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tiri hughes, 1st year student at Trinity college (2018-2021):

Hughes_Tiri.jpgI’ve absolutely loved my first year studying at Oxford! Aside from the excellent teaching, immersive practicals and great resources, Oxford is wonderful place to live and study. First year content is quite broad, including anatomy, histology, embryology, endocrinology, physiology, pharmacology, biochemistry and genetics. The first few lectures can seem a bit daunting compared with A-levels or other pre-university courses, but after a couple of weeks they just fall into place as a part of your (new) normal routine. There are often lectures at the start of a lecture series entitled ‘Introduction to ...’ which can be a great way to get over the initial trepidation surrounding a difficult subject. Anatomy in particular is aided by sessions in the demonstration room, where we look at prosections of specimens to reinforce our learning. We also do practicals using microscopes to observe how cells are arranged in different tissues, as well as more interactive experiments to improve our understanding of physiology and biochemistry. 

At Oxford you get the opportunity to have regular tutorials in small groups with brilliant tutors - doctors and professors, even sometimes those who wrote the textbooks! This allows you to delve deep into subjects you find interesting, as well as getting a broad knowledge base. The provision of materials at Oxford is extensive - with hundreds of textbooks being available at most college libraries, and thousands more at the central Bodleian libraries that all students can access. A lot of textbooks are now also available online via the library website, which is especially useful as you don’t have to take so many heavy books home during vacations.

I’m originally from Devon, although I went to a specialist residential college in Hereford for my A-levels which had never had any students applying to Oxbridge or for medicine at any university. Although the college was very supportive, the lack of experience with medicine applications meant that I had to organise all of my own admissions tests and had no practice tests or interview preparation. I was worried that, even if I got in, I wouldn’t fit in well at Oxford due to not being from a school that sends many people to university, and as a disabled person my concerns about not fitting in were amplified. But the opposite has been true: I’ve made wonderful friends both among the other medical students and other people at college and I couldn’t be happier. The Medical Sciences Division (in conjunction with Trinity College and the University Disability Advisory Service) have been excellent at accommodating my disabilities - for instance, my guide dog is looked after in the office during practicals! I also have an adapted microscope, enlarged lecture slides, and a seat during lab work. 

People starting at Oxford have often heard the rumour that studying medicine leaves no time for extracurricular activities. This definitely isn’t true: almost every medic I know is involved in something extracurricular, whether it’s music, art, sports, or one of the hundreds of other activities available at Oxford. I do gymnastics with the University Gymnastics Club, am a Welfare Officer for my college’s Junior Common Room (= the college’s undergraduate body), and a Campaigns and Advocacy Officer for DisCam, the University’s disability campaign group. In my opinion, having interests/activities outside of medicine is really important; they give you time to relax and unwind from the academic workload. 

I hope that this has been informative and may have answered some questions. Best of luck with your application!

JONAS SANDBRINK, 2nd YEAR STUDENT AT TRINITY COLLEGE (2017-2020):

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Hi! I am a second year medical student at Trinity College Oxford. As I am from Germany, studying medicine at Oxford and in the UK was not the natural choice. Nonetheless, I am so glad I am here - the teaching is great and there are many intriguing people around.

The pace of the coursework is challenging but with a little time management it’s not impossible to keep up with. Next to coursework, 5-6 times rowing training per week, and going to interesting talks and debates, I still find time to relax and go out with my friends. The thing I like best about the course is the variety of material being taught and how interesting it is. Every week is different and new material is covered, every week you get to know more interesting facts - second year has been especially amazing with regards of this! Learning about diseases and how they come about, looking at bacteria in the lab, learning about neuroscience and how the brain works, and integrating physiological knowledge learned in first year has made every week of second year exciting.

It is amazing to learn everything about the human body and the scientific approaches to understand it from incredible tutors and lecturers that dare to prove textbooks wrong with the latest research and love to discuss their subjects. Tutorials give you the chance to ask questions and really make sure you understand the topic covered.

I am currently doing my Final Honour School research project at the end of 2nd year - I am in a local lab that works on diabetes. I have realised that I really enjoy wet lab research, even though I have also learned to appreciate how tedious, frustrating, and hard doing scientific research can be. Out of a choice of ten options, I have chosen the Infection and Immunity ones for third year and have already started to attend the first lectures on these - I am looking forward to being able to really get to the cutting edge of research of some selected topics and read more in depth on them. I believe being taught to not only understand scientific research papers but also to begin to think like a scientist is a very unique thing about the Final Honour School course in third year here. If you think that pursuing research on top of practicing as a doctor is for you, definitely apply to Oxford! Another amazing thing about Oxford in general, but also the medical community, is how international everything is - lecturers and students from all over the world come here to work together. The medical student body is one of the most diverse at Oxford, hence you get the chance to make friends with people from many different backgrounds and with a wide variety of ambitions. There are many societies where you can catch up with people from your home country, but to be honest, college life and especially studying medicine surrounds you with so many lovely people that I do not miss home too much.

Even though the interviews might sound daunting at first they are quite an exciting experience in themselves, I got to meet many interesting people, some of whom I am still in contact with. It’s also a real first taste of uni life and a unique experience of Oxford and its colleges, so just apply and give it a shot! Studying medicine at Oxford is a challenging but very rewarding experience - you will not find a place where the teaching is better or the community more supportive!

ALEXANDER GRASSAM-ROWE, 3rd YEAR STUDENT AT CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE (2016-2019):

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Hello! I'm Alex, a 3rd year medic at Corpus Christi College. Oxford medicine has provided me with opportunities to have 1-on-1 tutorials with world leaders in their respective fields, and equipped me with the knowledge to critically discuss the relevant literature with them. The best part of pre-clinical medicine at Oxford is that you dig beyond simply trusting what a textbook says; and examine the evidence relating scientific concepts through to clinical practice in the context of the individual patient. The course is rigorous, rewarding those with an interest and the diligence to persevere. The Oxford pre-clinical course has prepared with all the skills to go forward into academia, clinical school, or adventures such as biotech. Third year enables you to dive deeper into a series of specialist areas - giving you control over your own learning, and enabling you to become a 'mini-expert' in a certain area. As part of third year I completed a research project in The Department of Pharmacology, where I worked on a mouse model of inherited cardiac arrhythmia. I also had the time to delve into the literature surrounding drug targeting of WNK kinases and critique current targeting events for my extended essay.

However, whilst providing a comprehensive understanding of the medical sciences from the scientific viewpoint, the course does not neglect the patient centred aspects of medical practice – the highlights of my time here have included our trips to shadow GPs and talk to patients. Furthermore, the psychological aspects of medical practice are not neglected, with great options for us to get involved deeply in understanding how the mind works. The pre-clinical course truly provides a holistic viewpoint from molecular biology through to organism-wide physiology and complex psychosocial aspects of the medical sciences. 

The Oxford pre-clinical course also provides you with many skills putting you at a high world level. For example, the essay-based element of most tutorials and examinations requires students to truly interact with what they are studying and be able to dynamically manipulate the information to present it in a relevant, meaningful and easy to read manner. Being dyslexic and not having studied essay topics at A-levels meant I had trouble at the beginning but with the support of my tutors and other resources at Oxford I now truly feel confident in essay writing, being asked by external groups to get involved in medical textbook editing etc. Studying at Oxford isn’t all work, and it’s encouraged for students to get involved with various elements of their college and the university-wide clubs and societies. I’m involved in a choir, act as my JCR’s welfare officer and still have time to attend the many number of fascinating talks going on in Oxford about a variety of subjects or enjoy a drink with friends in one of Oxford’s beautiful pub gardens or green spaces etc. The collegiate system of Oxford lends itself well to medicine, becoming close knit with your fellow medics at your own college and other colleges, whilst mixing with non-medics at your college, ensures a diverse range of interactions and experiences. Furthermore, Oxford has extensive financial support for those from lower-income backgrounds and this is not a barrier nor a hurdle to anyone studying at Oxford from enjoying all that there is to offer here. I cannot thank Oxford’s pre-clinical medicine course enough, nor recommend it highly enough. Believe in yourself and take the first steps in applying!

Charlotte Laycock, 4th year student at st Hilda's college (2015-2021)

The transition from the pre-clinical course to the clinical course not only involves a shift in location, but also a shift in learning methods. Whilst the pre-clinical course is dominated by lectures and tutorials, which focus mainly on the science behind the medicine, the clinical course moves to a more practical and hands-on approach to learning on the wards and in the clinical skills laboratory. The clinical course has longer terms than the pre-clinical course in order to give increased access to the hospital and experience different areas of medicine with an ample length of attachment. The first year of clinical (Medicine Year 4) starts with the Patient Doctor II course, where final year students lead teaching on how to examine different systems of the patient, from the cardiovascular system to the neurological system. These new skills (and your new stethoscope!) can then be put to the test with a 3-week attachment to an Acute General Medicine firm: consisting of a consultant, registrar, SHO and F1 doctor. Following Patient Doctor II, there is a 10-week lecture course on Laboratory Medicine – introducing you to all of the different diseases you may encounter during the clinical course and how to interpret test results commonly ordered by the doctors. The first term is concluded by a multiple-choice question examination (similar to the Part A examinations in the pre-clinical course) constructed using clinical scenarios and matching the disease or condition which best fits as the diagnosis.

The second and third term of the course involves the year being split into four groups, which then rotate around four different 6-week rotations: General Surgery, General Medicine, Special Study Module and District General Hospital attachments. The order of these rotations can be adjusted to accommodate any commitments anyone may have in Oxford, for example, sporting events. This can be an exciting as well as tiring aspect of the course. The weekends are often free for you to enjoy, as there is little extra work to do (and no more essays). Some of the rotations have assignments due towards the completion of the rotation, such as a case report at the end of the surgery attachment on a patient you found interesting and carried out some extra reading around their condition or disease. I found the Special Study Module particularly interesting. This can be a self-directed project or can be chosen from a list, which all have a stand at the SSM Fair to help you choose. I chose to do Sports and Exercise Medicine, based at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre. Through this, I got to conduct an audit of treatment pathways for patients with Achilles Tendinopathy and see how they improved with treatment. I also got opportunities to sit in Sports Clinics as well as participate in conferences run by the department. This is a great aspect of the course where you can really explore an area of medicine that you are interested in that you may not have had the chance to experience yet!

Overall, the transition to clinical school can be challenging with the change in scenery, different learning methods (especially as it is mostly self-directed) and the term times are longer. However, there is a fantastic welfare support network within the medical school and Osler House Committee. Further, the experience of meeting patients, hearing their stories and noticing that you are becoming more knowledgeable and practically useful every day is so rewarding!

mustafa majeed, 4th year student at jesus college (2015-2021)

Majeed_Mustafa.jpgOne of my favourite things about the Medicine course at Oxford is the traditional structure, which means the first 3 years are devoted to studying pre-clinical medicine and the last 3 years are spent learning clinical medicine. This system appealed to me because I wanted to develop a strong foundation of knowledge in the medical sciences before applying that knowledge in settings that involve real patients. My preclinical background has been really useful in terms of understanding the mechanisms that underlie the various diseases, tests, and treatments I encounter on a daily basis.

Although the clinical and pre-clinical courses are connected content-wise, the jump from 3rd year to 4th year is a big transition in many other ways. Before I started clinical medicine I was apprehensive of being pushed completely out of my comfort zone, as I felt I didn’t have the confidence or skills to approach patients on my own. My worries were quickly relieved when I learned that the start of 4th year is organised as a gentle introduction to clinical medicine where you spend the first 2 weeks being supervised by 6th year students who teach you how to take a medical history, examine patients, and show you the ropes on the hospital wards. Thankfully, the sense of supervision continues through the course, as there is always someone more senior in the team you can ask for advice or help - be it a doctor, nurse, or other allied health professional.

Another big shift at clinical school is that your most valuable learning experiences start to revolve around patient contact as opposed to textbooks and scientific articles. The style of learning becomes more self-directed and less linear, as the patients you see on placements will not present themselves in a predictable order like the syllabus (quite understandably!). 

Not only has my working life changed dramatically at clinical school, but so has my social life. During the pre-clinical course my strongest friendships were with non-medic friends from my college who were doing three- or four-year courses, but since they graduated I have found my friendships with other medics in my year grow and strengthen profoundly. The nature of the clinical placements means you spend most of your day with other medics and our terms are much longer than the standard Oxford terms, meaning there are many times of year where clinical medics only have each other for company! There is never a shortage of activities thanks to Osler House, a clubhouse and common room exclusively for clinical medical students. Osler House organises sports, societies, and bops, and also offers a social space on the John Radcliffe hospital site to hang out with friends, providing the closely-knit social environment that the colleges offer during the pre-clinical course.