USW made my career in medicine more accessible, says Emily

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After some unfortunate setbacks, graduate, Emily Spencer, was disheartened not to achieve the grades required to get into Medical School. However, after her mum encouraged her to attend an open day at USW for our Medical Sciences degree, she never looked back. She is now in her 6th year of studying at a Medical School and well on her way to fulfilling her dream of becoming a doctor.

Here, Emily discusses her experience studying graduate entry medicine, student life at USW and how she won the Sherman Prize for widening access in 2018.

“Studying to become a doctor is a big and daunting decision to make as you have to be all in. It requires hard work, dedication, and the acceptance that it will be life-long learning. Despite all of this, I was still desperate to become a doctor.

I distinctly remembered the care that was provided to my Nan before she passed away when I was aged 13 and all I wanted to do since then was to be able to help other families so that they could have their loved one back. The time that my Nan spent in a local hospice with the outstanding compassion from the staff sparked an interest in palliative care for me and I am still pursuing that dream now in Medical School, undertaking various projects in palliative care in the hopes that one day, I will be able to achieve my dream of helping other people and their families.

I class the years spent at USW as some of the best of my life. The experiences I had, the friendships I made and the education I received were all invaluable.

My learning experience was second to none – the lecturers were supportive and there was a great sense of comradery amongst my peers on the degree. The staff were extremely motivated about helping students get into medicine and they really backed ‘the underdog’ in terms of widening access to medicine, a cause which is close to my heart. That is what mainly attracted me to Medical Sciences at USW is that I knew I would be fully supported in my learning and in my desire to become a Doctor.

Like many Medical Sciences students, I spent many hours in the libraries on both the Glyntaff and Treforest campuses. These were excellent libraries and in fact, my friends and I still talk about Treforest library and how much we wish we could use it again! The labs that we used in our degree also provided us with excellent exposure to laboratory work; this experience is of great benefit as a lot of my friends now use the skills we learnt in the lab in their current jobs!

My placement experiences have a special place in my heart, and I knew I was going into the right career.

I was fortunate enough to undertake two-week-long placements during my time at USW at a local district general hospital; one of the weeks was spent shadowing nurses and one week spent shadowing doctors. I thoroughly enjoyed both weeks but was appreciative of the time spent with the nurses as it really taught me the importance of the multi-disciplinary team, a lesson that is invaluable when you start in Medical School.

I remember spending one of the mornings with a patient with dementia, holding her hand and keeping her company as she was increasingly distressed as she did not know where she was. By the end of the morning, we were able to have a laugh and built up a rapport, and although it was not strictly a clinical experience, it was a time I will always remember as in that moment, I knew I was going into the right career; I knew that all I wanted to do was help her in any way I could and so it is an experience that I will carry with me through my training.”

Emily also won a Sherman Prize after being nominated by her course leader, Lewis Fall.

“The Sherman Prize is awarded each year to a student who has entered medicine through widening access. I was lucky enough to win this prize back in 2018 after being nominated by my course leader, Lewis Fall. I had suffered a series of difficult life events and setbacks and consequently, I did not have the grades to enter Medicine directly and so, I had to pursue Graduate Entry Medicine, which in hindsight, is one of the best things that has happened to me.

The prize not only raises awareness of students who have entered medicine through a different route but also the importance of this. There are a large number of people who for one reason or another had to pursue Graduate Entry Medicine or were not able to get into any route of Medicine, but the value that these people would bring to medicine with their wide variety of life experience and empathy highlights the need for Medicine to be more accessible to more people as a career choice as great A-Level grades do not always equal a great doctor.

I have never been more grateful for an experience than I have with my time at USW.

The course is an incredible building block to becoming a doctor, providing you with a solid foundation on which to build your training on. I am six years into my seven years of training to become a doctor and I can safely say it is hard work, but I would be nowhere near as confident and resilient in my training if I had not gone through Medical Sciences at USW first. Therefore, the only advice I can give is to enjoy every second of this course and cherish the experiences you have there because as soon as you leave, you’ll want to go back!”

Do you want to have a successful career in Medical Sciences? Find your tomorrow at USW.