Undergraduate Medical Student
Medicine (Undergraduate Entry), Year 4
Tell us a bit about your background
I grew up in a small town in South Yorkshire before moving down south for uni. I was lucky to have attended an independent school, and with the support of my teachers and loving parents, was their first student to make it to Oxbridge. Education was always my main priority – my grandad especially encouraged the women in his family to pursue an education to the highest level they could. Making it to Oxford felt like I was honouring decades of sacrifice that enabled me to apply in the first place.
If I could give some advice to prospective students, it would be to hold on to what matters and let go of the rest. If you truly understand your motivation for studying, you can overcome the times when your resilience and mental health are tested to their limits. Sometimes, reminding myself out loud what I came here for was the only way to stop myself from giving up. By letting go of the pressure to be perfect, I was so much more liberated. Every student is good enough, and always is, even (especially) through failure, rejection and difficulty. I want prospective students to know what I wish I had believed sooner: your achievements do not determine your self-worth - the things you do are not the sum-total of who you are.
I think the real reason I wanted to study Medicine is linked to why I wanted to pursue an education. I do not take for granted that it is by the grace of God I was able to attend university to begin with. Many women before me have not had the opportunities I have. It is my responsibility to turn these into acts of service and empowerment. Medicine is an incredible way to empower others, by giving people ownership over their own bodies. Since I am in the early stages of my clinical training, I am just exploring the things I enjoy without a specific direction in mind. I have been drawn to a career in global health and/or medical anthropology, which the pandemic has highlighted the need for. For now, I’m trying to keep my options open. Covid has taught me I am not in control of very much, so I am following my interests and letting my career unfold in front of me. The best piece of advice I was given is that you pave your career path one stone at a time.
What is the most meaningful or most interesting part of your studies?
I feel really grateful to have developed interests in areas that I didn’t know existed. One of my academic highlights was writing my extended essay in third year – I was looking at the prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes amongst socially marginalised populations, focusing on chronic stress as a risk factor. This exposed me to social determinants of health, bringing the personal and political together in a way I hadn’t considered before. My supervisor, Dr Caroline Potter, was an incredible female role model who gave me permission to push boundaries and assert my academic voice.
I am also blessed to have been nurtured by great tutors in the field of neuroscience. My main interest is within the field of synaptic plasticity and memory, which I am currently trying to explore with the support of Dr Mohamady El-Gaby. I couldn’t ever see myself in science, in part because the field is dominated by people who don’t look like me. I am starting to feel empowered by knowing that these differences will help me bring a fresh and creative perspective to a field that I love.
Can you tell us about something you've done, contributed to that you're most proud of?
I think that my proudest achievement is receiving feedback from some of the outreach work I’ve been able to take part in. When I do outreach work, I see that often the students participating in these programs are just as, if not more, intelligent and capable as my peers.
Oxford is not the easiest environment to navigate as a Muslim or woman of colour, and I had to work hard to feel confident in my place here. To be able to inspire that confidence in others, by telling them that they are worthy and deserving of success, is a great privilege.
What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?
Some of the greatest work in Medical Sciences is being done behind the scenes by young women of colour – I would love to see these women represented in leadership positions, just as they are in laboratory / post-doctoral positions.
I think the next 100 years will see great progress, but this may be halted by risk-averse science. The aggressive competition to publish positive results means that there is a growing fear of failure for medical scientists. I would love to see less stigma surrounding negative results, and a shift in scientific culture which allows open opportunity for trial and error.