Welcome to the 8th week of the Virtual Medicine Open Day: giving you an insight into each of the UK medical schools and the opportunity to ask current medical students about the realities of studying there!
This post is written by Mashuda, a 3rd year medical student at University of Leicester
My experience as a medical student at Leicester quickly became a home away from home. Everyone takes care of one another, the atmosphere is friendly and there are so many opportunities to grow and develop your skills as a medical student and beyond being a medical student.
- An Overview of Teaching Methods
- Typical Timetable of a 1st year Medical Student at Leicester
- The Non-Medical Stuff
- 3 Top Tips For Applying to Leicester
An Overview of How We Are Taught
There are two Medicine courses offered at Leicester: the 5 year course and the Medicine with a Foundation year (6 years). For those on the Medicine with foundation year course. They will complete an integrated foundation year before commencing onto year 1 of the MBchB course.
The course is split into two phases: Phase 1 and Phase 2. Phase 1 is two years of learning. Modules in the first two years are based around molecular and cellular science, body systems, pharmacology and therapeutics, behavioral and population science and infection.
Before applying to medical school, I often heard the terms PBL, integrated and traditional approach and I never really thought much of it. I want to stress, it is quite important that you appreciate that these are all very different styles of learning and looking back, I would advise that you do look into what your style of learning is and which university courses would suit you.
Thankfully it was the approachability of the staff and students and the course structure at Leicester Medical School that sold me and it was by happy chance that Leicester’s approach to learning is integrated and extremely patient-focussed. This type of learning and early exposure to patients is best for me as I have learned throughout the course.
You begin medical school with an induction week where you get to meet everyone, receive your free iPad and get to know the course a bit better. You also have your first taste of a mini 1 or 2 week placement usually at a GP or hospital. If you choose Leicester, you’ll quickly become familiar with your “Belbin” group. These are the 8 people (including yourself) you will complete your group work with for the entirety of Phase 1. Prior to beginning the course, Leicester will email you a Belbin personality test to do and then using your results will assign you a group to ensure that there are a variety of working personality types within your group. The idea is that you can hone in on these individual strengths in order to well together as a team when approaching the group work tasks. I personally got along really well with my Belbin group and I would consider them good friends to this day. It might seem daunting at first and sometimes personalities may clash but you learn in medicine that keeping an open-mind and accepting and appreciating differences of opinion is really important.
Speaking of group work – for Phase 1, you have daily group-work accompanied by a couple of one hour long lectures. The group work often consolidates what you have learnt in the lectures. This is what I loved about the integrated approach. Being able to constantly run through the lecture slides to answer the group work questions together meant I was able to review anything I didn’t quite understand in the lecture. And you’re not alone in that group work room – there is always a Clinical Teaching Fellow (CTF) at hand to help you with the answers. Leicester hosts their own full-body dissection room and with your group, you will be allocated a body to dissect and learn anatomy. Just a note though: because of COVID-19, I’m not sure how much will change with the way things are taught but they’re already planning super creative ways from what I am aware of.
Once a week, you will have a slightly longer day for a module called CHDD – Compassionate Holistic Diagnostic Detective. This module is the main reason why I have gained so much confidence in history taking, patient interaction and performing clinical examinations which has proved valuable for my clinical attachments in Phase 2. For those who don’t know what history-taking (don’t worry, there’s lots of new terms in medical school) – it is that very first important conversation you have with a patient as to why they’ve come in to see the doctor/surgeon alongside learning their health and social background. In the first year, the sessions take place on campus with a tutor who is also a working GP and in the 2nd year, half of the sessions take place in the Leicester hospitals. It is an amazing module that prepares us for our clinical years and also our OSCEs, our end-of-year practical clinical examinations.
Phase 2 involves 3 years of clinical rotations/attachments and ending with a much loved and appreciated junior assistantship in the final year just before graduating as a doctor. Within Phase 2, you will have the option to intercalate to complete a Bachelors or Masters degree through taking a year out. As I did a Bachelor’s degree before entering medical school, this is not something I am personally doing but it seems invaluable and I would highly recommend considering it whichever medical school you go to.
A Typical Timetable of a 1st Year Medic
The Non-Medical Stuff
Leicester is an incredibly diverse city and the campus is conveniently located at its heart which is what I love about it. One thing that always stuck out for me when visiting Leicester for an open day, was how friendly everyone was. And I wasn’t disappointed when I became a student here. Everyone really is so lovely. There’s so much to do beyond medical school as well. The Students’ Union hosts over 250 societies and sports team and there is also LUSUMA who tend to take care of the medical students. LUSUMA do a really good job hosting everything related to Freshers’ and do their best to accommodate everyone
I personally got involved with the Students’ for Global Health Society and being an academic rep which has enabled me to grow in leadership and teamwork skills whilst also doing something I enjoy. But your opportunities are endless here so I’m sure you’ll find something for you. One thing Leicester recommends is that we don’t give up the hobbies we came into medical school with. Graphics Design and photography were my ways of relaxing and I have ensured to keep it up to give myself time-out when I need it. Taking steps to build yourself outside of medicine positively is super important because it can get work heavy as much as you enjoy it, so be sure to take care of yourself.
Pros of Studying at Leicester
• Good balance between clinical exposure and academia + extremely patient focussed – Leicester are all about teaching us skills beyond medical sciences such as communication, understanding diversity, listening, empathy etc. These are invaluable and through early patient interaction and early clinical exposure, you will have the opportunities to practice these skills whilst also getting a good amount of teaching
• Students and staff are really approachable – The staff are always taking in feedback to make improvements. Students in the years above in medical school are always finding ways to help those in the year below. Even across campus, there are such a variety of students that it is likely you will find people on your wavelength.
• The extra-curricular opportunities – The timetable for the first two years is quite laid back because they like us to get the extra-curricular experience so you are able to participate in sports/societies, have a part-time job or relax and also do some self-studying too! In Phase 1, every Wednesday afternoon is given off and preserved specifically for these activities.
• Supportive atmosphere – Leicester have been very quick to implement the BMA charter on Racism and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. They also have a brilliant pastoral support service for students and want to ensure students are safe and at ease whilst at university.
Cons of Studying at Leicester
• At the end of each year, following exams, you are put into deciles depending on your result. I think most students don’t mind this system. In a way, it does prepare us for the inevitable ranking we have to experience when applying for foundation year programmes. But it can be disheartening if you don’t do as well as you would have wanted and then also find out your decile ranking in the year group. However, we are often told to focus on the positive that we have passed the year and at the end of it, we will still all be doctors.
• For the sake of wellbeing and reflection, we had mindfulness sessions in first year. It’s a really good concept for those that find it useful and to learn to take care of yourself but for me, I find peace in other things, so the mindfulness sessions were a bit difficult to get into. Though I believe now, there’s a lot more emphasis in the module on reflecting on yourself which we have to do throughout our careers in healthcare, so it’s probably a lot more useful now than what I had felt of it before.
3 Top Tips For Applying to Leicester
1. Prepare well for your UCAT exam. Leicester use a point based approach for ranking medical school applications and besides your grades, your UCAT score is one that can impact your overall scoring. They often say you shouldn’t need to revise for UCAT, but it is well known that preparation helps a lot.
2. It is helpful to read the GMC “Achieving good medical practice” in order to pick out qualities that make a well-rounded medical student. Although you may not be a medical student yet, there’s no doubt you will have had some experience in building the qualities they look for such as honesty, communication, empathy etc. Then with whatever experiences/hobbies you have, link it to those qualities and learn to expand on what you gained in terms of insight.
3. Believe in yourself! This is something I wish I’d do more of. Yes, medicine is a competitive course, but you have obviously considered it because there’s an inkling within you that tells you it might be the field for you. During the interview, you will need to bring that self-confidence to show that you want that place, that you have truly considered the medical career and that you know your personality and your strengths and weaknesses. Being yourself to the best of your ability is what will make you stand out.
Thank you Mashuda for such an interesting and detailed insight into Leicester! Find out more about her on Instagram and check out her website:
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