Final year medical students, Wuraola Obadahun and Fiona Vincent, will be sharing their triumphs and challenges as guest curators of the GMC blog.

They’re spending three weeks with us as part of the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management elective.

Here they tell us what it’s like to be a medical student in 2018.

Wuraola Obadahun, who studies at Brighton and Sussex Medical School

Tell us about yourself… what drew you to medicine?

I’m a final year medical student at Brighton and Sussex Medical School.

Apparently, when I was really young, I told my family that I was going to be a doctor. I don’t remember saying that, of course, but science and maths were my strengths in school.

I considered doing pharmacology, pharmacy and even architecture before I started to seriously think about medicine.

After speaking with my uncle, who practised in America, I decided to do some work experience at a care home. It was eye-opening, seeing how people were impacted by their conditions which in some cases caused isolation. That sparked my interest in learning about dementia and Parkinson’s disease as well.

I realised that I liked working with people, interacting and using what I’d learned to help them. That’s when I started to think that medicine really was for me.

What’s it like being a medical student in 2018? What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

The past few years have been a rollercoaster. There have been lots of highs and lows, but, for the most part, it’s been really enjoyable.

I’ve absolutely loved the clinical side of things. The theory can be quite dry in the first couple of years but that quickly changes when you see how that knowledge can be applied in the clinical environment.

I think the biggest challenge has been striking a good work/life balance. You have to be intentional about creating time for family and friends. It’s important to understand that it is ok to take time out, that the work will get done. You have to look after yourself too.

What have you done to make positive changes for patients?

In my second year, I was part of the Brighton-Lasaka Health Link Charity, which works to train nurses and health care professionals in Zambia.  We did a lot of fundraising activities, including a fashion show – at which I had my first and last catwalk experience!

As part of my intercalated degree I got to volunteer in India with the Educate for Life charity which runs an action-research school in Bhakel. We went out for three weeks to assist with the safe childhood program, training community health workers across a two-day course. I don’t speak Hindi at all so I worked closely with an interpreter the whole time. It took me completely out of my comfort zone.

Over the years I’ve also been involved in lots of quality improvement projects and audits- analysing data and to see what could be improved. In day-to-day clinical practice you’re trying to do your best for your patient but it’s helpful to take a step back and ask: “what are we doing well, what can we continue and what can we improve?’. I think these projects are really important, particularly in the climate that we’re in.

What are you most looking forward to about the years ahead?

I’m excited to practise medicine. As a student you get to observe and, to some extent, get involved, but you’re limited. In your foundation years you have more autonomy, and you get to make some calls. I look forward to developing professionally and exploring my different interests.

I’m also looking forward to earning some money after six years of study!

What interested you in this elective?

I intercalated a couple of years ago in Management in Primary Care at the University of Kent where I learned a lot about leadership theory. When I came across this elective I thought it’d be a great way to see how that could be applied in real-life.

I want to understand what makes a good leader and how I can incorporate that into my own practice soon.

What do you hope to learn at the GMC?

I look forward to learning and observing how the different teams work and how it all comes together. To have an inside glimpse will be great.

Having been here a few days I’ve seen that a lot of planning goes into the development of new guidance. There’s a lot of consultation to ensure lots of views are considered.

Fiona Vincent, who studies at the University of Southampton

Tell us about yourself… what drew you to medicine?

I started thinking about applying for medicine quite some time ago when I was attending a camp for disabled teenagers over the summer holidays. Caring for other people was something that interested me so I arranged some work experience at a local general practice and in various hospitals. I really enjoyed all of it, so I applied for medicine. Medicine combined my passion for science whilst helping people in a practical and positive way.

What’s it like being a medical student in 2018?

There’s a lot of studying and a lot to learn but there’s plenty of fun be had.

I enjoyed exploring all the things my university had to offer and I tried to get involved in a range of different programs, including fundraising, setting up a histology teaching initiative and acting as a student representative.

What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Medicine is broad so you always feel that there’s more to learn and when you’re just starting out you don’t know everything. Fortunately, there are more senior people who can help and plenty of resources available.

It’s definitely a challenge to adapt your learning skills when you make the transition between the lecture theatre and the ward. I think most people would agree that it’s a very different style of learning. You suddenly realise that you’re in the hot seat, being asked questions by patients and other health care professionals and it takes time to adapt. Medical schools have tried to ease that transition by introducing early patient contact in the new course, which really helps.

What have you done to make positive changes for your colleagues?

I’m passionate about the wellbeing and welfare of medical students, doctors and other health care professionals.

When elected by my peers as the Medicine Faculty Officer, I started the process for getting the student communal student area updated such as fixing the water fountain. I organised some meetings and we managed to get a water tap installed to freshen up the area so people could make a cup of tea or coffee during the day without having to spend money at a cafe.

When you’re a medical student you’re exposed to difficult situations and I think it’s really important that people have a place where they can debrief and talk about that, privately. It helps them cope.

I also set up a histology teaching initiative in my second year as a group of my friends identified this an area we found challenging with lots of pink and purple slides. We developed interactive teaching sessions which were really well received by our peers.

I’ve also done some fundraising work with the Southampton Wilderness and Expeditionary Medicine Society (SWEMS) which takes medicine outdoors, so if someone was injured outside, with limited resources, you could respond.

We did a long and beautiful charity walk from Poole to Portland, to raise money for various organisations, including the air ambulance. And I took part in the Wild Trials inter-university competition which tests your skills dealing with a medical situation in an expedition setting.

I’d like to continue to do this sort of thing when I start my foundation years, because I really value having a work-life balance, being outdoors and getting some fresh air!

What are you most looking forward to about the years ahead?

I am looking forward to caring for patients. It’s going to be a big moment because I’ve been working towards this for so long.

I really hope that I can use some of my leadership skills and build on them in future. I hope it will take me forward and allow me to do more in addition to my clinical role.

What interested you in this elective?

I’m very interested in leadership and management and this is a great opportunity to work with the GMC and learn more about what goes on, beyond the hospital. I feel really privileged to have this experience – I don’t know anybody else who’s been able to do this yet.

What do you hope to learn at the GMC?

I look forward to spending time with different people and talking about their roles. I’d like to learn more about policy and how guidelines are shaped as well as the role the GMC has in medical education.

As doctors and students we see the end product, but there’s so much work that happens before that.