What is a Stethoscope Stereotype?
This is a new series where I shed light on medical students from a variety of backgrounds and share their experiences with applications, their expectations (and what the reality was) and any advice for people who want to apply. These are people who may not fit the normal stereotype of medicine and will make some of the best doctors of their generation.
Today’s post follows Andra a second year medical student who is studying on a undergraduate medical degree as a graduate student. Andra is behind the informative instagram The iMedic. Show your support and check out her content.
Introduce yourself, who you are, what year are you in and where do you study?
Hi! My name is Andra and I have finished my first year of medical school at the University of Aberdeen. I’m originally from Romania and I moved to the UK four years ago, as just before starting medicine I graduated with a degree in Natural Science from University College London.
Tell us a little about why you decided to become a doctor
In secondary school, I was what some people may call the stereotypical ‘straight As’ medical school applicant. Ever since I was 13, I attended National Science Olympiads and in the penultimate year of high school, I represented Romania at the International Brain Bee, the largest neuroscience/neurology competition in the world for students aged 14-19. At that time, I knew that I wanted to do something related to the biomedical field career-wise, however, I thought medicine was a no from the start. In my mind, all doctors had to be extroverted, leaders, highly confident and with a charisma that draws people towards them whilst I was more of a ‘quiet, introverted kid’. Also, there were no opportunities for medical work experience where I lived and Romanian education does not place emphasis on teamwork. Therefore, I decided to read Natural Sciences at UCL, intending to follow a research career which I believed would suit me better. At university, I had the chance to explore both the academic and medical professions in more depth. Through volunteering, shadowing and working in university societies, I realized that I could improve the skills I thought I lacked, and that, at the end of the day, I would get a greater sense of satisfaction by helping people directly as a doctor, rather than just conducting research in a lab. And here I am.
Where did you apply and why?
I applied to three graduate-entry courses (Barts, King’s, Warwick) and one undergraduate course (Aberdeen), having received three interview offers. I was rejected from the graduate courses and firmed my offer from the University of Aberdeen. I chose the medical course at the University of Aberdeen because of three main reasons: it offers early clinical experience, it has a traditional style of teaching rather than PBL (really not a big fan of PBL), and as an EU student I could afford the fees which would not have been possible with a non-Scottish undergraduate course. Although I considered myself very lucky to have received an offer, for a pathological perfectionist like me a 25% success rate was enough for the Imposter Syndrome to creep in.
How did you find the application process, any advice?
Since I did not know anyone in the UK that is at least remotely related to the medical world, I found it quite difficult. I mostly used online resources to prepare as well as the notorious ISC medical books. I also had my personal statement checked and undertook multiple mock interviews with my university’s careers service. My advice would be to try not to overprepare, I believe this was my major mistake as when I got to the interviews, I felt drained and exhausted.
What colour is your stethoscope?
Burgundy with a champagne finish.
What advice you would give now you have gotten in?
With respect to the clinical aspect of my course, sound preparation and a good technique have helped me tremendously in communicating effectively and establishing rapport with the patients I have encountered. One of the patient actors I was practicing with once commented on my history-taking: “Very well done, you could be my doctor!” which, as cheesy as it may sound, was the highlight of my year. If you are an introvert, you can too become a successful medical student/doctor although it takes a bit more work and preparation on your communication and leadership skills. It is also important to accept that even though you may improve your skills, your personality is unlikely to change. Instead of trying hard to fit the extroverted doctor stereotype/box, you should value your strengths as an introvert, such as self-reflection, analytical thinking and good listening skills. Moreover, having spoken with many different doctors, I have learnt that different specialties require different sets of skills, hence there isn’t just one box, but many of various sizes! Pick that one that fits you best, and to paraphrase a cat meme, if you fits, you sits!
For those that have not received any offers this year or did not get into their dream medical school, don’t be disheartened! Whether you are selected or not depends on so many variables, don’t let an admissions test or an interview decide for you that you are not going to be a good doctor.
Did you have any expectations about medical school?
Following on from why i decided to apply, I expected that I would struggle with the clinical aspect of my course and OSCE’s because I thought that maybe my communication skills were not good enough. My level of confidence was quite low, and I was questioning whether I took the right decision to study medicine.
What are your hopes for the future?
I have recently planned to develop a website with free resources for medical school applicants and medical students as well as a YouTube channel with videos on medical topics and application advice. I hope that I could help many students by sharing my knowledge and experiences.
Next year I also hope to explore radiology as a specialty I could pursue. I believe it suits my geeky, introverted personality, besides that the fact that dark rooms are a thriving environment for a Dracula’s descendant like me 😉.
Tell us a little more about the image you chose to represent you:
It seems like I haven’t taken many pictures at medical school and this is one of the few.
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