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Arra's Web

Discussion in 'Weblogs' started by Arra, May 9, 2013.

  1. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    At the moment I’m seriously considering Graduate Entry Medicine. I’m not sure which university would be the best one, and if I’m being honest, I need to be sure that this is the right choice for me.
    In July last year I was finally diagnosed with coeliac’s disease – from the Greek κοιλιακός, meaning “abdominal” – but I had been presenting with the symptoms for a long time. There had been a lot of upheaval, including redundancy and unemployment, but thanks to a change in diet I am feeling better than perhaps I’ve ever felt.
    All the way through school I wanted to be a scientist, with “doctor” being high on the list. I was always in the top groups for chemistry, biology and physics, but I was also very good at English, French and music. However, somewhere along the line, I wasn’t doing quite as well as I used to. I went from being the first child to put their hand up, losing interest. I’m not sure if the coeliac’s had anything to do with that, but by the time of my A levels I was feeling pretty ill – abdominal pains, reflux, pasty complexion, dark circles around the eyes.
    I ended up settling for an engineering degree, which I got but I didn’t exactly get a run-away First. I had some bouts of unemployment then got my MSc. That helped, in that I could get interviews, but it was only until I got a research post that I found some stability.
    I began another research job, but by then I was diagnosed with a duodenal ulcer. Yet the attitude of my supervisor was that I was “faking it” (despite me being pallid, with dark circles round the eyes, hyperventilating and with stomach pain like Mike Tyson had thumped me). So I left that and was unemployed (again) for a few months until I enrolled on an English degree.
    I got a First in English, followed by an MA. This lead to a job which I did for six years until I got made redundant. I did some p/t work on a PhD but because I was made redundant I had to shelve this.
    Because I had been out of work for more than 13 weeks I had to take the first job that was offered to me – this was working in a busy café and one which had not passed an audit for more than 3 years. Not surprisingly, I was really, really ill (!)
    Because of the various tests and specialists I saw over the next 6 or 7 months, I started to think that the GEM might be a good option – especially since my maths, science and English are all at doctoral level.
     
  2. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    I do have some serious concerns about GEM, which I'll try to outline. I have a feeling I'm not the only person with these issues.

    1. Aptitude tests: GAMSAT + UKCAT if taken together could run to £300

    2. I'm part way through my PhD. I could finish it and have a career in research. Would a part finished PhD count against me on an application, though?

    3. Work experience. If I work in health care for a year or more, I could be getting quite senior in that career anyway. Would GEM really add anything?

    4. Of course, nothing can prepare one for the reality of the occupation. So, 48-hour shifts, a pager going off every few minutes, a "Sir Lancelott Spratt" figure calling me a numbskull, lots of pressure to get the right diagnosis, plus plenty of blood and vomit.

    5. Every day, it seems, there's some problem concerning the NHS. Then there are other "skeletons in the cupboard" concerning inadequate patient care.
     
  3. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    I started my Level 1 training today. Pretty pleased with it. I'm getting more of a broader picture about the health and social care sector now, and why it's so important to get the work experience/shadowing.

    I've also begun revising for the GAMSAT/UKCAT (if I can do any).

    I also think I'm getting a bit nerdy: I saw the new Star Trek film over the weekend. Without giving any thing away, Dr McCoy performs a blood transfusion on someone with radiation poisoning - WRONG! Surely he should be doing a bone marrow transplant? Radiation kills off T- and B- lymphocites, so a blood transfusion wouldn't work, would it? - whoever's blood it was.

    Okay I'll stop there, now that you think I'm a Star Trek fan.
     
    #3 Arra, May 13, 2013
    Last edited: May 13, 2013
  4. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    Some more training today; this time on Person-Centred Care. Every day it seems there's some horror story about a care home or patient/service user neglect, how it had been going on for years but only recently came out, the full scale of what had/has been going on.

    So what we learnt today was about care being less austere, less "institutionalised", and more about empowering the patient/service user. Much of it, one might think, would be second nature. None of us like being treated badly, or being shouted at, or patronised because of a particular stereotype. Yet from what the tutor was telling us, a lot of care workers don't like change - they want to keep the One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest/Cloud Atlas type of institution because of shift patterns, or because "I've been doing this for twenty years! Why should I change?"

    But from what I can gather, the person-centred approach is a great reliever of depression, frustration and - well, it's much more human. So we had some examples of care homes that had been purposely restructured/redecorated to get rid of the "like being in prison" feeling that some of these "horror stories" we read about in the daily papers convey. It means that a patient/care user can eat, sleep or bathe when s/he feels like it, or s/he can go to the park, or the shops, or to visit friends/family (with suitable support). It means that the patient/service user has more of a sense of optimism it what might otherwise be a very traumatic, confusing or lonely experience.
     
  5. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    Now to complicate matters even further. Having compiled something like 200,000 words for my thesis I'd be pretty miffed not to get a PhD out of it. So I'm applying for a studentship with a view to re-enrolling to get it finished. The thing is though that when one gets to doctoral level in research one could carve out a niche in that area (the whole point of doing a PhD in the first place). So I could be turning my back on a research fellowship in English. Also, given that the GEM would take four years plus another 15 - 16 months, plus the F1 and F2 training (with no real guarantees), I have to weigh that up with where I could be in seven and a half years if I stick with English Lit.

    I know that salaries for doctors can be huge, which raises two questions: is my main motivation money or saving lives? Just because the BMJ advertises a £100k+ speciality doctor's post, would that mean it would be a "walk-over" to get it?

    I was also reading some material on G H Lewes (George Eliot's partner). Although he trained to be a doctor he decided not to practice because (at the time) he didn't think it was about compassion and sympathy. Alright, so Mr Lewes was living in the mid eighteenth century, but how much has really changed since then?

    Yes, I could put on my PS about my interest in Renaissance medicine and how the "Renaissance man" or pollymath has been my inspiration, but on the day-to-day running of a busy NHS ward, with a pager going off every few minutes (even if it's not mine), am I not being blindsided by my own idealism?

    Just some thoughts. They may change, but I thought I'd trow them out here.
     
  6. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    Over the weekend I had a look at some books on the UKCAT and GAMSAT. To be personally honest, if the sample questions are anything to go by, I wouldn't have anything to worry about - apart from getting the money together to be able to take the tests. (Famous last words! Let's see how I do if and when.)

    I spoke with a friend about the problems/reservations I had and whilst they are natural concerns the idea just won't go away. Also, given I posted a short blog about patient-centred care last week, the BMJ ran with a similar editorial called "Power to the Patient", so it's all good.

    However, I also read another book: So You Want to be a Brain Surgeon? which gave a general overview of Medicine as a career and the various career-paths that one can take. In some ways I thought "Bah! No chance!" because it can take twenty years to become a consultant, plus there are several notoriously-difficult exams to pass along the way.

    I've also applied for a studentship to finish off my PhD - but even as I sent it off I didn't feel all that bothered about it.

    Other than that I finally got hold of the DVD boxed set for Grey's Anatomy series 5. Yes, I know it's very silly as far as medicine goes but I needed some light relief.
     
  7. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    I’ve whittled my choices down to six universities. The fact of having two bachelor’s degrees doesn’t matter since they would take the grade for the higher degree and not the lower one. That leaves me with another problem, in that two of the courses would be in London. So I could reject those and apply to the other four but even so I would still have to sit both the GAMSAT and UKCAT exams – unless I apply for three universities rather than four and only take the UKCAT. Hmm, I’m not sure that’s the best way to choose a course.

    I’m also considering my reasons for applying, because of the personal statement section. Of course I want to put forward a strong application and to avoid clichés or “cookie cutter” style statements. I was reading through one of those “How to get into Med School” books and even though it offers some useful advice I know that my set of qualifications and experience are particularly unique – I want that to be a strength and not a disadvantage.

    I’ve also got to be honest enough about my interest in “fictional” doctors – obvious ones, like Dr “Bones” McCoy, Dr Helena Russell, Roger Livesey’s portrayal of Dr Frank Reeves in A Matter of Life and Death, and even films like Fantastic Voyage (where they shrink a submarine and get injected into a patient’s body to perform an operation).

    But whilst these are all characters I grew up with I know the reality won’t be anything like that!
     
  8. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    I have just a few minutes today to update my blog (and many thanks for reading it).
    I’ve now completed my Level 1 Diploma – even though the tutor we had was teaching the same material at Level 2. That’s not to say I found it difficult, but rather it’s so much better being taught something by someone who is doing the job rather than to be taught by someone who has never left the classroom.
    So I’m another rung up the ladder. I have a job interview next week and (because this is Pre Employment Training) I feel very confident and well prepared.
    My next step is to get registered for the UKCAT and GAMSAT. I’ve also discovered that if I am still unemployed I can get a bursary for the UKCAT (not sure if GMSAT do one) so the cost isn’t too painful. (NB. I did say not too painful, because is still a couple of hundred quid that could go on something else.) So I’m trying my best to prepare. I read the BMJ and every week they have a section called “Endgame” which is like a question from one of these aptitude tests.
     
  9. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    I had the interview for a health care assistant job yesterday. This was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do. At the risk of quoting Star trek again, it really was a Kobayashi Maru test – i.e. no way to win. Apart from answering some very tricky questions, even if I got it, the reality of care work is that it is under paid, working with the infirm, working with the mentally ill, working with the abused, working with the terminally ill, …. In short, I’m really not sure I could cope with this on a day to day basis.

    Also, looking at the web pages for med schools, they all say that graduates can register with the GMC “subject to fitness to practice”. How about anxiety neurosis due to the various hurdles I’d have to jump over?

    Throughout the Level 1 we had tutors saying “I had to give it up because it was too stressful,” or “I had a breakdown.”

    Seriously? I mean, seriously?
     
  10. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    It's just over a year since I wrote anything in this blog. However, recent events have persuaded me to rethink my dismissal of GEM and perhaps give it another chance.

    In hindsight I can see that I was trying to do everything all at once - not only that, but to see it as a "This is the riddle of the gods!" kind of task from a Greek myth about Perseus or Odysseus. Well, the main thing I've realised is that there was a lot of change going on in my life - actually, there still is. I think what I've needed to do is to sort those things out first - my job, my thesis, my social life and indeed my personal life - before putting myself through the GEM application process.

    Also, if its any help to you, I would try not to think of applying to med school as being teleological (that is, as if it was the end or final phase of something). It can't be like that. As a doctor the very nature of the job changes pretty much on a day to day basis. Therefore, (Ooh, I sound like a scientist!) it has to be a development or continuation of things one has done before. It has to be like that, otherwise one gets a "discontinuity" or blockage where it seems like there are an endless number of tasks (i.e. "riddles of the gods") to be solved.

    Having sat down with my thesis and spent the past year or so rigorously critiquing my arguments and my writing has also helped. Basically, I'd been putting unrealistic pressure on myself to get it finished instead of taking my time. It's practically done now, which is one reason why I'm reconsidering GEM.

    I've also been doing voluntary work with the Red Cross and that has totally changed my outlook on life. Indeed, the ethos of neutrality and Humanism greatly complements the academic material in my thesis. I think that where I was frustrated before I was angry with myself, but I can't think like that. Now I'm of the opinion that the Humanist approach underlying my thesis, together with the community-based projects I've become/am becoming involved with would strengthen my application to become a doctor.
     
  11. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    Last week I was invited to Buckingham Palace for the 150th Anniversary of the Red Cross Garden Party. Most likely this will be the only time I get invited to the Palace - unless I get the MBE or other honour. (Like that's going to happen! :D )

    The reason why I'm writing this is because of the kind of people that I met. I mean, apart from Event First Aiders and Community Educators, there were people who have made a real difference by devoting their lives to the less fortunate. By that I mean people who had been working in war zones, diplomats who had negotiated with terrorists to free prisoners, people who had been working in places of abject poverty, depravation and disease to make lives more tolerable.

    So what does all this have to do with applying to med schools? Well, we could go the "cookie cutter" route and get shadowing work with a doctor for a couple of weeks, plus get a job as a care worker in an OAP's home. However, in relation to the people I met last week, I'd much rather my work experience reflected their kind of contribution - that the work experience actually counted for something regardless of whether or not I applied to med school.

    When put like that it's quite a wake-up call. How much do I [or we] make a difference to easing the suffering of others? Now, obviously, we can't all decide to "up sticks" and move to a famine-hit country, or negotiate with terrorists for the release of hostages, etc. but coming back home after being at the Palace last week made me see things differently.

    Even in this country there is a lot of poverty, financial hardship and the associated mental illnesses which accompany this (i.e. depression, anxiety, etc.). Also, this is before we start getting into other health conditions that are related to poor diets, alcohol, tobacco and drugs - many of which (perhaps all?) are linked to those former issues. Indeed, the "British stiff upper lip" and all that means that it's very difficult to be objective about these kind of issues - which makes tackling them all the more difficult - which makes getting involved and "making the difference" ever more remote to our experience.
     
  12. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    I've been looking into work experience and what does/does not constitute relevant experience.

    Point 8 of "The Medical Schools Council Guiding Principles for the Admission of Medical Students" outlines the following:

    In some ways that's pretty wide and can mean anything from "putting a plaster on a graze" to doing the actual work of a doctor but without being called that.

    Point 2. of the same article is also very informative:

    So what this is saying is that it's not enough to have a 1st or 2:1 (or 22: with Masters) and a high GAMSAT or UKCAT score. They're testing for a natural aptitude to do the job. In some ways this is also pretty wide. In other ways one reads this with the narrative voice of the Dean from the film, Doctor in the House - that is, the candidates they're looking for are so "ideal" as to not resemble a real person.

    However, these two points should provide the basis for a strategy to put together an excellent application. I would suspect that the interview panels (should one reach that stage) will be testing for similar criteria - despite the ashen faces and stoic responses.

    Other than that, all I can think of is this: suppose you or a family member were taken seriously ill. What kind of doctor would you want to see? Someone who put you at ease and guided you through all the right options? Someone who is obviously clever but is so brash that s/he never really gets to the root of the problem? Someone like the typical "student" who spends all her/his time partying? Or someone who dithers and makes you question how s/he even got into med school?
     
    #12 Arra, Jun 19, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2014
  13. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    I've just been reading something shocking which may affect four-year GEM courses. Following on from the Francis inquiry into Southampton NHS a lot of med schools are making responses. On the one hand this is "fixing the barn door after the horse has run away" on the other it pretty much means that the selection criteria for future students is going to be much more stringent. Actually, maybe both of these are the same reaction.

    I've just read that Leicester Uni are cutting their GEM numbers back to 32 and that 2015 is the last year that they are running this programme. From what I've read about Leicester it's already pretty tough to get in there in any case, since they award on a points system - GCSE results, A Level results, degree classification with science-based work experience, UKCAT score, at least 12 months care work.

    However, I've also been reading Warwick's page and they say "Our entry criteria is currently under review and details will follow shortly" which could just mean that the website is being updated, or it could mean something more draconian.

    Also, whilst King's and St George's seem to offer good programmes I know that London is going to be pretty expensive. Although I would love to spend four or more years at either, I've got to think about a) where am I going to live, b) how expensive is "expensive".

    That would still leave Newcastle and Nottingham. However, in light of the changes at Leicster Uni, I really want to know if they're going to raise the bar and factor in other things like GCSE/O Levels, A Levels and relevant work experience after graduation in addition to shadowing and care work experience.
     
  14. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    Re-reading my last post from Saturday, I can see that I have three main concerns about this whole project.

    1) Universities "raising the bar" as to what their entry requirements are
    2) How much is this going to cost? This one is tied up with accommodation (obviously) but also travel expenses, books and course fees.
    3) Assuming I can satisfy both the first two, I would be expecting a good level of support from whichever school accepted me.

    I don't know. The whole thing is starting to remind me of how Will Ladislaw feels in Middlemarch when he takes a job working on a newspaper that his "cousin" thinks is beneath him:

    Okay, a little "unpacking" required here.

    Basically, Casaubon is a stock caricature of the "academic" - of the particularly cantankerous and pedantic kind. He's pursuing a theory which he's been working on since his youth about the "key to all mythologies" but has never published and is very reserved about discussing any of his research with others (in case they steal his ideas).

    By comparison, Ladislaw is of the new generation. He thinks that academia is only the beginning of knowledge and that it's a person's achievements in life which really mean something. Also rather than a very "grand" theory, he's more concerned with finding the "simple" hypothesis ("To love what is good a beautiful when I see it".).

    Then there's the third character, Dorothea. She's in love with Ladislaw (or rather with his aesthetics, or with finding the "simple" hypothesis) but she's married to Casaubon and has no real grounds for divorcing him. She married Casaubon when she was younger because she could see some of the brilliance in Casaubon's "grand" theory but would have used Ladislaw's approach in order to complete the study. To complicate matters, Dorothea can only perceive things in terms of logic or "scientific rationalism", and is unable to "take a step back" and think instinctively

    So, how's all this relevant?

    I think what's lurking behind all this is that I'm not sure whether the med schools I'm thinking of applying to are more like Casaubon or more like Ladislaw. The above quote illustrates to me that "my taking a position here which he considers unsuited to my rank as his cousin" is somehow bound-up with the voluntary work/health care work/shadowing/etc. In that, whilst I consider my current voluntary work to be making a contribution to the community, I'm left asking myself: "Is it enough to satisfy the selection panel?" Yet if I'm only looking to build up a roster of qualifications and work experience (plus UKCAT and GAMSAT scores) in order to impress the interview panel, then I've fallen into Dorothea's "trap" and gotten myself hitched to a crotchety, grumpy old man!
     
    #14 Arra, Jun 23, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2014
  15. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    This week has been rather chaotic for me. I've had three job interviews in three days (!) which means I've been putting myself under a lot of pressure to perform. That might explain my last couple of posts (and why they were a bit cryptic). Anyway, I've corrected the last one so that it reads a little better. In that case, I can now outline what's been bugging me: "high academic achievement" versus "sufficient training for the job".

    It would be very silly to assume that if someone has good GCSEs/O levels, A Levels, a 1st or 2:1 (preferably from a posh university), and a Masters and/or PhD that that person would automatically have good patient care or the empathic skills of a good doctor. So I would think that most med schools would be aware of that when processing applications. That reasoning would also imply that someone who didn't do quite so well earlier on in life could impress the panel through his/her subsequent achievements.

    Indeed, Einstein only managed a pass degree in Physics - although maybe that was because he openly called his lecturers/supervisors "blithering idiots!" (Fine words if one can back it up.)

    Similarly, Isaac Newton didn't even graduate but only got as far as 2nd year undergraduate level. Alright, in Newton's case there was the little problem of the "Black Death" which subsequently created many vacancies for academics.

    Then again, what classification of degree did J S Bach get? or Niccolo Paganini for that matter?

    Okay, I'm wandering off the point a little here - that being the fact that high academic scoring is only part of the makeup and not the whole.

    That brings me to the second point; "sufficient training for the job". I think I know why this has been bugging me and a few others on these boards. In one of my past jobs I was *ahem* training manager. When we took on new staff we were of the opinion that "the only way to know if you can do the job is to do the job," so we would give any newbies a day or so shadowing and see how they got on. If they liked it, or we could see promise in them which could be developed, then we offered them the gig. Otherwise, it became pretty obvious that they weren't going to be right for us.

    So as far as shadowing and work experience goes, then I'd be expecting some hands-on experience in one form or another. At the moment I'm doing some pretty low-level hands on work with my volunteering. Okay, so I'm not doing open heart surgery or acting as a consultant oncologist, but it's satisfying some of the need to be "doing" rather than worrying about what I'm "not doing".

    That brings me to my three interviews. Two went well, one was a disaster. For the two that went well, I could tell that personality was going to be the big decider - especially when people's applications/CV's are very similar. By "personality" I don't just mean "being bubbly". (This isn't a dating forum, plus "bubbly" implies the presence of effervescent gas or "hot air".) No, what I mean is that the best person suited for the job - apart from being able to do the job - is the one who most characteristically resembles the personality associated with that job. As a proof of this, consider how similar the doctors and med students you know are to the profile of the "doctor" and whether or not you could fit that profile.

    As for the one that didn't go too well. That taught me to think very carefully when applying, and to pay meticulous attention to the job profile, for similar reasons. If you can't tick every box on the list, or if you can but wouldn't be happy doing those things every day, then it's going to be a bumpy ride. Also, pay attention to the Essential/Desirable criteria. If you find it's a bit of a stretch then that's going to surface later on when you get more established.

    Anyway, I'm waiting on the outcomes for the two "good" ones before I can write anymore on the subject.
     
  16. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    It's been a very hectic past few days for various reasons.

    First of all, I've been offered a job as a research assistant. Since I'm working in technical research again I can reactivate the letters "Dr." infront of my name. I had decided not to use it whilst I had been doing other jobs and/or was unemployed because it seemed a little pompous. I'm also reminded of something Thomas Aquinas said, shortly before he died, which translates as "Everything I have written is straw." Other than being one of the founders of scientific method you probably don't know much about Aquinas. He was a Domincan monk who wrote a huge book, the Summa Theologica which is one of the cornerstones of Dominican Theology. In simple terms, Aquinas is credited as being the person to link faith with reason and scientific rationalism. Anyway, this discussion could get pretty heavy very quickly - suffice to say that when Aquinas referred to his research as "straw" he meant that all knowledge is only the beginnings of insight and not absolute. Therefore the title of "Dr." is short lived insofar as one's knowledge and skills are short lived and that one needs to frequently update these things. In other words, one cannot remain complacent.

    By way of revision, since I'm returning to technical research (after having done doctoral level research in the Humanities) I've been looking over the guidelines for Qualcomm's "Build a Tricorder" XPrize

    Yes, this probably sounds very nerdy and silly, but there's a competition currently running to build a hand-held medical diagnostic tool along the lines of Dr Mc Coy's Tricorder from Star Trek.

    Accordingly, the device has to pass three tests:

    The Vital Signs Set:
    1. Blood pressure
    2. Electrocardiography (heart rate/variability)
    3. Body temperature
    4. Respiratory rate
    5. Oxygen Saturation

    Most First Aiders are trained in this, so the equipment would not have to be unduly complex. However, in the second two sets the device would have to indicate or diagnose certain conditions:

    The Core Set:
    1. Anaemia
    2. Urinary tract infection, lower
    3. Diabetes, type 2
    4. Atrial fibrillation
    5. Stroke
    6. Sleep apnea, obstructive
    7. Tuberculosis
    8. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    9. Pneumonia
    10. Otitis ("ear infection")
    11. Leukocytosis
    12. Hepatitis A
    13. Absence of conditions

    Note that "13" means "There's nothing wrong with you" - can any doctor safely say that?

    The Elective Set:
    1. Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
    2. Hypertension
    3. Mononucleosis
    4. Allergens (airborne)
    5. Hypothyroidism/hyperthyroidism
    6. Food‐borne illness
    7. Shingles
    8. Melanoma
    9. Strep throat
    10. Cholesterol Screen
    11. HIV Screen
    12. Osteoporosis

    So, apart from having to understand the cause and effects of these conditions, one has the additional problem of designing a solution from an engineering perspective. Indeed, whilst we pretty much all know how to take blood pressure and oxygen saturation readings, can we say with any confidence that we know how the devices work? I thought not. Most importantly, we need to know that the devices do work and that they give reliable readings.
     
  17. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    Lot's of things going on with me at the moment - mostly with starting my new job as a research assistant. Thing is that it's thrown up something I had not anticipated: salary. You see, it's one thing taking any old bit job or fill-in job to pay the bills, but when the university decides to pay quite a hefty wage it kind of reframes things. Why go back to "being a student" again, living on a pittance, when I could probably (realistically) get another research job and possibly more money? It would be at least another year before the course started, then four years plus two years (F1 + F2), when in seven years I could really go "further up the food chain" as an academic.

    On the other hand, I had been seeing those magic letters "BMBS" or "MB ChB", as rounding off my former education and as fulfilment of everything I've done so far.

    Also, I was in two minds as to whether to take the GAMSAT exam because of the Section III on science (chemistry and biology). Yet what I had overlooked was the fact that I now have access to the university library and will have a couple of months to research/anticipate the kind questions that would come up.

    So I could do it. Question is, should I?
     
  18. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    As I said in my last blog, there's lot's of stuff going on with me at the moment. I'm settling into the new job - although it's starting to feel like I never left, which is both good and bad. It's good because I know what to do in order to "thrive" in the academic environment rather than to "merely exist" in it. Yet in some ways it's "bad" because... well, have you ever seen the last episode of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin? Basically, Reggie faked his own suicide because he absolutely hated his job at Sunshine Deserts and the kind of people he worked with (especially his boss, CJ). Well, in the last episode, Reggie gets a new job but the company are based in the same building as Sunshine Deserts and his boss is CJ's brother!

    Okay, things aren't that bad. Nevertheless, having studied science and the Humanities at doctoral level, I'm starting to notice some subtle differences between "science type" people and "Arts type" people in the way that they behave. I'm not sure where that places me in the scheme of things, but I'm able to bring something different to the job which I don't think many other people have. One of the main ones, which is actually central to my job, is reading through a lot of complex data from multiple sources and "making sense of it" into a single, codified whole that's easy to read by a non-technical person.

    So I suppose that there's absolutely nothing stopping me from taking either the UKCAT or the GAMSAT... apart from finding the time, the money, and whether or not I'm really committed to another four year's of study (plus two more of being a dog's body "grunt, nobody, bottom of the surgical food chain...")

    Which brings me to the closing remarks to this blog for today. I remember when I attended the Nottingham open day that we were advised to think about why we wanted to apply: were we genuine about wanting to be doctors, or were we doing it because we had become seduced by TV medical dramas and Harlequin romance novels. In that sense, take away the glamour element of your Grey's Anatomy and House MD boxed sets and the job's not that much different from any other academic job. That is, the job is "what you make of it" rather than the gloss which can only provide a partial representation of what the job is if you've never done it. So I'm still asking myself: is this the right choice?
     
  19. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    If I am going to do this, then there are six possible choices of schools I could apply for:

    King’s
    Newcastle
    Nottingham
    St George’s
    Swansea
    Warwick

    The only order I've put them in is alphabetical. Logistically, Nottingham would be nearest and Warwick second but at the moment, apart from my job, I'm not really bound to staying in Leicester. King's and St George's, whilst they seem to be good courses, would obviously be the most expensive options. Therefore, taking the GAMSAT is only worth while to me to apply to either Nottingham or Swansea (if I rule out St George's as being too expensive).

    I'm intrigued by the Nottingham course because their website says that after candidates have taken the GAMSAT the odds of obtaining a place falls to 1 in 3, which is pretty good. In that sense, Nottingham and Warwick are the current front runners - but it would mean not just passing the GAMSAT but absolutely acing all three sections (and finding £300+ instead of £65).

    I would consider Leicester Uni, but despite being very convenient to me I'm kind of put off by the following comment on their website:

    This coming from a university whose motto is: "Elite without being elitist"

    Okay, so I'm not here to pass moral judgement on a university admissions procedure but I can't help wonder if they are passing up on many highly educated, talented applicants that would make excellent doctors.

    Even so, the med students I know came through via the traditional 5 year course after A Levels. When I told them about this they couldn't believe it.

    Nevertheless, I'm still interested in the Warwick school and they used to have v. close links with Leicester, so perhaps that's the better option.

    The Newcastle course looks very good, even though there are fewer places and it's a heck of a commute from the East Midlands.

    Only thing now is to schedule the tests (assuming this is going ahead) but due to work commitments I can't get the time off until September!
     
  20. Arra

    Arra New Member

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    Having been in my job as a research assistant for several weeks now, I’m starting to “see the bigger picture”. It’s one thing to decide to apply to GEM courses when one is unemployed and on the Work Programme, but another thing entirely when one is a trained researcher who spends most of the day doing a literature search, writing reports on that search, generating substantial research questions and attempting to use that as the basis of a funding proposal.

    Apologies if that first paragraph was a lot to take in, but then again academic research is all about reading journal papers and articles and trying to find out if it is relevant to the question or not.

    In this sense, if you’re taking the UKCAT or GAMSAT (or BMAT for that matter), you might not see its relevance if you haven’t worked in research before. Whereas, if you have, then you can see what those tests are examining for.
    Even though the Work Programme now almost seems like a foggy, distant memory, I met a lot of people who were trying to apply for jobs that they weren’t qualified to do – or more to the point, they didn’t know how to put a decent application together. They seem to have been caught up in the “I need to find x number of jobs this week or else the dole will stop my benefits!” rather than target specific jobs that they could do, or look for some continuity between what they had done before and what they really wanted to do.

    And so I come to many of the applicants to GEM that I’ve been encountering through some of the threads on these forums. It’s almost as though GEM is a magic “pink medicine” cure all for life’s many problems. Rather than seeing the next phase in life as a continuation of the current one, it’s almost as though “getting a place on a course” is somehow the “…and they lived happily ever after” to life’s problems. In this sense, as with the Work Programme, I suspect that something’s wrong with the approach and that a better solution is one that is more targeted – one which asks: What can I do? What do I want to do? How do I go about matching those two questions so that I’m not living in Cloud Cuckoo Land?

    In this sense, compared to my previous applications for master’s degrees and PhDs, those applications were targeted towards something I wanted to do and could realistically do. Whereas, applying through UCAS for up to four GEM courses seems less target-orientated and more about filling in the form. Given that Medicine is a very demanding profession, the “Oh, they’ll take anyone!” philosophy probably isn’t going to work.
     

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