love working in a group and really enjoy delving into my own independent research on a particular topic. One of my favourite cases of the academic year was based on a patient suffering from asthma, and my groups learning agenda consisted of topics such as the pathophysiology, diagnosis, treatment, investigations of the condition, as well as the psychosocial effects that an asthma sufferer may experience. When working through the cases, I was initially surprised to discover the amount of psychology and behavioural social sciences that medical students must know, and with my A-Level Psychology background, I find this aspect of PBL particularly enjoyable.
Throughout the rest of the week, there are thorough and interactive lectures delivered by doctors, scientists, researchers and psychologists all based on the PBL learning agenda for that particular week. Many students prior to starting medical school and beginning the new PBL style of learning are particularly worried about the breadth, depth and level of independent work that this style of learning really entails. However, with a course structure like the one carried out by Manchester Medical School, a total of 7 50-minute lectures carried out through the week are directly related to the case scenario and provide all the information required for future exams.
A typical weekly timetable also consists of anatomy whole cadaver dissections. Luckily for me, I am not typically a squeamish person, and for this reason I very much enjoy anatomy sessions and would say it is definitely one of my favourite parts of the course. These sessions are a whole new style of learning, allowing clear visualisations of the different organs and systems of the body. Not all medical schools provide students with the opportunity to undergo whole cadaver dissections, and I recommend that this is an important factor to consider when it comes to selecting options for medical schools. I will definitely admit that anatomy is such a challenging and complex aspect of medicine, and before starting medical school, I would have never guessed how significant the level of anatomy knowledge I would manage to obtain through having the privilege to undergo dissections.
Once a week, I also have timetabled physiology and pharmacology sessions involving procedures such as administering asthma drugs, ECG measurements and identifying blood groups. These sessions are very beneficial in developing our practical skills to accompany our effective communication and consultation skills which we also have the chance to practice whilst working with simulated patients, during a once-a-week communication skills session.
Furthermore, the communication skills I have developed during the sessions have been utilised during my early clinical experience placement visits to GPs and hospitals in and around Manchester. In first year, the university allocates each student with a total of 3 GP visits and 3 Hospital placement visits across the two semesters, and I find these experiences extremely beneficial in being able to have good patient interactions.
In the spring term of the Medical Programme, students also work in allocated groups to complete a poster presentation on a topic of their choice as well as a 1000-word research essay project, all which forms a part of the course known as the Personal Excellence Pathway project. Having the opportunity to work on professional academic pieces of work is an amazing skill that I developed during the year, and personally, I am able to implement and utilise my EPQ referencing and academic writing skills that I developed during my time at BTG sixth form.
Overall, from having extremely encouraging and friendly tutors of the programme to preparing students right from the very start of the course; my first year of Medicine at Manchester has been nothing short of enjoyment, hard work and I am now greatly motivated to power through my second year of the course. Most importantly, I am thankful and truly appreciative for all the strong support of BTG for allowing me to be where I am today and who I am going to be in the future.
So, for all aspiring medics, whether you are considering applying for medicine now or in the near future, lead your journey onto both the course and the career of becoming a future medical doctor with nothing but sheer determination, passion and hard work! I wish all Bishop Thomas Grant sixth form students all the very best with their future dreams and intentions and you should all be extremely proud of yourselves!