Applying to medical school can often be a daunting
experience that seems like never-ending hurdles! However, piecing apart a good
application can be helpful in finding out what will make you stand out from the
crowd. My name is Cameron and I’m a final year medical student at the
University of Manchester, in this blog I will focus on a key part of any
medical school application: work experience.
Classically work experience is perceived to be countless
hours following doctors around a hospital. Although this can be useful, many
other activities are equally acceptable to talk about in a personal statement
or at interview. The key concept universities are interested in is
demonstrating that you have experience in a caring environment. This can range
from volunteering in an elderly care home, shadowing a GP or other healthcare
professional in primary or secondary care, or caring for a friend or relative
with additional needs. The idea behind this is to gain an insight into what it
is like to care for someone else and crucially what you learned from it.
When it comes to work experience its quality over quantity.
Describing your time in a few settings is much more beneficial for your
application than listing all the departments you visited in a hospital. The
most important part to write about, and a crucial skill to develop for a career
in medicine, is the ability to reflect. How did the caring experience make you
feel? What did you learn from it? How has this benefited you? And crucially,
what have you observed that will change how you act next time? Reflection is a
crucial skill that is continuously needed in a medical career. Showing that you
can talk about not only what work experience you did but how it gave you an
insight into medicine, showed you what skills are required as a doctor, will
make your application stand out from the rest.
Finding Work Experience
It can be hard to find work experience opportunities, but
here are some tips that can help:
- Ask the relevant member of staff at your
school about possible opportunities in a caring environment or any work
experience schemes ran with the local NHS trust.
- Look online to find
opportunities for shadowing and volunteering.
- Phone up your local care home or
charity to see if they are willing to allow you to come and help out, whether this
is something as simple as chatting to elderly residents and supporting their
- Charities are always welcoming additional support so this experience should
be easy to find.
Currently during lockdown, it is difficult to find these
opportunities however you can still use your time effectively. Take up a new
skill or hobby that you can demonstrate requires the vital skills of a doctor.
There are numerous volunteering opportunities observing social distancing that
you can take part in, for example participating in schemes that telephone
isolated individuals who are particularly vulnerable in lockdown. Also, keep an
eye on university websites and social media channels to see what is suggested
for those seeking to study medicine.
It’s good to bear in mind that any form of work or
volunteering can be discussed at the interview or in your personal statement to
demonstrate the skills and experience you have. Whether this is working is a
supermarket or helping out with your local sports team. Think out how skills such
as leadership, teamwork, reflection, timekeeping, and organisation can be
discussed and applied to why you would make a great medical student.
I'm Vicki. I'm a second year PhD student in Bioethics and Medical Jurisprudence
here at the University of Manchester. I'm also part of the Greater Manchester
Patient Safety Translational Research Centre - yes, it's a very long name! The
'translational' bit means that we are developing and testing new ideas and
approaches to patient safety. My research aims to understand how effective our
healthcare regulation system is at keeping patients safe when they leave
Before starting my PhD I studied for my undergraduate degree in
Philosophy, and a master's degree in Healthcare Ethics and Law. I had no idea
when I graduated with my Philosophy degree that I’d end up where I am now. I
worked for a charity as a Fundraising Manager and studied for my master’s
degree via distance-learning. My master’s was helpful for me in switching job
roles – after graduating I spent a few years working for the General Medical
Council, which regulates doctors in the UK. This really sparked my passion for
healthcare ethics, regulation, and patient safety!
After that I applied for my PhD, which is funded by the National
Institute of Health Research. Unlike a traditional PhD, my PhD is 'by
publication'. This means that rather than writing one huge piece of writing, I
produce a series of shorter articles to be published in academic journals. But
these articles still need to relate to each other under a common theme! At the
end, they will form the middle chapter of my PhD, sandwiched between an
introduction and a conclusion.
of the main aims of healthcare regulation is to keep patients safe. This is
done by several different regulators in the UK. Some regulate healthcare
professionals (like doctors and nurses), whilst others regulate healthcare
providers (such as hospitals). The common theme of my research is how do all of
these regulators make sure patients are kept safe when they leave hospitals?
You might be surprised to learn that leaving hospital can be a really dangerous
time for patients, especially the elderly! I’m nearly halfway through my
research but I already have several ideas for how regulators could be doing
more to keep patients safe.
A friend once said to me
that when choosing her career 'it matters that it matters'. She meant it was important that her work made
a real difference to people's lives. It’s an odd quote but it sums up how I
feel about my research! I hope that it will be useful in improving safety for
patients at a time when they should be going safely home.
a useful introduction to the variety of topics that philosophy examines, see here.
- Visit this blog by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, to learn
more about the field of bioethics.
can read about my research centre here.
- Find out more about the exciting work Greater
Manchester are doing to improve patient safety.
more information on distance-learning see here
Hi everyone! My name’s Moises Vieira. I’m currently doing a PhD in the Department of Politics. In my research, I’m looking at the intersection of migration and healthcare. In a nutshell, I’m interested in the (legal and ethical) challenges around providing healthcare for migrants, in the UK. I have been a student at Manchester since September 2018, where I’ve had the opportunity to discuss my work with world-class researchers, professors and fellow colleagues in the field of International Relations.
In addition to being a researcher, I am also a graduate teaching assistant in the Faculty of Humanities. So far, I have taught a module on the ‘Politics of Globalization’ where the students and I discussed different aspects of living in a globalised world, and how that impacts on social, economic and political life. Furthermore, I have also taught online modules addressing a range of issues within the field of International Relations and beyond: creating a sustainable world, security and trust, cybercrimes, partnerships for development, among others.
As you can see, life as a university student goes way beyond simply attending classes and hitting the books. There are always a lot of extra activities you can engage with, according to your interests, academic background and previous training.
I went to Law School as an undergraduate student, and decided to pursue an academic career following my Master’s degree in International Relations. I undertook my studies in Brazil, so doing my PhD at Manchester has been an incredible experience both on the academic and personal levels. Most of my activities take place on campus, such as attending seminars, lectures, workshops and specific training events for career advancement. Doing a PhD in Politics is a great opportunity to move around and explore the world, too: as a researcher, I have attended academic events in a range of cities in the UK, and international conferences in a few countries, such as Switzerland and Denmark. These have been invaluable experiences in order to further my research, but also to meet new people and explore new places.
Back to my main research interest: What does it mean to be looking at the intersection of migration and healthcare? Let’s say an immigrant (with unlawful residence in the UK) falls ill, and is denied access to the NHS. In my research, I analyse issues like that, and ask questions such as: Is it ethical to deny healthcare for migrants on the grounds of immigration status? What are the human rights implications of refusing healthcare for non-citizens? By addressing these questions, I seek to raise people’s awareness of these important issues around public health and migration, which are very relevant for both migrants and UK citizens alike.
A short guide for healthcare provision for migrants by the charity ‘Doctors of the World’:
The British Medical Association (BMA) opinion on refusing migrants’ access to the NHS:
Some reflections on charging migrants for healthcare:
Some context on the extension of ‘hostile environment’ into a range of areas, including healthcare:
A special focus on pregnancy and migrant women:
A report on the health of migrants in the UK, by the Migration Observatory, at the University of Oxford:
Hi everyone! I’m Ioana, a first year PhD student in the Division of Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology, at the University of Manchester. My PhD project focuses on the therapeutic side of ischemic stroke at preclinical level. I spend a lot of time working with animal models, as they offer information highly translatable to humans.
I was born and raised in Romania, but I moved to Manchester to do my undergraduate degree in Pharmacology with Industrial Experience. I loved the university and the city so much, that I decided to stay. The degree offered me the chance to learn various laboratory techniques and to experience working with animals in research. However, when I started it, I had NO IDEA what I wanted to do after.
Between my first and second year, I wanted to get more experience in science as I was trying to figure out what I wanted my future career to be. It wasn’t easy to find any internships available for first years, but I emailed my CV, emphasising my willingness to learn to 46 different places that were not advertising any opportunities at that moment. I only received 6 replies, but I was lucky enough to secure 4 internships. One of those was with a research group based within the University of Manchester, where I learned several laboratory techniques that I am still using today. The other 3 were with the nearby hospital. There I had a chance to learn how to obtain ethical approvals for a cardiovascular trial, to manage patient data for a health economic analysis and to shadow a research nurse as she was administering trial treatment to patients with leukaemia. I was learning so much while working for all these places at the same time, as they accommodated a flexible schedule for me. I also did some work in the charity sector with Citywise. All these experiences gave me a broad insight into various paths my career could take.
As part of my degree, I did a placement year at Mayo Clinic in the United States, doing a neuroscience research project working with both cells and animal models. That is when I realised that I really love working in a laboratory setting, especially in Neuroscience. I liked the flexibility of thinking and applying the knowledge in experimental planning and then undertaking the study. I loved it so much that I was sure I wanted to continue with a career in neuroscience research, so I went straight from my undergraduate degree to do a PhD project. I knew it won’t be easy at all, so finding a project I liked with a very supportive group that felt like a community was really important!
So, what is my project about?
In ischemic stroke, when the blood clot is formed, a drug is used to burst the clot, trying to restore the blood flow and to limit the damage. There is increasing evidence that inflammation also plays a role in enhancing the brain damage after stroke. So, there is an anti-inflammatory drug currently in clinical trials for different types of stroke. My project aims to find the most suitable way to combine the anti-inflammatory approach with the clot busting drug in a safe and efficient manner. To do this, I need to replicate the stroke observed in humans, as closely as possible, in animal models of disease. Using these, I can observe the interaction between the two therapeutic approaches at cerebral, vascular, cellular and molecular levels. For example, I am using imaging to monitor blood flow (image attached) and running MRI scans to see the extent of brain damage.
Monitoring blood flow in a mouse brain using Laser Speckle Imaging.
The PhD experience is not all just science. I love being active and involved within the community, hence why I participate in outreach activities, teaching, learning to code, organising events as part of a doctoral society and trying to learn French. Your PhD experience can be whatever you want it to be, tailored to your preferences and interests.
- Undertake your own research project by doing an EPQ (Extended Project Qualification), learn how and why?
- A list of undergraduate courses that would allow you to progress into a research career after:
- Learn more about stroke here:
- StrokeCasts - podcasts made by stroke survivors about their inspirational journey to recovery:
- Read about the research done by my supervisor and my colleagues here:
- Follow us on twitter:
My name is Jessica Traynor and I am a second year PhD
student at the University of Manchester. My research is based on producing a
localised drug delivery system for people suffering from endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a common gynaecological condition that affects roughly 10% of
women at reproductive age. Endometriosis occurs when lesions grow outside of
the uterus. These lesions can cause painful periods, pelvic pain and fatigue.
Although this disease is common, the treatment options are still limited. Women
are most likely to be given anti-inflammatory drugs, hormone-based therapies
(such as the pill or the coil) or undergo surgery to remove the lesions. These
treatment options are not ideal, especially surgery, as there is a high chance
the lesions will grow back.
My lab work is trying to find a way to deliver old and new
drugs directly onto the lesions. This will hopefully stop the lesions from
growing as well as reduce the side effects of these drugs!
My initial interest in pharmacology (the study of drugs)
began in sixth form. I knew that I was interested in science in general during
my GCSEs, so I picked biology, chemistry, physics and maths. I realised that
although Biology wasn’t my strongest subject, I found it the most interesting,
especially topics surrounding the human body and disease. I decided to look
into biomedical sciences for University, which I soon realised included a lot
of other topics, such as genetics, biochemistry and immunology. When I looked at
the list, I found pharmacology the most interesting subject as I wanted to
learn more about the production of drugs and treating diseases. I chose to
study pharmacology at Newcastle University.
In my final year at Newcastle I started my research project,
which was based on lithium action within the brain and how this can help treat
bipolar disorder. This made me realise that I loved the research environment; I
loved researching a topic where the answer was unknown.
Overall, my degree taught me a lot of research techniques
that can be brought into any research environment, of course, not all labs are
the same but University provided me with the confidence to learn and master
techniques that I’d never seen before!
I graduated from Newcastle in 2017 with a first class degree
in Pharmacology, and if I’m truly honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do
next! I knew I wanted to carry on in research, but I wasn’t certain on where or
on what topic. I spent the year researching PhD topics whilst working within an
NHS virology lab as a research assistant. I found this PhD online and thought
it was right up my street! Not only was it a PhD based on drug design/delivery
but it was also based around an under-researched disease that affects so many
women. I had a skype interview with the supervisors and then was put forward
My lab group consists of people from different backgrounds,
whether that is pharmacology, cancer research or pharmacy. We all work
alongside other groups to gain a better understanding of disease and its
treatment. We all use a variety of different techniques throughout our
research, so every day is different. Personally, I find my day is split between
lab work, writing papers/reviews, planning future studies and teaching!
After my PhD, I don’t have a set plan on what I want to do
next! My opinions may change throughout the years and I could learn new skills
that change my perception on what I want my career to be!
If you want to find out more about endometriosis and its
effects on women, the BBC have recently produced a popular article explaining
what endometriosis is and the idea of the ‘gender pain gap’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/stories-49925760/endometriosis-the-condition-that-can-take-over-seven-years-to-diagnose)
To learn more about the research that is happening in my
If you want more information about Biomedical
Sciences/Pharmacology you can find that here (https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/2020/00532/bsc-biomedical-sciences/)
and here (https://www.prospects.ac.uk/careers-advice/what-can-i-do-with-my-degree/pharmacology)
Something that sparked my interest in the treatment of
disease was a podcast that talks about medical history, you can give it a
listen if you’re interested, too! (https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/research/)