Whilst I was on my elective, I met a fourth year medical student called Kate who was on her obstetrics and gynaecology placement. She studies medicine at the University of Queensland and below she has kindly answered some questions to give all of you guys perspective on medicine across the pond.
- What made you want to do medicine?
Strangely enough, I grew up wanting to be a politician. It wasn’t until high school that I realised how much I would hate that career! Now I live and breathe medicine, and I can’t imagine myself being happier in any other profession. I love the challenge of diagnostic problem-solving and the vast scope of conditions that present to a hospital. And most importantly, I love the satisfaction of knowing that a doctor who legitimately cares about their patients can have a bigger impact on their quality of life than any medications or surgeries. There aren’t many other jobs that have such a huge emotional reward at the end of each day!
- How was the process of applying? (Any tips)
In Australia, medicine is usually a four-year postgraduate degree with two entrance pathways…a direct entry from school, and a postgraduate entry. School-leavers invited into the medical program through the undergraduate pathway still need to complete an undergrad degree before beginning medical school, but their spot is guaranteed. The undergrad pathway relies on a combination of school grades and you score on a specialised undergraduate entrance exam, the “UMAT”. This exam has no knowledge basis, but instead tests your ability to think – pattern recognition, spatial reasoning, logic and emotional aptitude are all used as surrogates to flag younger students who are likely to succeed in medicine. Some universities don’t even have an interview and rely solely on the grades of the UMAT exam. A similar post-graduate pathway exists, with candidates chosen based on past uni grades and an even more elaborate post-grad exam (8 hours long, with essays and knowledge components as well). No matter which pathway you follow, the key to success is nailing that entrance exam…practise papers and workshops are your ally!
- What is your medical school like?
My medical school, the University of Queensland, is a huge cohort of hundreds of students spread across 10 cities in Queensland, Australia. We have two years of pre-clinical study consisting of lectures and lab sessions, with a focus on anatomy/physiology/micro/histo/immune/you name it! Then the final two years are clinical work, with exposure to emergency, anaesthetics, physician sub-specialties, surgery, and a range of other fields! As the oldest medical school in Queensland, we also have years of culture. Stage productions, jazz galas, sporting competitions and medical balls all feature heavily in our social calendar. Having a huge cohort of students has its pros and cons, especially in terms of administration and assessment. But it more than makes up for these failings with the diversity of friends you make and the strength of your social interactions.
- Do you have any plans for the future?
I’ve always had a strong interest in trauma, so hopefully in 30 years’ time you’ll find me behind a scalpel in a major trauma centre somewhere! While injury represents a large burden on the health of young Australians, we still don’t experience major traumas beyond the scope of road traffic accidents, so I’m hoping to undertake a fellowship in the USA or South Africa for better exposure to gunshot wounds and stab wounds. I would also love to volunteer with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders)…I love pushing the edges of my comfort zone, and more importantly we have the potential to make a real difference through aid work!
- Any last comments/tips for future medical students?
My best advice would be to build strong friendships within your degree, because your fellow students are the only people who understand how physically and emotionally draining medicine can be! Graduating from medical school takes years of caffeine and sweat and tears, and then once you leave university you’ll realise that it was only the beginning! The friendships you form while you’re studying will last for life (sorry for the cliché). I can’t wait to look back at all of my friends from university and be proud of the careers they’ve built for themselves and the lives they’ve changed!
If you would like to be next month’s feature then please get in touch!