With an initial interest in both human and veterinary medicine, I moved to Pate’s Sixth Form to study Biology, Chemistry and Spanish. Studying Spanish A-Level provided the opportunity to complete work experience abroad in Madrid, where I spent a week shadowing in a veterinary practice. I had the privilege of assisting in the operating theatre, which confirmed my passion for surgery. I also gained clinical experience in Cheltenham Hospital Oncology Centre as a scalp cooling volunteer (fitting cold caps which reduce hair loss for cancer patients) and this unique experience was the deciding factor for me to pursue human medicine.
The medical school application process was testing; writing the perfect personal statement, ranking in the top quartiles for the admission tests, scoring high enough in the interviews, and then the final hurdle was to get the grades. With three conditional offers to medical school, I was exhausted but ecstatic.
Then along came Results Day. I opened the piece of paper that was to determine my future. I hadn’t achieved the results needed to gain a place at medical school – I was devastated. It was heart-breaking watching my friends achieve their offers whilst I felt despair and panic. Not only had I not met the conditions for the degree I wanted, but I also did not even have a place at university. With the help of the Careers Advisor, I considered my options: I contemplated other careers, a gap year or even resitting my A-levels. But I was determined that medicine was my vocation. As long as I had air in my lungs I was never going to give up my ambition of becoming a doctor.
I gained a place on Neuroscience through clearing, and I began my undergraduate degree at Cardiff University, with the aim of applying to medicine again as a graduate. Unbeknown to me at the time, Cardiff offered a route to study Graduate Entry Medicine after completion of one of their feeder-stream courses. This route was competitive but offered a guaranteed interview if you ranked in the top 14 of the year (from a cohort of 500 students). I worked as hard as I could in my first year, more determined than ever to have another shot at medicine. And I succeeded! My degree title was converted to Biomedical Science (Graduate Entry Medicine route) and I studied the specific modules needed: Anatomy, Physiology and Concepts of Disease. I learned the science underpinning medicine in huge depth, I dissected human cadavers and was exposed to world-class research taught by leading cancer research professors. I gained an incredible amount of knowledge not only relevant to medicine but a large breadth of general science concepts, which still stick with me to this day. Great for pub quizzes! I also gained laboratory skills, aiding my understanding of bench to bedside medicine as well as the ability to conduct research within the literature and read papers efficiently.
I took every opportunity that came my way, determined to make the most of my student debt racking up. I joined the university dance and netball societies, attending socials each week and training late into the evenings. I was very focused on expanding my portfolio for my next medicine application, so volunteered at a care home and as a post-mortem assistant for the Cardiff Uni Otter Project. I became an Academic Rep and Student Mentor, helping improve the course and offer my support to younger peers. I was extremely busy but this fast-paced, exciting new life was thoroughly enjoyable.
Midway through my second year, COVID-19 hit. This developed into a really difficult time for my mental health, and I didn’t know if I would be able to complete my degree. However, I persevered and began my application for medical school (round 2). This time, I had to complete the GAMSAT, a notoriously difficult six hour admission test which requires months of preparation and assesses not only your academic potential but your stamina and resilience. This exam separates the cream of the crop from the rest of the candidates, as Graduate Entry Medicine is two - three times more competitive than standard entry.
My final year was plagued with lockdowns and covid restrictions. It was a very tough year and felt like an uphill battle. I eventually completed my final exams the same week as my three medical school interviews, wrote my dissertation, presented my project and then on a Thursday afternoon from my bedroom, I had completed my first degree! Despite the numerous challenges I faced, I won the academic prize for most deserving second year student and gained a first-class honours degree in Biomedical Science. I was offered a place to study Graduate Entry Medicine at Cardiff University (North Wales campus). When the acceptance email came through, I burst into tears. Everything I had worked so hard for and believed in, had finally come true. Albeit I was initially sceptical about going to North Wales as I had hoped to stay in Cardiff, but as a current second-year medical student in Bangor, I can confirm I am living my dream and forever grateful to my younger self for never giving up.
My advice to anyone wanting to study medicine or with big ambitions: do not let anyone deter you. If you want something in life, put your all into it. It does not matter how many times you “fail”. Get back up. Try again. And again. Until you get there. Resilience and determination are key here; they will define you for life and mould you into a stronger person.
Best of luck to all current sixth form students.
If you would like to follow my journey: @biomedjourneytomed on Instagram
View the Cardiff University clearing campaigns that I was involved in here: