My reasons for becoming a doctor
I always knew I wanted to go to medical school to become a doctor. My brother died when I was 6 yrs old (he was aged just 13 hrs) and I think that was probably my trigger. I can’t remember not wanting to be a doctor. Joining St. John Ambulance aged 10yrs further increased this passion for healthcare.
I was lucky enough to get into a private school aged 11yrs. I passed the entrance exam and had a means-tested assisted place. Mostly paid for by the government (my parents paid about £150 a term). Sadly these no longer exist thanks to Tony Blair.
I did ‘OK’ at school but did not achieve my full potential. I didn’t do my homework, I didn’t know how to revise and I didn’t really engage with extra-curricular activities. Without much effort I somehow managed to scrape through my GSCEs and got eight A-B grades. My ninth GCSE was a D in Music (but who cares about that anyway).
I didn’t get any A* grades, and only 3 As but at the time this was enough for some medical schools.
Then came sixth form. I chose Biology, Chemistry and Physics for A-level. Everyone at our school also had to do General Studies. AS levels were introduced the following year so I only did full A-levels. Again I didn’t do much of the homework and hardly any revision (I didn’t know how). I can vividly remember one teacher chasing me down the corridor as I hadn’t handed my work in again for the third week running (It was General Studies after all).
The school careers teacher had no faith in me. She said I wasn’t “clever enough to be a doctor and shouldn’t set my sights so high”. How I wish I could see her now. After the first year I had mock exams and also calculated the scores I had gotten for the modules taken so far. I knew I didn’t have the option of applying for medical school straight after A-level. I think I needed 110% in one subject exam to get the A (A* at A-level didn’t exist then).
The results day came and I got CDD and a C in General Studies. Not a bad haul considering I didn’t do the work.
I didn’t give up hope of becoming a doctor. During sixth form I had attended two course at the University of Nottingham (Medsim and Medlink).
Medlink is a two day residential course with lectures and teaching sessions about getting into medical school, the exams required and give tips and tools for improving your applications. There is also an exhibition put on with medical school having stands.
Medsim is a two day residential course to give you practical knowledge and work experience for your application to medical school. There is patient contact and practicals and you are also on-call for the whole time you are there and can be called to an emergency at any time.
See the Medsim and Medlink website here.
Therefore, I knew of other, not as well advertised methods of getting in, rather than the traditional route.
Re-take your A-levels
This is always an option to get the required grades. However, most medical schools will expect higher grades from resits than the first time of sitting.
Many UK medical school have Graduate Entry Medicine programmes, either GEM or GEP (lasting four years) or have graduate applicants for the traditional five year course. The majority ask for a science degree. All require either a 2:1 or a first class degree. There is a variety of entrance exams also asked for so check with the individual universities.
Medical school abroad
Some international medical schools teach medicine in English that you can then use to work in the UK without the need for further exams.
At the time I was applying for medicine there were only two options:
Now there are plenty more:
Obviously, if you choose to study medicine abroad it will cost, and it will cost lots. But if you are determined to be a doctor the you will pay.
I did a BSc (Hons.) in Biomedical Science. During my last year of this degree course I applied to medical school and took the GAMSAT exam (used for some graduate entry programmes). I failed the GAMSAT so decided to give up on medicine. I worked as a health care assistant in various hospitals for a few years and gained valuable experience.
From Health Care Assistant to Doctor
In 2006 the local ambulance service was recruiting for paramedics so I thought I would give that a go. I sat the written exams and passed and also passed the interview stage. However, I failed the grip test on the physical fitness interview day. Driving home from the test centre I had a moment of self realisation and decided to give medicine another go. As soon as I got home I applied for 2006 entry.
I retook the GAMSAT and passed this time, hooray. The interview for the University of Nottingham Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM) programme was next (I let my nerves get the better of me and therefore failed again). I had applied for other medical school as well but not been invited for interview.
This time I did not give up and managed to successfully obtain a place the following year. I started GEM at the University of Nottingham in 2007 and qualified as a doctor four years later in 2011.
Moral of the Story: Don’t ever give up on your dreams
Would I do the same again?
Yes, but I wouldn’t give up so easily.
I think if I had got into medical school at 18 I would have made a terrible doctor. Getting in aged 25 has meant that I have acquired important life skills. Also the experience gained working as a health care assistant has been invaluable. I have more empathy with the nursing staff and I can also build a better rapport with the patients. I remember a time whilst on-call as a foundation doctor when I fed an elderly patient who had broken both of her wrists. The nurses were very surprised and grateful of the help as they were rushed off their feet.
I hope that my story will inspire you to follow your dreams. Failure is just a matter of perspective.