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October 10, 2018

Abbie's diary of the introduction to MBChB

Monday 24thSeptember was a huge day for me and the rest of my cohort as it was the beginning of our Warwick Medical School education. The day before, we had a meet and greet in a pub just off campus which consisted of meeting familiar faces and getting to know new people in my cohort. We also received our Med Soc society cards and t-shirts and had the opportunity to chat to the year above us to get some last-minute tips and tricks to survive the first year.

Monday morning soon arrived, and we had several lectures welcoming us to the med school and who’s who in the world of WMS. We also met with our personal tutor and our tutor groups for the first time. Cased Based Learning (CBL) was something I had been nervous about as I had not had good experiences with group work in the past, but my group bonded quickly, and I left the session wanting to experience CBL sessions as soon as possible.

Monday evening brought a bar crawl with our fetching Med Soc t-shirts but despite five of us trying to navigate Google Maps, we still had a situation of about 15 medics wandering around town completely lost (at least we only have to navigate one building in our future careers). Eventually, we found the place and quickly got down to the business of the evening: “having a nice quiet one with the flatmates”. Needless to say, there were a few sore heads in lecture the next morning, but everyone seemed to have survived.

Tuesday brought the slow introduction of content into our lectures, including basic cellular biology, and we got to experience a CBL session looking at how we work our way through CBL cases.

Warwick has a lot of support schemes in place for students, from personal tutors to block leads and systems run by the Med Soc. One of these systems is the Medic Parents scheme. I met my parents that evening, who are two second years. I was happy to see that one of my brothers is a guy from my CBL group and it was nice talking to my medic dad about anatomy - something I am looking forward to learning this year.

Wednesday allowed us to have some free time in the afternoon, meaning we could participate in main campus events if we wanted to. We also had our Freshers Fair and I joined too many societies. I particularly enjoyed the surgical station as I performed my first suture, which I am rather proud of! One of the societies I had made a beeline towards was the Neuro Soc as coming from a Neuroscience background, I was keen to keep a bit of neuro in my life outside of block teaching. I also joined Warwick Netball as I have decided that I need to physically escape my desk!

On Thursday we were introduced to mindfulness and how to make sure we keep ourselves emotionally healthy during the course. We also had the second of our CBL sessions and I particularly enjoyed this as we had brought in brownies to eat. In the evening we had a “where’s wally” social - seeing 50 or so medics running around dressed up in red and white costumes is the most bizarre sight you have seen!

Friday brought our first day at the hospital, which proved to be one of the best days of the entire week. In the afternoon we had one of the best lectures I think I have ever had. We covered clinical skills and watching the demos given by Dr Gill and Prof Patel was like watching a medical Ant and Dec with Dr Gill’s enthusiasm and Prof Patel’s quick-witted “dad humour”.

We were exhausted after a long but incredible first week, however we still had the Med Ball. It took five medics one hour and four videos to figure out how to fix a bow tie in our halls, but eventually we made it. The food was amazing and one of our lecturers wore some particularly amazing shoes that stole the show from every other outfit there. Again, we had a few sore heads the next morning, but it had been a great evening to relax and celebrate the fact we were here.

After talking to people, we still have “out of body moments” where we keep questioning if this is really happening. I’m sure this "daydream" state won’t last long but the medical school here act like a giant team. Upper years support the years below them and the lecturers are only an email away. I’m looking forward to working through block 1 and hopefully getting some sleep along the way.

Update: Freshers Flu has hit me hard.


October 03, 2018

My name is Jordan and I am a Phase 2 student at WMS!

Term started a couple of weeks ago and I’m still settling back in. After a long summer of doing (not) a lot, getting back into the swing of having teaching every day has been tough, but so far the excitement of getting stuck into more clinical placements this block has kept me going. I’ve just started the Advanced Cases 1 block, which runs for 12 weeks (until Christmas), with weeks themed around some of the most common conditions we will see as doctors. We have hospital on Mondays and lectures and cased based learning (CBL) Tuesday-Friday.

Our teaching the past few weeks has revolved around some of the most common medical conditions we will encounter when qualified doctors, and includes some recap of concepts we have worked on previously. For example, in this block so far we have covered heart failure, chronic conditions, frailty and confusion. With an aging population, these are the cases that will take up most of our time as junior and then more senior doctors . UTIs, dementia and delirium, hypertension and heart failure are some of the most common chronic conditions we will deal with, so this block provides a great preparation for this and means that we are brushed up on these common conditions before we commence full time clinical placements from January.

We have hospital teaching every Monday, where we are placed at one hospital for the duration of the block. My placement is at George Eliot hospital, and my experience so far has been great. I’ve had bedside teaching (where a senior doctor takes you to a patient and then you take the history and do an examination while they watch), which is great to develop your clinical skills and get feedback on how you can improve. I’ve also had self-directed ward learning, which is where you are assigned to a ward and you go and take part in whatever teaching you feel would be useful. So far I’ve shadowed a ward round on a gastroenterology ward, which was a great, albeit daunting, learning experience (the consultant asked us medical students to review the stool and hydration charts and report back, which seemed like a big responsibility!). When we’ve had our teaching on taking bloods, we can also offer to get involved with practising these in our self-directed learning periods, which as I have my venepuncture and blood cultures teaching next Monday, will be me soon!

I’ve studied at WMS for one year now. Before coming to medical school, I worked for two years, firstly as a graduate intern at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and for then as a dispenser in hospital pharmacy. Before that, I studied History at Birmingham University, so my path to medicine has not been the most conventional. However, I think having a different set of experiences from my peers sets me apart and gives me a different perspective on some issues. For example I have more experience of constructing arguments and arguing ethical and theoretical principles, which really helps with the VLE (Values, Law and Ethics) teaching, where there is quite often no simple answer and excellence is more to do with how you apply principles. The lesson to take away is that you don’t need to have done the conventional biomed degree to succeed as a medical student! All experience can be relevant and useful.

For me, Warwick was the natural choice. I applied to other unis, but it was really the open day that sold Warwick to me. I think its unique in being all-graduate, so you don’t have to be merged with undergraduates halfway through the course. Having worked for a few years after graduating my first degree, I am currently 25, so I’m not fresh out of undergrad. In that way, I think I wanted an environment where everyone is more career focussed and driven to be the best they can be. Warwick has a mature atmosphere that I picked up on as soon as I arrived. There is also a strong tradition of peer teaching, where you are taught all the tricks to remember the content by older students. I’m involved in organising the peer teaching for the new intake of students, so more of this will feature in future posts.

Until next time!


July 30, 2018


Thursday 19 July was the day that we’d all been waiting for. After four years of hard work, just over 150 men and women walked across the stage at the Arts Centre, shook hands with the Chancellor of Warwick University, and collected MB ChB degree certificates from the head of the programme. I was honoured and delighted to be among them. When I accepted the offer from Warwick Medical School back in April 2014, I didn’t know what to expect but I never thought it would be like this. I didn’t think I would make such good friends, learn such a huge amount of information, and miss the environment of WMS so much once I’d left.

The day itself went by in a roasting blur – this wasn’t helped by combining the month-long heatwave and wearing very heavy black robes on a sunny day in July! But it doesn’t matter – at least if we have one thing in common, other than that all graduates were a sweaty mess by the end of the day, it’s that we actually did it! We actually graduated from medical school! In the ceremony itself, we listened to some fantastic music by Warwick musicians, heard some inspiring speeches (including one to the MB ChB graduates in particular by an alumna) and got to applaud our coursemates as we watched them all officially become doctors.

Probably the most inspiring moment of the entire ceremony was the recitation by all MB ChB graduates of the Oath of Geneva, led by a member of our cohort. I normally hold myself together well, but I have to admit to a small lump in the back of my throat by the end of the oath. We all promised before ourselves, our families and each other to take seriously our responsibility to providing the best care possible and be the best doctors we can be, and the oath was a public commitment to this. It represented what we had been working for this whole time, and now we are entrusted with some serious responsibility.

After the ceremony, which honestly flew by, we paraded out to the stone steps on the piazza and gathered for the (in)famous group picture that will grace the walls of the Medical Teaching Centre for years to come alongside every other graduating year. Grouping us by height made herding cats look easy! The poor photographers – at least they’re making good money from the cost of the photograph. Yikes! We got one nice, formal snap and one with our hats thrown in the air, and I cannot wait to get mine in the post. Following the photograph free-for-all, the medical school was kind enough to put on a very nice lunch buffet for graduates and guests. The food was lovely and the atmosphere was great. Finally I got to meet the parents and families of my friends and acquaintances – the ones who had tales of support and sympathy similar to those my own family tell. It was a wonderful experience and one which I shall always remember.

It seems we have now come to the end of the road. At this point, it only remains for me to thank you, dear reader, for following this blog and gamely tolerating my adventures in medical school and throughout Warwickshire and the West Midlands over these years. I wish you the best, wherever you may be, and I remain respectfully yours.

July 16, 2018

Reflecting on Four Years of Medical School

I still remember every day of my pre-med-school life: I remember the day I sat the UKCAT. I remember the day of my interview (it was totally different to how they do it now!). I remember the day I got my offer to study medicine at Warwick, the day I left my old job (and salary…) and took a plunge into the unknown, and the day I moved up to Coventry to start medical school. I remember the excitement in the air on our first day: 170 new and nervous people all crammed into the lecture theatre together for the first time. I remember feeling excited and bewildered and finding it slightly hilarious to be having another Freshers’ week!

And we made it through. We made it through the first year, where everything was new and the volume of information seemed HUGE at the time (little did I know…), and they said we would gain the equivalent of a new language with all of the new terms and expressions that we were expected to know; those words and phrases roll off our tongues without hesitation now. I thought they never would do but now it seems entirely normal. We made it through all five blocks, as the wonders of the human body became clear to us. We had to learn how things were supposed to work correctly before learning how they can go wrong. I’m an anatomy geek (in another life I would have been an engineer, I suppose) and so Locomotion (Block 4) was far and away my favourite block. We made it through first-year exams – I’ve sat a lot of exams in my day and these were the hardest I’d ever sat.

We made it through Phase II, where we actually got to spend time in hospital and got to attend clinics for areas we were interested in because we had time for them and were encouraged to learn about everything. These were the days when we had time to spend the afternoon watching a thyroid operation if we wanted to – and if we were lucky, we would get to scrub in, and you can be certain that we would tell all of our friends about it at the weekend and they’d probably be jealous! Phase II was the time where all of our pre-clinical teaching came to life: all of the things we’d read about were now right in front of us. I got to manoeuvre the camera on a laparoscopic appendicectomy (a keyhole removal of an appendix) and it was the coolest thing I’d ever done. I saw a patient’s liver! This made my week.

And we made it through Phase III, probably the largest volume of information I’ve ever had to learn in my life (and I’ve already got a few degrees under my belt). Phase III was the specialist clinical placements – our time was much more restricted and focused in this year. We no longer had time to bounce around between interesting clinics because, after all, you ever know what’s going to come up on finals! And we were on for 48 weeks out of 50 in 2017, it was the longest and shortest year of my life at the same time, but I learned more information than I ever thought possible. And guess what: we made it through. Of course we did.

Now that we’re done with medical school, I can honestly say that I am so glad to have done it this way: although the work was really hard and sometimes I thought I would go mad from stress, I learned so much that I can’t even put it into words. It showed that we can do it. I learned about how the body works, what goes wrong with it and how to fix it. I learned how to interact with patients and colleagues in a clinical setting. I learned about disease and management and everything else. And, I’d like to think, I learned how to be a good, competent and safe Foundation doctor – because that is what I plan to be at the end of the month. Now, the only thing that remains is for us all to walk across that stage and collect our degrees. Watch this space…


June 29, 2018

The end of an era..

Well that’s it, I’m done, finished, finito! I handed over my assistantship booklet to be signed off on our last day and with a quick smile and a tick by my name I had completed medical school. Where has the last 4 years gone? I remember in first year seeing the final year students revising and thinking how far away that seemed, and now it has come and gone!

The last few weeks of medical school have been useful, strange but useful. I was no longer with my clinical partner who I have come to rely on for so many things in life and people were starting to expect more from me on ward rounds than lurking at the back. Adjusting to a new set of expectations from others, as well as myself, has taken some getting used to and my learning curve has only just begun.

Our 2-month long assistantship block has been useful in preparing me for life as an FY1 Doctor. I feel much more confident in some of my clinical skills and feel comfortable talking to patients and colleagues alike. I also feel more comfortable asking for help. In medicine it is just as important to know when to ask for help as it is identifying situations where you know it is safe to take the lead. This skill will set me in good stead as I expect to be asking lots of people for help most of the time when I first start my job! I also took the opportunity to do a few night shifts so I know what to expect. I shadowed one of Warwick’s brilliant clinical educational fellows for their night shift as they provided ward cover. For a small hospital like Warwick there is just one person covering the wards at night, with a registrar on site and a consultant at home for back up. Observing and helping with the types of jobs that crop up on night shift was very useful, one ward had a patient with terminal cancer with nausea and wanted advice as to what medication might work best, another ward had a patient who had fallen out of bed and hit their head who required assessment, other jobs included new cannulas so that medication or fluids could continue. We were also responsible for crash calls, both nights there were crash calls-one of which I had to put out myself which was nerve-wracking. I felt quite jittery after the crash calls but it’s better to be exposed to emergency situations as medical student first than experience those situations for the first time when you are the doctor called to that situation.

Amongst assistantship I have also had some serious life admin to organise, namely moving to a new house and starting my new job. Moving to a new house is always stressful and I’m trying to put off packing as long as possible but I also needed to go up to Newcastle, where I will be starting work, for a HR appointment and blood test before I could start my new job. I was quite excited to visit the hospital where my first rotation is for the first time, even if it was for a blood test! Walking the corridors that had the same NHS familiarity to them, made me realise that in just 4 weeks’ time I am going to have an ID badge around my neck saying Dr Joanne Wallace, and all the responsibility that comes with that.

We had our graduation ball in our last week, which was great send off for us all. It was great to celebrate all our achievements in medical school on a beautiful summers evening with a glass of bubbly in hand! The next time I see lots of my colleagues will be at graduation in a few weeks. At graduation we will all stand and recite the Declaration of Geneva in unison, and then 25 years after drawing a picture of myself in a white coat when I was in primary school, I’ll finally be able to call myself a Doctor. This is the end of my medical student story, I wish you all the best of luck in your own stories!


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About our student blogs

Our Med Life blogs are all written by current WMS MB ChB students. Although these students are paid to blog, we don’t tell our bloggers what to say. All these posts are their thoughts, opinions and insights. We hope these posts help you discover a little more about what life as a med student at Warwick is really like.

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