In a study carried out by the British Medical Association in 2016, the top three reasons given for studying medicine were: helping other people (52%), interest/aptitude for sciences (45%) and doing work valued by society/others (30%). Other reasons or influences in making the choice include family members or friends who are doctors, intellectual challenge, and to a lesser extent status and earnings. In my case, although unaware of it at the time, I believe that the desire was of the Lord. Having had the privilege of being brought up in a Christian home, I professed simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ before the age of seven years and subsequently, whenever I was asked what did I want to do when I grew up, I said that my heart was set on becoming a doctor. Whenever doubts arose as to whether the entrance requirements or the rigours of the training could be achieved, the Lord’s grace always proved to be more than sufficient.1
Medicine is a popular career choice and competition for places at medical school is high. The entry requirements for UK medical schools for 2020 is detailed in the hyperlink2 below. All candidates are required to submit a personal statement and if considered suitable will have an interview. This will not only look at the skills and suitability to study medicine but also at personal characteristics such as motivation, honesty, conscientiousness, respect for others and the ability to empathise, as well as having insight into one’s own strengths and weaknesses and the ability to reflect on one’s own work.
There are over thirty different medical schools in the UK and their courses divide in their format and teaching style into three different types: problem-based learning (PBL), traditional (conventional) teaching and an integrated style. It is important that the choice of course is in keeping with your learning style but equally important, if not more so for the Christian, is the proximity to a Bible-based assembly. I studied at the University of Liverpool and will always be grateful for the warmth of fellowship and edification through Bible teaching and hospitality that helped sustain me through my student and early postgraduate years.
All medical graduates must complete a two-year foundation programme (FY1 and FY2) of general training and then continue training in either a specialist area of medicine or in general practice. There are around sixty different specialties to choose from and the length of training required before becoming a fully qualified doctor can last from approximately three years for general practice to five to seven years in other specialties. All qualified doctors are required to have a review or appraisal each year and revalidation with the General Medical Council every five years. Most doctors are involved in some form of teaching, for which training is required and some complete an MSc in Medical Education. Many doctors are involved in research, to a greater or lesser extent, and others take on a leadership role at various levels within the NHS, in which they address issues regarding employment, help to plan, use and manage resources/services or oversee matters of safety.
A commitment to medicine is a commitment to life-long learning; there is always new knowledge to assimilate and there are always new skills to learn. This is not just in relation to the diagnosis and treatment of disease but includes improving communication skills, the ability to problem-solve and deal with uncertainty, managing difficult situations such as giving ‘bad news’, and answering complaints or facing angry relatives when an error has occurred. It is important to have a grasp of ethical issues, e.g., withholding or withdrawing treatment, and topical issues, e.g., physician-assisted suicide from a biblical point of view. It is also essential for today’s doctor to develop the resilience to deal with stressful situations, in order to maintain his/her own health. A vital part of this process for the believer is the comfort found only in the Lord Himself,3 and the support given by work colleagues, family and friends.
As a Consultant on call I was involved in the acute care of adults of all ages for nearly thirty years, but my chosen specialty was Geriatric Medicine and I counted it a privilege to be involved in the assessment, disease management and rehabilitation of people over the age of 65 years, both in hospital and in the community. Whilst it is impressive to see a paralyzed limb regain its power and function4 following thrombolysis (clot-busting treatment), it is equally satisfying to see an older person, with multiple pathology, regain mobility and return home through sheer hard work with the input of the multi-disciplinary team. As a doctor, I quickly learned that it would never be possible to bring about the degree of healing, in the time frame, that the Lord did when He was here on earth,5 but just to be involved in the process of healing was, for me, a great honour and was done as to the Lord.6