A journey into medicine

I’ve chosen something a little different for culture today, but bear with me whilst I explain why. I’m in final year, and I’ve become consumed with the idea of just finishing that I’m just going through the paces. So I took a moment to think about it (whilst fumbling around on Facebook, as you do) and I came across a video of a friend, Jenardan Sellathurai speaking of his experiences of trying to get into medicine after 3 unsuccessful attempts. I was transported back to a time where I was 18, doing that damn UCAS application, getting ready for interviews and I remembered the passion I had for medicine.

Medicine is a long degree, and coupled with the battle of junior doctor contracts raging on, there is an aspect of uncertainty in all our futures. I asked Jenardan to write an article of his experiences of getting into medicine, to hopefully take you back and remind yourselves why you chose this degree and to inspire others who might be deciding to apply. In all honesty I had forgotten some of the lessons Jenardan had learnt, most importantly that failure is there to strengthen us, forcing us to learn and grow. 

 

Jenardan Sellathurai of Warwick University talks about his experiences of getting into medicine:

Four attempts later and with a whole load of people doubting me on the journey (including my parents) I’ve finally made it into med school. In this article, I want to share some of the things that helped me persevere on this road of uncertainty and frustration.

“You applying for medicine in the first place is a long shot, let alone applying to a med school in London. Don’t even think about it.”

This was the initial encouragement I got from the head of sixth form followed by suggestions of looking for alternative career paths when I didn’t meet the grades for my offer at UCL on A-level results day. I then made the difficult decision of embarking on a gap year but that didn’t go to plan either. In the end, I was in a position where I was paying three times the amount in tuition fees for a course I could have enrolled on the previous year, Biomedical Sciences at St George’s. At St George’s I then attempted applying for the transfer into medicine scheme with little success and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t question my commitment and capability to pursue a career in medicine at this point. However, I’m glad that I did question myself because I learned a lot as a consequence.

 

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Lesson 1, that I gathered is that everyone has different journeys and to stop comparing myself to those who made it into medicine on the first attempt. In hindsight, I am glad that I have had to fight for my place because it’s only made me more resilient and reinforcing my reasons for wanting to do medicine.

The second thing I learned is to take full responsibility. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of blaming “high competition”, “unfair selection procedures” and “luck” when unsuccessful to protect our self-confidence. However, accepting that I was where I was solely because of my choices and efforts was initially uncomfortable but in the long run it gave me more things I can control and manipulate in applying for medicine. It also gave me the hope that if I continue tweaking my approach with every single attempt that it’s only a matter of when I get into med school and not if I get in.

This leads me onto the next game changer for myself. Just decide that if you are serious about anything, you will drive yourself to succeed, no matter how many attempts it takes. I find it strange that we would often try multiple times to solve a maths equation, a level on a video game or cooking a meal that didn’t work out the first time, but when it comes rejection I’ve seen many people give up too soon. As soon as I accepted that I was going to keep trying, I freed myself of any anxiety and it helped me detach my self-worth from something fluctuation such as my status of not being a medical student.

The 4th lesson I would like to share is, ask for help. What I initially saw as a sign of weakness and disturbance to others, I soon later realised was one of my biggest obstacles. I cannot recall a time where I’ve been declined help and the advice from those who are where you want to be (mentors) can be invaluable. However, seek to offer value first. People offering their time should be greatly appreciated and look to do something in return for that.

Finally, I would like to invite you to look at your habits and routines. Aristotle says: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Are your current habits supporting you in achieving whatever goal you have set yourself?

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